Everything on Relationship Topic in A-Level AQA Psychology.



Evolutionary explanations for partner preferences:

  • Sexual selection and human reproductive behavior.
  • Evaluation.
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Evolutionary AO1.

Anisogamy- Male gametes are produced in large numbers at little cost, in contrast to female gametes.  Which leads to different mating strategies. 

Intersexual selection- Females prefer quality and are especially choosy.Males compete to be chosen. Will seek a male who is genetically fit and is able to provide resources for her and her children.

Intrasexual selection- Males prefer quantity but must compete for access to fertile females.
Males best reproductive strategy is to mate as many fertile females.

Impact on mating behaviour- Preferences of both sexes determine attributes that are passed on. EG; If females prefer tall males, over time there would be an increase in the number of tall males.

RONALD FISHER, 'se.xy-son hypothesis'- A female mates with a male who has desirable characteristics, her son will inherit this 'se.xy trait'

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Evolutionary Evaluation.

Research support for inter-S.S: CLARK & HATFIELD asked students to go around campus and ask 'I've noticed you around campus, would you like to go to bed with me tonight?'

  • 0 females agreed, 75% of males did.
    Which shows females are more choosy and that males evolved a different strategy. to ensure reproductive succe**.

Evolutionary theory ignores social and cultural influences: Partner preferences have impacted over time by changing social norms and cultural practices.Women's role in society has changed; a contraceptive pill has been introduced to prevent pregnancy.  CHANG ET AL found some male preferences have changed but some have remained the same over 25 years in China.
Suggests that evolutionary and cultural influences must be taken into account when explaining human reproductive behaviour.

Support from waist-hip-ratio:
SINGH has found acro** cultures found men preferred W-H-R of 0:7. WIder hips and a small waist is more attractive as it shows a woman is fertile and not pregnant.
This shows evolutionary factors are reflected in patterns of human reproductive behaviour through partner preferences.

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Evolutionary Evaluation.

** theory cannot explain homosexuality- No children are produced, so it goes against the theory. And raises serious ethical issues as people may use this theory to highlight 'abnormality' of homosexuality and create prejudice through homophobia. Also, cannot explain why some couples don't have kids.
It's a limitation because the theory assumes our relationships are motivated by the desire to reproduce.

Research supporting inter-S.S-  BURAS surveyed over 10'000 adults from 37 countries asking about partner preferences. The females placed greater value of resources, ambitions whereas the males placed more importance on physical attractiveness, young age.
This is further supported by WAYNFORTH & DUNBAR who found women offered physical attractiveness and youth when seeking a partner in personal ads, and men offered financial status.
  These findings show that sex differences in mate preferences are universal. Both are engaging in behaviour that increases reproductive success.

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Factors Affecting Attraction In Romantic Relationships:

  • -Self Disclosure & Evaluation
  • -Physical Attractiveness & Evaluation
  • -Filter Theory & Evaluation 
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Self-Disclosure AO1.

Self-disclosure- revealing your personal information about oneself to another person. It plays an important role in the development of a relationship. EG; intimate thoughts and feelings.

 ALTMAN & TAYLOR suggested the Social Penetration Theory (SPT). There are two levels of self-disclosure, breadth, and depth; both are key according to SPT:

*Breadth self-disclosure is made up of superficial information about a person, is usually stored with a number of people.It's low-risk information, exchanged in early stages of a relationship.Too much information may be seen as off-putting Disclosure has to be a gradual process.
- as a relationship progresses more layers are gradually revealed=disclosure becomes deeper. Consists of high-risk information= more private and significant EG; secrets and painful memories.

Reciprocity of self-disclosure- REIS & SHAVER suggested as well as breadth and depth of self-disclosure there must be reciprocity for a real relationship to develop. And there must be a balance of self-disclosure between both partners for a successful relationship.

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Self-Disclosure Evaluation.

Research support for the importance of self-disclosure: COLLINS & MILLER  had found that people who engage in intimate disclosure tend to be liked more than people who disclose at lower levels. Also found the relationship between disclosure and likings was stronger if the recipient believed the disclosure was only shared with them.
This suggests self-disclosure has an important role in the development and maintenance of romantic relationships.

This theory doesn't apply to all cultures: TANG ET AL people in the USA self-disclose significantly more sexual thoughts and feelings than people in China. Both levels of self-disclosure are linked to relationship satisfaction in these cultures yet the pattern of self-disclosure is different.
Suggests that SPT is, therefore, a limited explanation of romantic relationships and can't be generalised to other cultures.

Supporting research evidence for SPT: SPRECHES & HENDRICK  had found correlations between self-disclosure and measures of satisfaction in heterosexual relationships. This means that couples who use self-disclosure were more satisfied and committed in their relationship.
This supports the concept of self-disclosure being a key component of committed romantic relationships.

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Self-Disclosure Evaluation.

Much of self-disclosure research is correlational: Studies like SCREECHES & HENDRICK  found a positive correlation between self-disclosure and satisfaction, you can't establish cause and effect. More self-disclosure does not necessarily cause satisfaction  
Suggests such research provides only a limited support for this theory.

Real-Life applications: HASS & STRAFORD found that 57% of gay men and women said open and honest self-disclosure was the main way they maintained their relationship. Couples who limit their communication to 'small talk' can be encouraged to increase self-disclosure.
Suggests the theory can be used to support people having relationship problems.

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Physical Attractiveness AO1.

The Importance Of Physical Attractiveness- SHACKLEFORD & LARSEN  found people with symmetrical faces are rated as more attractive as symmetry is an honest signal of genetic fitness that can't be faked. The associated healthy genes are likely to be passed on and this symmetry will be continued. Neotenous features in a female, such as delicate chin, small nose and big eyes are also rated at attractive.As these features trigger a protective and caregiver response.

The Halo Effect: Physical attractiveness may also affect initial attraction through a positive stereotype. DION ET AL found physically attractive people are consistently rated as sociable, intelligent and successful compared to less attractive people. So people behave positively towards them. 

The Matching Hypothesis: Proposed by WALSTER who states that when initiating romantic relationships rather than seeking the most physically attractive partner people tend to go for someone on a similar attractiveness. To do this, partners must assess their own 'value' to a potential partner.

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Physical Attractiveness Evaluation.

Supporting research for halo effect: PALMER & PETERSON found that physically attractive people were rated as more politically knowledgeable and competent than unattractive people.The Halo Effect continued even when the PP's were told that the people, rated as attractive, didn't have any particular expertise. This has implications and suggests politicians might be elected simply because they are physically attractive. Also, shows, the halo effect can be observed in real-life situations and suggests physical attraction is an important factor in the initial formation of a relationship.

Mixed support for the matching hypothesis: Initial study failed to support the theory. Found students preferred partners who were physically more attractive.
  However, FEINGOLD did a meta-analysis of 17 studies and found a significant, positive correlation in ratings of attractiveness in romantic partners.
These findings are particularly supportive of Matching Hypothesis as the studies looked at real-life partners; more realistic approach. 

There is research that contradicts the Matching Hypothesis: TAYLOR ET AL had found online daters sought dates with partners who were more attractive than them.
This challenges what the MH predicts because people do not consider their own level of attractiveness and aim for someone more desirable than them.

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Physical Attractiveness Evaluation.

Individual differences- not everyone considers physical attractiveness important: TOWHEY found that those who scored highly on MACHO scale were more influenced by physical attractiveness when judging someone's liability from a photo and basic biological data.
*Low scorers were less sensitive to this influence.
This suggests that the effects of physical attractiveness can be moderated by other factors and may not be as significant in relationship formation for all partners.

There is cultural consistency in what is considered physically attractive: CUNNINGHAM ET AL 
female features of large eyes, prominent cheekbones, small nose and high eyebrows were rated as highly attractive by White, Hispanic and Asian males. 
WHEELER & KIM found that Korea and US students rated physically attractive people as being more trustworthy, mature and friendly.
Findings support that the role of physical attractiveness is important in forming romantic relationships.

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Filter Theory AO1.

The Filter Theory proposed by KERCKOFF & DAVIS suggests that we choose our romantic partners by using a series of filters that narrow down the 'field of availables' from which we make our choices. 
   The first filter is social demography-
We narrow down our selection based on variables such as location, age, the same level of education and social class.

The second filter is similarity in attitudes-
KERCKOFF & DAVIS found similarity in attitudes and basic values was important to the development of romantic relationships. In the early stages of a relationship agreement, over basic values promotes better communication and self-disclosure.Partners who are very different are not considered suitable for a continuing relationship and 'filtered out'.

The third filter is complementarity of needs- 
Partners compliment each other when they have traits that the other lacks.Found this level of filter was more important in a long-term relationship.

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Filter Theory Evaluation.

Strengths of filter theory: Filter Theory assumes key factors in a relationship that change over time.
WINCH found similarities in personalities, interests and attitudes between partner are characteristic of early stages of a relationship. This supports two of the filters proposed by the Filter-Theory thus the theory has face validity as it can be applied to most people's experience of romantic relationship.

A limitation of the filter-theory is the lack of research support: LEVINGER ET AL found no evidence that either similarity of attitudes or complementarity of needs influenced progress towards permanence in a relationship. This suggests that the Filter-Theory is not a valid representation of relationship development and further research/ theories are required.

Another strength is it has application to everyday relationships: DUCK says filtering process allows people to make predictions about their future interactions and to avoid investing in a relationship that won't work.People use a variety of different strategies to gather info about each other. EG; questioning, provoking disagreement.
The filtering process, therefore, stops people making the wrong choice.

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Filter Theory Evaluation.

The first filter of the theory may now be seen as less relevant: As modern society is much more multi-cultural and interconnected by things such as internet and phones than in the 1960's.
Thus, social demography might be less of a barrier to a relationship.

Another limitation is complementarity of needs may not be more important than similarity: ANDERSON ET AL found similarity increases overtime but complementarity is not a feature in all long-term relationships.
This suggests complementarity filter may not be reached in all relationship and so the validity of Filter Theory is questioned.

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Theories Of Romantic Relationships.

Theories Of Romantic Relationships:

  • -Social Exchange Theory & Evaluation
  • -Equity Theory & Evaluation
  • -Rusbults Investment Model & Evaluation
  • -Duck's Phase Model Of Relationship Breakdown & Evaluation
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Social Exchange Theory AO1.

Takes the view that social relationships run in a similar way to a business.

Social Economic Theory (SET): Assumes relations are guided by 'mini-max profit' and satisfaction is judged in terms of profit. People want to maximise their rewards and minimise the costs. In order for a relationship to succeed, cost should be very minimal. Relationship with greater costs than profits is likely to end. Profitable relationships are more likely to succeed.
There are two ways in which we measure the profit in a romantic relationship:

Comparison Level (CL) A standard against which all our relationships are judged. Our CL is determined by previous experiences. If our current relationship succeeds CL then it is worthwhile.

Comparison level of alternatives (CLalt)- Involves considering whether we might gain more rewards and endure fewer costs in a different relationship. SET predicts we will stay in our current relationship only until we believe its more rewarding than the alternatives.

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Social Exchange Theory Evaluation.

Supporting evidence for the influence of (CLalt): SIMPSON ET AL asked participants to rate members of opposite sex in terms of attractiveness. Those already involved in a relationship gave lower ratings than participants not in a relationship.
This suggests if you're already in a committed relationship then alternative options become less attractive.

SET assumes all relationships are exchanged based: CLARK & MILLS identified two types of relationships.
*Exchange relationships- may involve social exchange as theory predicts.
*Communal relationships- giving is motivated by concern and also positive regard for each other.
This suggests that there are different types of relationships and SET can be applied to some but not universally to all relationships.

SET views people as self-centered and less likely to leave the relationship in a state of loss: Equity theory challenges this view- suggested fairness is more important than profit in long-term relationships.HATFIELD found couples inequitable relationships were more satisfied than those who saw themselves as over or under benefitting.This conflicts with the idea of SET because it sees greater profit as leading to greater satisfaction. Therefore, SET is a limited explanation of all relationships because it doesn't take in consideration of fairness or equity.

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Social Exchange Theory Evaluation.

SET if criticised for being culturally biased: It is based mainly Western couples and then generalized to all other relationships. SET could be argued to be typical of a Western individualistic culture that focuses on the needs of the individual. But, in collectivist culture SET may not necessarily because, in collectivists culture, the focus is on keeping the family together.
 Also, SET assumes people can leave relationships when it's not rewarding- in collectivist cultures they may not have the freedom to leave due to socials norms and laws.

A weakness of SET, concepts are relatively difficult to define and measure: It is difficult to quantify what rewards and costs are because they are subjective and unique to each individual. Also, what might be a benefit at the start of the relationship may turn out to be a cost at a later stage.
Suggests its difficult to classify all events in such simple terms 'costs' or 'rewards' and challenges the view that all romantic relationships operate this way.

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Equity Theory AO1

The Equity Theory (ET) proposed by WALSTER suggested that equity is more important where both partner levels of 'profit' are roughly the same. People strive to achieve fairness in their relationship.

Perceived ratio of input and output: Equity does not mean equality- refers to fairness in terms of output and input. Both people can put in different amounts and still be deemed equitable. What is considered 'fair' is subjective for each partner.

Consequences of inequity: Sense of inequity impacts negatively on a relationship.At the beginning of a relationship it may feel ok to contribute more than you receive, but if it continues as the relationship progresses, those who are over benefitted will feel guilty and those who are under benefitted will feel angry.

To deal with inequity change the input/output or reduce/increase effort put in a relationship. Change the perception of input/output. 

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Equity Theory Evaluation.

Supporting research evidence for ET: STAFFORD & CANARY found couples who considered their relationship equitable were more satisfied than those who saw themselves as under/over benefitted. This research supports the main prediction of  ET thus increasing its validity as an explanation of romantic relationships.

ET is an invalid explanation of real-life relationships RAGSDALE ET AL argued ET cannot explain why people stay in unhappy marriages. L/T relations do not work on the equity principle and the reason people stay together is more complex EG; family, children, house. This suggests other variables are more significant and equity seems to play a minor role in relationships than the theory predicts.

ET does not take into account individual differences: HUSEMAN said some people are less sensitve to equity than others, describing some partners as:
*'Benevolents'- prepare to contribute more than they get out
**'Entileds'- believe they should be over-benefitted and don't feel guilty.

This shows ET is not a universal characteristic of all romantic relationship- a desire for equity is subject to individual differences. 

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Equity Theory Evaluation.

ET may not be valid in all cultures: AUMER-RYAN ET AL found couples in individualistic cultures are most satisfied when they perceived their relationship as equitable. But partners in collectivist culture are most satisfied when they felt over-benefitted.
This suggests ET is not a universal concept and so the theory is limited as it cannot account for all cultures.

ET does not account for gender differences: DEMARRIS ET AL found men and women are not all equally affected by inequity in romantic relationships.Women tend to perceive themselves as more under benefitted, and less over benefitted than males. SPRECHER found women feel more guilt in response to being over benefitted.
This shows ET is limited in its application to both genders as it fails to consider these gender differences.

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Rusbults' Investment Model AO1.

Satisfaction Leve and CLalt: The extent to which the other person fulfills an individual's most important needs.If positives outweigh the negatives- satisfaction level will be high. If a person perceives a more attractive alternative in another relationship may be motivated to end it.

Investment: Investment size contributed to a stable committed relationship.A measure of all the resources a person puts into a relationship that will be lost if they leave it. Proposed two types of investment:
Intrinsic Investment- resources an individual puts directly into the relationship (self-disclosure, time, money)
Extrinsic Investment- resources developed over the course of the relationship, shared by both partners (children, pets, house/car, friends). If investments are increasing and high levels of satisfaction, the relationship is worth it.
Commitment: If there is high levels of satisfaction and alternatives are less attractive and sizes of their investment are high then partners will be committed to a relationship.  He argues that the main psychological factor people stay in relationships is because of commitment, not satisfaction.Willings to repair the relationship so investment is not wasted.
Relationship Maintenance mechanisms:
*Promoting the relationship
*Willing to make sacrifices.
*Positive Illusions.
*Ridiculing alternatives.

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Rusbults' Investment Model Evaluation.

Supporting Research for the investment model: LE & AGNEW did a meta-analysis of 52 studies and found the 3 factors all predicted relationship commitment. The importance was same across cultures, genders and also applied to homosexual relationships.
This shows Rusbults claim has some high validity as these are universally important in relationships.

The model fails to consider future investments: GOODFRIEND & AGNEW expanded on the model, the notion of investment should also include any future plans partners have made regarding the relationship.Argued some relationships might continue due to the motivation to see future plans work out.
This means the original model is a limited explanation.

The model can explain why some people stay in abusive relationships: RUSBULT & MARTZ found women who reported making the greatest investment (children) and who had fewer alternatives (nowhere to go) were more likely to return to their abusive relationship
The findings support the model- suggests commitment to a relationship is strengthened by high investment and poor alternatives.

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Rusbults' Investment Model Evaluation

Investment model could be argued to be culturally biased: Reflects an ethnocentric bias as an explanation of peoples commitment to relationships.Cross-culturally, the 3 factors do not always influence commitment to a relationship there may be cultural or religious pressures to maintain a relationship.
This suggests that there are other important factors which the model doesn't take into account.

Most of supporting evidence is based on correlation research: Although, strong correlations have been found. There is no evidence of causation. We can only see a link between these variable but cannot establish cause and effect (EG; high commitment=high satisfaction).
Therefore, a limitation of investment we cannot certainly say which factor lead to commitment in a relationship.

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Ducks Phase Model AO1.

It sees a breakdown of relationship asa process rather than a one off event. Duck suggests we go through 4 stages, once each phase is breached, we move onto next one.

1.Intra-psychic phase; the focus is on cognititve processing happening within the individual. Focus on partner nehaviours and the pro's + con's and at any alternatives. Would internalise feelins or confide in a close friend.

2.Dyadic phase; the focus is on interpersonal processes between the two partners. Discuss their feelings, may take place over a number of days/weeks. Discussions will eitehr results in a solution or break up.

3.Social phase; focus is on now on wider processes involving couples social networks.

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