Psychology Unit 3: Relationships

  • Created by: Aagya.P
  • Created on: 07-02-15 15:43

Formation: Reward / Need theory



 Attraction occurs due to Direct Reinforcement:

  • Rewarding stimuli = positive feelings
  • Punishing stimuli = negative feelings
  • We are more likely to form relationships with people who create positive feelings in us

Attraction can also be fuelled by ASSOCIATION:

  • Individuals generate positive feelings in us if we associate them with positive events / situations
  • A relationship is most successful when the positive feelings outweight the negatives
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Formation: Reward / Need theory (A02)



  • Participants asked to rate experimenter 
  • Found that: experimenter was rated higher if he/she gave them positive feedback
  • A stranger was also rated = participants rated them higher if the experimenter had given positive feedback (supporting association)


  • Assessed 300 individuals
  • Found that satisfaction of reward level was important in determining relationship satisfaction
  • HAYS suggested that satisfaction did not just occur by receiving rewards but by GIVING rewards too

A03/ IDA:

  • Most of the research has been conducted in labs so it may lack mundane realism
  • Culture Bias: Theory was formulated in the west and so, cannot be fully applied in non-western countries as there are differences in our cultures
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Formation: Similarity Theory (A01/2)


  • Theory suggests that similiraties in attitudes and personality promotes attraction
  • First step in the formation of relationships is to eliminate people who are dissimilar to us (then individuals pick from those most similar to them)
  • more similarity (in personality and attitudes) = more attraction
  • If there are dissimilarities (i.e. in their attitude to politics), an ATTITUDE ALIGNMENT may occur in order to reduce dissimilarities


  • CASPI AND HERBENER: found that married couples with similar personalities were more happier than couples with dissimilar personalities
  • LEHR AND GEHER: participants were more inclined to like an 'imaginary person' if their description suggested similarity in attitudes and personality
  • This theory suggests that similarity is an important factor in formation of relationships because it: a) validates the other person (which is rewarding) and b) lowers chances of being rejected 
  • ROSENBAUM stated that dissimilarity is the more important trait when it comes to the formation of relationships (bc it avoids chances of rejection): the 'dissimilarity-repulsion' hypothesis has support from US and Singapore (universally applicable?)
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Maintenance: Social Exchange Theory (A01)

Theory proposes that relationships are a series of exchanges

  • Individuals want rewards (e.g. sex or companionship) in exchange for their costs (e.g. time spent on the relationship)
  • The theory suggests that commitment to a relationship is dependent upon the rewards we receive from it (the higher the rewards = the more the commitment)

S.E.T. also introduces the 'Comparison Level':

  • The CL is based on past relationships and helps individuals to determine whether their new relationships is more beneficial than their past ones
  • If a NEW relationship is found to be more beneficial, a change may occur within the current relationship
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Maintenance: Social Exchange Theory (A02/3)

There is evidence for the use of CL in real-life:

  • The concept of the CL can help explain why some abuse victims continue to remain in the abusive relationship
  • If they have invested a lot into the relationship (e.g. kids) and have no alternative options (no job or house), they may perceive their current relationship to be beneficial (so continue their commitment to it)

Theory is criticise for being too selfish:

  • Not every individual is concerned with making person gains while in a relationship

The theory is unable to explain why some people leave relationships regardless of not having an alternative which shows that it provides a very limited explanation of relationships


  • MOGHADDAM suggested that the theory is only applicable to individualistic cultures (bc it is focused on personal gains)
  • It is not universally applicable since collectivist cultures are concerned about the benefits for their partner and others around them 


  • Development of IBCT which helps couples replace negative exchanges with positve exchanges to retain relationship satisfaction
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Maintenance: Equity Theory (A01/2)


  • Theory proposes that indivduals strive to achieve fairness in relationships
  • Any sign of inequity can cause disastisfaction and may cause the relationship to breakdown (if the problem is not solved)
  • Ratio of giving and receving should be the same for each individual



  • Surveyed 200 married couples
  • Found that relationship satisfaction was highest for couples who perceived their relationship to be equitable
  • Relationship satisfaction lowered for couples who perceived themselves of being under-benefitted 


  • criticised the theory because they suggested that the theory looks at relationships with colleagues NOT romantic relationship (which are concerned more with wanting to provide support)

Gender differences challenges the study:

  • Research found that women perceived their husband's jobs to be more important (a sign of inequity) however, this had no impact on their relationship satisfaction
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Breakdown: Duck's reasons for breakdown

Reasons for breakdown:

  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of stimulation
  • Maintenance difficulties


BOEKHOUT - found difference in reasons for breakdown among men and women - men cited sexual boredom / women cited emotional dissatifaction

HOLT AND STONE: management strategies can help avoid maintenance difficulties 


Development of training programmes that help improve interpersonal skills 

Cina found that the 'trained' couples reported higher satisfaction levels than 'untrained' couples

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Breakdown: Duck and Rollie's model of breakdown


  • Breakdown
  • Intra-psychic process
  • Dyadic process
  • Social process
  • Grave-dressing process
  • Resurrection process



  • surveyed undergrads who had recently broken up
  • found that even though they had experience emotional distress, they had also been able to reflect upon the relationship and learn from it to help make their next relationship better (supporting resurrction process)

Valueing communication has positive implications because it allows for couples to try and employ repair strategies


  • this topic is a very sensitive issue and researchers must be very cautious not to cause emotional distress as that may prevent any further research from being carried on 

REDUCTIONIST: reduces a complex process to a simplified model 

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Sexual selection


  • Darwin believed that evolution is driven by competition for mates
  • There can be a development of certain characteristics which will help in ensuring reproductive success (these traits will then be passed down)

Intrasexual selection: (mate competition) members of one sex compete for the affection of a member from the opposite sex

Intersexual selection: (mate choice) members of one sex show a preference for certain characterisitcs (those who possess the quality will be viewed as a potential partner)


Mate-choice in real life: Studies have only expressed preferences instead of giving a true reflection of real life however, BUSS conducted a study which showed that men chose younger women which supports the mate-choice hypothesis

The logic of sexual selection is rational because individuals do want to acquire the best genes for their offspring (so they are reluctant / very picky when it comes to choosing partners)

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Sexual selection: Short-term and Long-term mating


  • Parental Investment theory suggests that MEN have evolved a greater desire for casual sex (bc they make less of an investment during reproduction)
  • Women aren't able to do the same bc of the costs involved
  • Men are more likely to lower standards/expectations when it comes to short-term mating


  • CLARKE AND HATFIELD: college students approached by an actor who asked them to hang out/have sex. 75% of male students agreed to have sex whereas 0% of females agreed (supporting the theory)
  • IDA: GENDER BIAS: Greiling suggested that research overlooks the fact that women engage in short-term mating / relations too


  • Sexual selection is higher bc the investment is much higher
  • Women are very picky as they want a partner who can provide them with resources (financial or more emotional)
  • Men are attracted to women who are younger + attractive (seen as a sign for fertility


  • BUSS: 37 cultures explored = women valued financial prospects; men valued physical attractiveness and both valued intelligence and kindness
  • PENTON-VOAK: female mate choice may vary during their menstrual cycle
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Sex differences in Parental Investment

Maternal investment:

  • significantly higher due to paternal certainty
  • also because they have to carry the child for 9 months and provide more post-natal care
  • Indiscriminate mating is limited bc the costs of pregnancy are very high SO when they do decide to 'mate', they are very picky since they want to chose the best genes (and much effort is put into it because women have less bodily resources than men)


  • GEHER showed undergraduates parenting scenarios and found that men's heartbeats increased rapidly which suggested that they were nervous = led to the conclusion that women are more prepared for parenthood than men
  • DALY suggested that there were some benefits of cuckolding (e.g. extra resources) however, the costs (abandonement) significantly outweighed them 

Paternal investment:

  • considerably lower (possibly) because men are less concerned about wasting their gametes
  • theory also suggests that men invest less because of the risk of CUCKOLDRY = they don't want to to look after someone's else child


  • REID: men invest by providing financial resources, shelter, protection etc.
  • ANDERSON: no discrimination between biological and step children
  • ROWE: limiting to only consider evolutionary explanations
  • insight from animals
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Influence of childhood on adult relationships


  • SHAVER identified three things that we learn in infancy (that are imp. for adult relationships): attachment (internal working model); caregiving (PCG) and sexuality (also based on attachment type)
  • Childhood abuse can have very negative effects on an adult for e.g. it can lower self-esteem, ability to trust others, cause anxiety etc which can impact the formation of relationships in adulthood


  • FRALEY: found positive correlation of .11 between attachment type and adult relationships
  • SIMPSON: carried out a longitudinal study and found that the nature of an adult relationship can be related back to a person's early attachment type


  • Theory is DETERMINISTIC because it assumes that our attachment type defines what our relationship is going to b like
  • Simpson challenged this by finding that insecure attachment types were in happy relationships as adults
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Influence of childhood on adult relationships: Int

Childhood friendships have an influence:

  • QUALTER AND MUNN: interaction ability as a child helps determine their approach to adult relationships
  • NANGLE: childhood friendships promote feelings of trust and understanding which are vital for adult relationships

Adolescent relationships also have an impact:

  • Adolescent relationships helps direct interpersonal energy away from parents to allow them to experience emotional and physical intimacy
  • MADSEN, however, found that too many adolescent relationships could be maladaptive


  • SCHNEIDER et al suggested that there were differences in the nature of childhood relationships (girls were more emotionall open / boys were more competitive)
  • HOWEVER, ERWIN claimed that there were definitely more similarities than differences
  • HAYNIE found that adolescent relationships can increase deviance // corroborated by NEEMAN who found that it led to poor academic achievement
  • ROISMAN challenged all as he/she found that relationships from age 20 had no effect on relationships aged 30
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Relationships in other cultures (A01)


  • Western cultures: more urban + higher mobility = more chances of interaction and choice of who to connect with
  • Non-western cultures:less urban, less forms of mobility = limited chances of interaction so, there is less choice over who to connect with


  • Western: individualistic culture = more concerned about personal goals /feelings than that of other individuals
  • Non-western: collectivistic culture = group-based decisions are favoured over the individuals wishes


  • LEVINE: 11 cultures compared using questionnaire = collectivist cultures willing to marry w/out love
  • MOORE AND LEUNG: anglo v/s chinese australians surveyed = both valued love


  • SEEPERSAD: Western YA more concerned about loneliness due to the influences of media (depiction of idealistic relationships)
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Relationships in other cultures (A02/3)


  • EPSTEIN: couples who had arranged marriages were just as happy as couples who married out of love - there were less divorce rats in the former
  • MEYERS: no difference in marital satisfaction between indian and american couples
  • XIAOHE: chinese couples were happier if they married out of love

Individual v/s group:

  • relationships based on love = more compatible BUT those chosen as a group are more useful because it determines long-term compatibility (this doesn't mean the former isn't stable)
  • increased urbanisation has led to changing attitudes within CITIES (e.g. divorce rates in Indian cities have rised)

Methodological issue:

  • measure of 'love' or 'satisfaction' is different within cultures = cannot enforce idea of one onto another
  • This has influenced the creation of INDIGENOUS PSYCHOLOGIES which designs methods + explanations specifically for a culture


  • PINKER: love has evolved to promote survival + reproduction (romantic relations exist in over 166 cultures)
  • Culture bias in representation of relationships: US Media presents a very idealistic relationship which warps people's sense of reality
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