Psychology Relationships A2

A2 Revision Cards.

HideShow resource information
  • Created on: 19-11-12 14:01

Formation Of Relationships

Factors involved in initial attraction:

  • Mere exposure effect: Bossard (1982) heightens whether we are attarcted to someone, however being around someone too much can lead to the opposite effect and will end up in the dislike of the person.
  • Evolutionary reasons: we are attracted to people that will help us pass on our genes and their genes will be beneficial in the survival of the offspring
  • Attracted to their nature: factors such as them being caring, sensitive and sociable.

Rewards/needs satisfaction theory:

Direct reinforcement for example helpful,nice and smiling people tend to be liked more (Argyle), and we are happy when we are around these types of people therefore the happiness is associated with them. Indirect reinforcement is when we associate a feeling when we meet them (May & Hamilton), people asked to rate appearance with background noise, pleasant music achieved a higher rating due to the pleasant association.

1 of 20


  • Culture bias and gender difference: this theory does not account for gender differences and it can be argued that it is culturally biased. The theory is Eurocentric as it assumes that all relationships in all cultures are formed in the same way as a Western society, however these are individualist societies and are completely different to collectivist societies which are more eastern countries. Furthermore, it does not take into account how women form relationships as gender roles are different in other cultures. women are socialised from a young age to put their partners and children's needs before their own. Therefore the rewards/needs satisfaction theory is not universal and gives an inadequate explanation for relationship formation.
  • Methodology: lab experiments lack mundane realism. The majority of studies conducted for the theory were done in a lab setting and arguably can't explain relationships are formed in a real-life situation. Caspi & Herbener investigated couples in their natural environment and their findings supported the results of the lab experiments. Therefore this supports the theory and increases the validity of the theory.
  • Refuting evidence: Arguably this theory cannot explain all types of relationships and it only consiers one fator to the formation which is reinforcement. Hay claiemd the theory cannot explain how all types of relationships form. For example family relationships and work relationships do not consider the pleasure of recieving. This suggest that the theory is an inadequate account of how relationships form.
  • Griffit & Guay, participants had to create something with an observer present. Observer gave feedback and then had to rate the observer on appearance, if praised then the rating went up thus supporting direct reinforcement.This shows that the theory is a plausible explanation to how relationships form.
2 of 20

Matching Hypothesis

Erving & Gofman (1952). Cognitive value: we look at physical attractiveness and if believed that we are the same level of attractiveness as another the pair match and will suite each other. Walster added to the theory in that he suggested we will make a relaistic choice based on who will reciprocate your feelings and advances, and the more attractive the person is the more attarctive they expect their partner to be.


  • Walster: participants were invited to a dance and told they would be matched via a questionairre,but secretly judged rating their level of attractiveness and matched them randomly. They then asked how many men asked for a second date with. They found that regardless of their attractiveness the men asked the most attractive females for a date. He also went to check his results by using the same idea, but this time they got to say what level of attractivness they wanted their partner to be. They were left to mingle and investigators rated the participants. They found that people with similar levels of attractiveness ended up being with each other in the end.
  • Silverman: observed real couples. Participants had to rate the attraction of each person in the couple and the level of intimacy the couples showed each other. The closer the ratings of attractiveness the more likely they were to show high levels of intimacy.
  • Murstein: took pictures of 99 couples who had been togetherfor 8 or more years. He also added some pictures of random people. Participants who judged could tell who was with who purely based on appearance.
3 of 20


  • Reductionism: looks are the only factor. Erving's original hypothesis actually involved matching in terms of a number of factors. However over the years the hypothesis is purely based on someones appearance, therefore it is reductionist. Some psychologistsargue that regardless it will always be reductionist because it doesn't consider the role of third parties, furthermore it does not explain complex behaviour.
  • Individual differences: the theory does not take into account individual differences. Evidence suggests for females physical attraction is less important than for males therefore it is not an adequate explanation into how men and women form relationships.
  • Research methods: It lacks in mundane realism as people form relationships through a number of different ways not just the ways provided in the research. The theory therefore can't tell us how relationships form in real-life situations.
4 of 20

Equity Theory


  • Fairness not equality
  • Unfairness leads to distress and dissatisfaction
  • Under benefitted leads to unhappiness
  • Over beneffited leads to feeling uncomfortable and guilty

Therefore inequitable relationships lead to unstable relationships; if the relationship id short-term it will more likely dissolve but if it is long term there is motivation to repair it. One way of restoring a relationship is restoring balance (give more/want less) or compare with other relationships. 

5 of 20


  • Supportive research: Van Yperen-Buunk (1990) longitudinal study. 249 couples from newspaper. Random questionairre produced an equity and satisfaction score. 1 year later they found that the higher the equity and satisfaction score, they were more likely to still be together.
  • Cultural bias: Lujansky-Mikala. Research conducted in other countries tend to give very little support for the equity theory. They found that equity was not important in romantic relationships in Austria. European students preferred equality and expected the relationships to be profitable no matter how much they invested in the relationship.
  • Individual differences: Prins said that there was no account of individual differences such as gender. Women tended to restore equity by having affairs. Over-benefit tends to lead to dissatisfaction for women. Twice as many women felt under-benefitted compared to men. More men than women felt over-benefitted.
6 of 20

Social Exchange Theory

At the centre of this theory is the assumption that all social behaviour is a series of exchanges; individuals attempt to maximise their rewards and minimise their costs. Rewards consist of things such as companionship, being cared for and sex. Costs can be things such as financial investment and time. Thsi theory ultimately stresses that commitment to a relationshop is dependant on profitability. Thibaut & Kelley proposed that we develop a comparison level; a standard against which all our relationships are judged. This comparison level is a product of our experiences, general expectations and views.

If a relationship is to continue and be maintained then the rewards must not outweigh the costs. Furthermore this comparison level gives us a comparison level for alternatives where we can weigh out rewards and costs. If a cost outweighs a reward it won't work and if it is the other way around the relationship will work. 

Furthermore we measure our relationship against other relationships in order to deem them worthy or not, so therefore is a relationship looks better than your own relationship then we would possibly abandon our relationship in order to pursue another relationship.

7 of 20


  • Research methods: experiments were carried out in an artificial environment, so the theory can be criticised through its ecological validity. The research gives us a simplistic view of relationships and can't tell us how relationships are maintained in real-life, so therefore the theory is not very useful. 
  • The theory can't explain why people who are able body are in a relationship with people who are disabled as the cost outweighs the rewards incurred. 
  • Profits and costs are subjective, as it is a person's individual opinion as to what is a cost and benefit and whether if either outweighs is actually important.
  • Moghaddan criticised the theory as he said it only explains how individualist cultures maintain relationships, so it is not generalizable to all relationships in seperate cultures.
  • The theory implies that we are all selfish, however everyone has some moral standings so therefore it is deterministic which lessens people's free will to decide. 
  • Also, the theory and the research was based on short-term relationships and does not take into account long-term relationships. 
  • Simpson et al (comparison levels for alternatives) found concluded that in a relationship you give someone a lower rating scale to reduce the threat. Cannot explain why people leave relationships to be on their own and not into another rebound relationship. 
8 of 20

Relationship Dissolution/Breakdown

Duck's reasons for relationship breakdown:

  • Laco of skills: some people lack the interpersonal skills to make relationships mutually satisfying (poor conversations etc.). Others then find the unrewarding and therefore it breaks down. Supported by Boekhout et al who found that extrmarital affairs were often a direct reaction to a percieved stimulation in the relationships.
  • Lack of stimulation: things such as boredom are often quoted when breaking off a relationship as people expect relationships to change.
  • Maintenance difficulties: e.g. going away to university make maintenance of relationships difficult as partners see less of each other therefore there is a strain on the relationship.   Duck model of relationship breakdown
  • Breakdown:one partner becomes dissatisfied with the relationship
  • Intrapsychic processes: person brood over partners faults and costs-social withdrawal.
  • Dyadic processes: person confronts partner and they begin to discuss feelings and future
  • Social processes:going public to friends and family in order to seek support
  • Grave dressing: construct a representation that doesn';t puth them in an unfavourable light
  • Ressurection: prepare for a new relationship by redefining themselves.
9 of 20


  • Cultural bias: may only apply to dissolution in Western society. Non-western relationships are formed differently (family ties and money) therefore it's likely that they dissolve differently. Moreover collectivists who live in western countries may find more stress placed on their relationship leading to dissolution. Therefore suggests these processes are not universal.
  • Gender differences: Akert found females gave incompatability as reasons for breakdown but wanted to remain friends. Men however stated that the withholding and withdrawal of sex was the main reason and would cut losses and move on. Therefore the theory does not take gender difference into consideration.
  • The theory is useful because highlighting reasons for dissolution has led ot methods being developed to help prevent relationship dissolution (couples coping enhancement training). 
10 of 20

Lee's Model Of Breakdown

1. Dissatisfaction: serious unhappiness, realisation of issues and problems

2. Exposure: problems out in the open

3. Negotiation: discussion about problems.

4. Resolution attempts: try to maintain and save the relationship.

5. Termination: resolutionn fails, relationship ends.

11 of 20


  • Supportive evidence: Lee interviewed 112 pre-marital couples and said that exposure and negotiation was the most exhausting and intense. Some don't go through the stages and just terminate the relationship. People who used the process to take longer to break up and because of this it meant they liked and valued the partner more as they made promises et.
  •  The sample was biased as they were young people whom Lee operationalized as pre-marital and the definition of pre-marital is unclear. Furthermore young people tend to have shorter relationships and are more mobile. Therefore this does not apply to relationships of older people and homosexual relationships. 
  • The theory does nto tell us how relationship breakdown is triggered, Therefore Duck is a better model or explanation in this instance because he suggested that two main categories that triggered relationship breakdown where a mix of internal and external factors.
12 of 20

Human reproductive behavior and sexual selection

Inter & Intrasexual selection:

  • Intrasexual selection: members of one sex (usually males) compete with other members of the own sex for access to members of the opposite sex (mate competition). The trait that lead to success in this competition will be passed on to the next generation.
  • Intersexual selection: members of one sex (usually females) show preferences for members of the opposite sex who possess certain characteristics in the bid of getting someone who can give protection and offer support for them and their offspring.

Physical attractiveness preferences

  • Cunningham: baby- face hypothesis; men go for women who illicit the care giving response. Evolutionary approach as it means that they are younger and they are more fertile.
  • Waynworth: women go for men with a square, masculine jaw, ridged brow, small eyes and a symmetrical face, because all of which symbolise high testosterone levels.
13 of 20

Long term preferences

Long-term mate preferences:

  • Women: women are attracted to men who are able to invest resources in her and any offspring, are able to protect, show promise as a good parent and are sufficiently compatible to ensure minimal costs to her and her offspring. This is because of an obligatory biological investment in there children.
  • Men: are attracted to women who display signals of fertility which is an indication of their reproductive value.
14 of 20

Parental investment (Trivers)

  • women invest significantly more: more time and effort to produce an egg, they them must carry the offspring for 9 months, they are the ones who go on maternity leave and they are often the primary care-giver
  • Males invest significantly less: sperm is produced quickly and in great amounts. Unsure of paternity (cuckoldry). Men produce sperm till they dies so they are constantly fertile, unlike women who go through menopause. Men can go off anf produce with other women quite easily. Men invest mainly through money and other resources. 
  • Buss (1992): males and females respond to infidelity differently. Males become sexually jealous and are concerned that their partner will get pregnant with another man. Whereas women become emotionally jealous are are scared that another women may get pregnant and take the man's resources away from her and her offspring. 
15 of 20


  • Helps us to understand mate preferences and it makes sence that a women would be choosy as she would not want to be a single mother sna dhave to look after a child on her own and she invests more.
  • Reductionism: complex behavior is reduced to simple terms. Nowadays we have reconstituted families (step-children_ and this theory does not explain why step dads invest in their step children. Anderson (1999) during an interview men said they would invest in their step-children and were more willing if living with the biological mother as the would want to convince the mother that he is a good provider.
  • Heterosexual bias: the theory tells us little about same se relationships as there is no reproductive oppurtunity. This theory suggest that they should not be choosy and opt for short-term relationships. Furthermore most homosexual men often go for younger partners who would have less resources.
16 of 20

Effects of early experience and culture

Influence of childhood and adolescent experiences on adult relationships:

  • Parent-child relationships: Bowlby claimed that the later relationships are a continuation of early attachment styles (secure/insecure) because the behavior of the primary attachment figure promotes an internal working model of relationships which leads the infant to expect the same in later relationships. Children also learn about caregiving by modelling the behaviour of the primary attachment fiure.
  • Interactions with peers: Qualter and Munn found that children also learn from their experiences with other children. Through these interactions children develop a sense of their own value, which determines how they approach adult relationships. The experience of having a friend to confide in promotes feelings of trust and acceptance, both important in adult relationships.
17 of 20


  • There are issued with self-report, however it has generated large amounts of data. Therefore you can generalise it. 
  • One problem is the social desirability effect, the topic is very sensitive and personal.
  • Individual differences: relationship types can vary in adulthood, people can have a number of different styles however this theory says there is one primary type of relationship and that it is fixed to every relationship and is consistent.
  • the relation between attachment style and later relationships is supported by a meta-analysis by Fraley which found correlations between early attachment type and success in adult relationships. Furthermore there is also support from a longitudinal study by Simpson et al which found that securely attached infants were more socially competent as children, closer to their friends as adolescents and more emotionally attached romantic partners as adults,
18 of 20

Relationships in other cultures

  • Voluntary or non-voluntary relationships: western cultures are predominantly urban, ensuring relatively easy social and geographical mobility, and therefore interaction with a large number of people which leads to a high degree of choice. Non-western cultures lack  these urban settings; therefore there is less social and geographical mobility, interaction with fewer people on a daily basis and therefore less choice.
  • Individual or group-based relationships: attitudes in individualist cultures are more highy regarded than group goals or interests and are consistent with the formation of relationships based on freedom of choice, whereas collectivism leads to relationships that may have more to do with the concerns of family or group.
  • Continuity and discontinuity: cultures differ in the degree to which they value heritage and ancestry or progress. This is consistent with relationships in these cultures, with non-western cultures emphasising on continuity and therefore permanent relationships. Western cultures emphasise on change and discontinuity.
  • Norms: these act as guidelines for behaviour within a culture. The norm of reciprocity stresses that for a benefit recieved an equal benefit should be returned. Individualist reciprocity is normally voluntary yet for collectivists it is more obligatory.
  • Rules: Arygle et al found that different relationship rules applied to different cultures although there are some similarities. Importance of courtesy and respect and the avoidance of social intimacy.
19 of 20


  • Gyupta-Singh (1982): compared love and arranged marriages and the level of satisfaction with 100 post-grad proffessional couples in India (50 love and 50 arranged).In love marriages the factors decreased and in arranged marriages the factors increased as they began to know more about each other.
  • Sprecher (19994): Russian students. Practical about love; women were far more likely to settle for a loveless marriage provided all other criteria were met (financial needs etc.)
  • Allegwert-Wielderman: US college students. "If a boy/girl had all the qualities you desired would you marry them-even if you did not love them?" 14% of males and 9% of females said yes.
20 of 20


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Relationships resources »