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Evolutionary explanation

Evolutionary explanation: humans are born with an innate drive to survive and reproduce. Men and women need to have children so that they can pass on their genes and they need to make sure that these children survive into adulthood. Genes that promote reproduction are favoured and increase in the gene pool. Therefore, partners look for partners that indicate good genes, which usually originate from physical features.

1871 Charles Darwin developed theory of evolution of characteristics that give you a reproductive advantage individual who manage to mate pass on their genes to their children so those who do not mate never pass on their genes our ancestors were a result of successful sexual selection as they outcompeted others

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Inter Sexual Selection

Inter Sexual Selection: the strategy of females when picking a male partner. They look for resources and the ability to protect offspring. They have high investment cost and are sure of maternity. They can choose the best mate out of a large high quality selection.

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Intra-sexual selection

  Intra-sexual selection: the strategy of males when picking a female mate. They have low investment cost but can’t be sure of paternity. They compete for a large number of females so that they can have a higher chance of passing on their genes. This often results in physical competition between males to have the female and this strategy favours large dominant males.

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Male-Female Dimorphism

   Male-female dimorphism: enhanced secondary sexual characteristics that are selected for by both genders. This leads to them becoming more common in the population

Females look for signs that show ambition, resources and protection, with physical features such as tall, healthy and a v-shaped chest.

Males look for signs that suggest fertility. They look for youthful features and a hip-waist ratio of 0.7. This suggests that the female is sexually mature but not pregnant.

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Buss (1989)

  Buss (1989): carried out a study in over 33 countries that included over 10000 participants. He carried out a questionnaire asking questions on partner preferences. He found that globally, males preferred youthful features and large breasts and the 0.7 hip-waist ratio. He found that women looked for ambition, industriousness and wealth. This suggests that the evolutionary explanation for partner preferences may provide biological evidence that there is an innate system that humans work through when picking a mate.

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Evaluative Research - Dunbar and Waynforth (1995)

Dunbar+Waynforth (1995): did a content analysis of 900 dating ads in the US. They found that 42% of males were looking for youthful mates, compared to only 25% of females. Women were more likely to emphasise their looks and age, whilst men were more likely to talk about their economic and social status. This supports evolutionary theory in that women look for resources and money and men look for physical features when picking a mate.

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Evaluative Research - Penton-Voak et al. (1999)

suggests that females’ mate preferences change across the menstrual cycle. They found that females preferred a partner with strongly expressed masculine features during their fertile period, but showed more preference for a partner with slightly feminised features as a long-term mate. This may be because masculine appearance suggests a healthier immune system, which would be advantageous to pass to offspring, while slightly feminine features suggest kindness and parental cooperation – very desirable traits in a long-term partner

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Evolutionary explanations ignore social and cultur

Evolutionary explanations ignore social and cultural influences. For the past 100 years, Western societies have experienced significant changes in terms of gender equality and women’s independence. These changes mean that women in modern Western societies may no longer be looking for a man to provide them with resources; and other qualities in a mate become more important. Scientific research supports this argument: for example, Kasser and Sharma (1999) found in their analysis of 37 cultures that females mostly valued a mate with resources in societies where women’s access to education and workplace was severely limited. This makes evolutionary explanations limited, as they only explain human mates’ choice in terms of evolutionary adaptiveness, ignoring other important factors, such as culture and social norms.

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female preferences may not be universal

Another criticism of evolutionary psychologists’ claim that women universally prefer high-status and well-resourced men comes from the methodological weaknesses of research to support this claim. Most of the studies into females’ choice of mates were carried out on undergraduate students. As these women were expected to achieve a high education status leading to a secure income, their preference for high-status men may stem from similar interests and prospects, rather than be a search for a resourceful mate. Furthermore, research into evolutionary explanations also may suffer from a problem of validity, in terms that it measures expressed partner preferences rather than real-life ones. It is also a retrospective approach, largely based on speculations about what may or may not have been evolutionary adaptive for our ancestors. There is no reliable way to check whether these suggestions are valid.

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evaluation of method

Reliable - other studies have shown mate choice is influenced by instincts to maximize successful reproduction & child rearing. Pillsworth et al (2004) found sexual desire in women was higher towards their partners when they were ovulating, which would link to evolutionary theory like Buss’ study.

Large sample size - 10,047 participants. People were surveyed from many countries so their results should reflect the wider population and what others think about mate choice.  The sample size in some countries were small, only 28 men and 27 women represented Iran. Generalisations about mate preference can’t be made from this small a sample.

 Use of 2 questionnaires to gather data about mate preference is a strength. If 2 different questionnaires are used it may reduce likelihood of demand characteristics and in support of this the p’s had to fill both in, in a different way, (1st was rating, the second questionnaire ranking).  Also, using a questionnaire is a direct way to find out about mate preferences. This is valid.

Gender bias in some samples, e.g. in Nigeria, 117 males were surveyed and only 55 females. Are we getting a representative view then from that country? Probably not as not enough females were asked.

 Ethnocentric as researchers tend to view some cultural findings as more valid than others, for example in Zulu South African culture, men rated ambition and industriousness as more important in women then women did in men, however sweeping conclusions are made supporting evolutionary theory, when this may not be the case.

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issues and debates

Evolutionary explanations of relationships suffer from evolutionary reductionism + determinism, as they argue that strategies for choosing a mate are the result of genetic inheritance and a striving for reproductive success. However, this is not always as straightforward in real life, where individual differences in partner’s choice play a huge part. For example, evolutionary explanations fail to account for homosexual relationships where choice of partner clearly does not result in reproductive success and so doesn't have an evolutionary advantage.

evolutionary explanations emphasise the differences in what males and females look for in a potential partner. This exaggeration is known as an alpha bias, and the differences between males and females may be overstated. It is plausible to argue that males and females actually look for similar characteristics, such as loyalty and kindness, and such characteristics are not reported in the research, which tends to look for clear differences.

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Physical attractiveness

Physical attractiveness:

  • From the study of Buss (1989) suggested that men place great importance on the physical appearance of a mate 
  • This physical attraction acts as a cue to a women's health and the fertility and reproductive value of the woman 
  • Physical attractiveness can determine attraction
  • Eastwick et al: Suggests that physical attractiveness may be just important to women as it it to men when choosing their romantic partner Other researchers also had the same opinion However, they did suggest that women may rely on physical attractiveness only when choosing a partner for a short-term relationship, physical attractiveness was less important for a serious relationship
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The 'matching' hypothesis

  • Walster and Walster (1969):
    • Claim that when individual is in process of choosing their romantic partner they assess their own value in the eyes of their potential romantic partner 
    • They select the best candidates who are most likely to be attracted to them 
    • Theoretically, both individuals should be attracted to the most socially desirable potential partners
    • They choose partners who have similar social desirability to themselves so they can increase the chances of a successful outcome

Matching and physical attractiveness:

  • Matching hypothesis claims that individuals choose their partners as they are 'socailly desirable'
  • So there is an expectation that people tend to match with those with the same physical attractiveness 
  • Walster et al
    • referred to mating choices are 'realistic' choices
    • Individual is influenced by chances of having affection reciprocated 
    • Realistic choices consider different factors including partner's desires, potential desirable alternatives, Reciprocation of affection
    • So in real life this mean people settle for people within their 'own league' 
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Key Study: Walster et al (1966

Procedure:  advertised a 'computer dance' for new students of University of Minnesota 

  • 177 males and 170 females randomly selected 
  • As each student picked their ticket, 4 accomplices rated them for physical attractiveness 
  • Participants asked to complete questionnaire to assess things like personality, intelligence etc...
  • They were told this data would be used to allocate ideal partner for the dance but in fact this was done randomly 
  • Participants asked to complete questionnaire about their date 
  • Follow- up questionnaire was distributed 6 months later


  • Findings did not support the matching hypothesis 
  • Participants responded positively to dates despite their physical attractiveness
  • They were more likely to arrange a subsequent date if they were physically attracted to each other 
  • Other factors e.g intelligence and personality did not affect dates or arranged of further dates 
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evaluation +

 The matching hypothesis is to some extent supported by research. For example, Feingold (1988) conducted a meta-analysis of 17 studies, and found a strong correlation between partners’ ratings of attractiveness. This shows that people tend to choose a partner who has a similar level of physical attractiveness to themselves, just as the matching hypothesis predicts.

issues + debates: does not suffer with culture bias Physical attractiveness seems to be an important factor in forming relationships across cultures. For example, Cunningham et al. (1995) found that white, Asian and Hispanic males, despite being from different cultures, rated females with prominent cheekbones, small noses and large eyes as highly attractive. This universality of findings suggests that using attractiveness as a decisive factor in choosing a partner might be a genetically reproduced mechanism, aiding sexual selection. This gives support to the nature side of nature-nurture debate as it shows that human behaviour is mainly a result of biological rather than environmental influences.

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evaluation -

other research has also failed to provide conclusive evidence for matching hypothesis. For example, Taylor et al. (2011) investigated the activity log on a dating website and found that website users were more likely to try and arrange a meeting with a potential partner who was more physically attractive than them. These findings contradict the matching hypothesis, as according to its predictions, website users should seek more dates with a person who is similar in terms of attractiveness, because it provides them with a better chance of being accepted by a potential partner.

Issues and debates:gender beta-bias, assumes that men and women are very similar in their view of the importance of physical attractiveness. Research, however, suggests that this may not be the case. For example, Meltzer et al. (2014) found that men rate their long-term relationships more satisfying if their partner is physically attractive, while for women their partner’s attractiveness didn’t have a significant impact on relationship satisfaction. This shows that there are significant gender differences in how important appearance is for attraction.

The matching hypothesis is a theory that is based on a nomothetic approach to studying human behaviour. It tries to generate behavioural laws applicable to all people; however, as studies above suggest, there are significant individual differences. Therefore, explanations based on the idiographic approach (studying individual cases in detail, without trying to generate universal rules) may be more appropriate.


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Self-disclosure: formation of relationships

Altman and Taylor’s (1973) social penetration theory (SPT).

Study: development of interpersonal relationships and the gradual process of revealing our inner-self to another person.They argue trust between two intimate partners is created through reciprocal exchange of information. By increasing these disclosures, romantic partners penetrate more deeply into each other’s lives and gain a greater understanding of each other.

Depth The metaphor of a multi-layered onion is often used to illustrate the idea of depth in self-disclosure. We disclose a lot about ourselves at the start of a relationship, but details are superficial (only on the surface, like the outer layer of an onion).

·         These are the kinds of details we might disclose to friends or co-workers.

·         Only as the relationship matures do we begin to disclose deeper details about ourselves.

Breadth  Self-disclosure can be restricted because we see many topics as being off limits in the early stages of a relationship.   People don’t want to reveal too much too soon for fear of ruining the relationship. This means their breadth of topics is reduced in the early stages of a relationship.

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Supporting Research

Reciprocity: Reis and Shaver (1988) view reciprocity as essential for any romantic relationship to develop. As we reveal something about our true self, our partner will respond. This increases levels of understanding, empathy, and intimacy and deepen the relationship.

Supporting Research

1.      Sprecher and Hendrick (2004) studied heterosexual dating couples. Results: Strong correlation between numerous measures of satisfaction and disclosure.  Men and women who used self-disclosure, and those who believed their partner did also, were more satisfied with and committed to their romantic relationships.

 2.      Laurenceau et al. (2005) found that self-disclosure and the perception of self-disclosure in a partner were linked to higher levels of intimacy in long-term married couples. This supports the findings of other research and adds to the validity of the theory.

 3.      Hass and Stafford (1998) found that 57% of gay men and women in their study said that open and honest self-disclosure was the main way they maintained and deepened their committed relationships.

4.      Value of learning self-disclosure If those who tend to limit communication to small talk can learn to use self-disclosure, then this can bring several benefits to their relationships in terms of deepening satisfaction and commitment.

These kinds of real-life applications show the value of these psychological theories.

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Cultural differences: SDT is based on findings from Western (individualistic) cultures which are not necessarily generalizable to other cultures. The view that increasing the breadth and depth of self-disclosure leads to more satisfying intimate relationships might not be the case for all cultures.

 Tang et al. (2013) reviewed literature on sexual self-disclosure (disclosure relating to feelings about specific sexual practices). Results: Men and women in the USA (an individualistic country) self-disclosed more sexual thoughts and feelings than those in China (a collectivist culture). Both these levels of self-disclosure are still linked to relationship satisfaction in both countries. It suffers from Beta bias where it has underestimated the differences between different cultures people may assume those cultures would have less satisfaction but they are of a similar level.

Correlational research A lot of self-disclosure research is correlational so although it is usually assumed that greater self-disclosure creates more satisfaction, correlation tells us little about causal direction (what the caused the self-disclosure was and what the effect it had on the relationship is there such a thing as oversharing which could make someone less desirable).

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Relationship breakdown


Relationship breakdown is characterised by a reduction in self-disclosure.

Using the onion metaphor, couples wrap themselves up once more in layers of concealment.

Theories of relationship breakdown often recognise how couples discuss and negotiate the state of their deteriorating relationship to try to save it or return to an earlier level of satisfaction. These discussions frequently involve deeper self-disclosures of very intimate thoughts and feelings. But these may not be enough to rescue the relationship and may even contribute to its breakdown.

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issues and debates


Suffers from: cultural beta bias

Social Penetration Theory is unable to explain the formation of all relationships and is limited by taking a nomothetic approach. By claiming that higher self-disclosure will lead to greater relationship satisfaction. Ignoring many other factors that can influence relationships, such as cultural practices and personality. Can be seen as reductionistic reducing relationship satisfaction to a single factor, it ignores many other aspects of romantic attraction, such as physical attractiveness. It was developed based on research in a Western, individualist culture, so it may not apply to collectivist cultures. For example, Tang et al. (2013) found that men and women in the USA tended to disclose more sexual thoughts and feelings than romantic partners in China; however, the level of relationship satisfaction was high in both cultures. This shows that self-disclosure is not a requirement for successful relationships in all cultures, making Social Penetration Theory culturally biased.

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Filter theory

Filter theory is an explanation of attraction proposed by Kerckhoff and Davies 1962. It suggests that people develop relationships by applying a series of filters to narrow down candidates, such as:

  1. Sociodemographic characteristics – physical proximity, level of education, social class, religion and other important factors -> this is important as people are more likely to build relationships with people who they meet frequently as this gives them a chance to learn about each other. People also find similarities in education, religion and social class as attractive as this gives them reassurance that their relationship with progress.
  2. Similarity of attitudes – if they share the same core beliefs and values; Byrne noted that similarity of attitudes is important in the earlier stages of relationships for couples who have been together fewer than 18 months. Presence or absence in similarities is discovered through self-disclosure, which leads to greater intimacy.
  3. Complementarity – each of the partners having certain traits that the other lacks, which helps them fulfil their needs. E.g. one partner may be more social while the other may be less social and need help.
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Supporting Research: Kerckhoff and Davis

Kerckhoff and Davis studied 94 University couples and discovered several important criteria people use to choose partners. Each partner completed two questionnaires. After a further seven months, the couples completed another questionnaire on how close they felt to their partner in comparison to the beginning of the study.

Initial results showed that only similarity resulted in partner closeness. When researchers divided couples into long term versus short term (+/-18 months) a difference appeared. For those of less than 18 months, similarity of attitudes was more important. For those of more than 18 months, complementarity of needs was more important for closeness felt to their partner.

Winch 1958 investigated 25 US married couples found that similarity of interests, attitudes and personality traits were important for couples in the beginning of the relationships. Furthermore, he also found that whatever one partner lacked, the other must thrive in for a successful marriage. Newcomb 1961 offered participants free accommodation for a year, they were assigned a roommate and he found stable friendships developed if roommates had similar background and attitudes to life.

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Strength – supported by other studies; Gruber-Baldini et all 1995 carried a longitudinal study of coupled aged 21 and found similar educational levels and age meant that people were more likely to stay together and have successful relationships. This demonstrates importance of sociodemographic factors, supporting the idea that we build relationships with people who are geographically close and similar in age, education, etc. This means that Filter Theory has face validity, as people can relate to it with ‘this makes sense’ understanding. However, due to development of technology, sociodemographic factors may not play as big a role in relationships. Compared to 20-30 years ago, people are more likely to develop relationships with someone who is not in their geographical proximity, making the claim less valid.

Support for complementarity is scarce. For example, research by Dijkstra and Barelds 2008 studied 760 college-educated singles (476 women and 284 men) on dating sites who were looking for long-term relationships. Their personalities were measured and then they were asked to rate personality characteristics they desired in an ideal mate. Although initially participants indicated they desired a complementary partner over a similar one, there were strong correlations between individuals own personality and ideal partner’s personality.

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Some studies haven’t replicated the original findings. Levinger et al. 1970 studied 330 couples who were ‘steadily attached’ and put them through the same procedure as Kerckhoff and Davis’s study. There was no evidence in similarity of attitudes and values or complementarity of need influencing progress towards permeance of relationships. They also found no impact on the length of the couple’s relationship on influence of these variables. Levinger et al. suggested that the questionnaires used in the original study would not have been appropriate given the changes in social values and courtship.

Anderson et al. 2003 argues that the emotional responses of partners in long-term relationships becomes more alike over time rather than from the start. Similar, Davis and Rusbult 2001 found that attitudes in long term couples become aligned with time, suggesting that similarity of attitudes is an effect rather than a cause of attraction. This contradicts Filter Theory.

Kerckhoff and Davis and Anderson et al. are looking for causality, where there may only be one positive correlation. It may be the act of being together over time that shifts the couple’s attitudes into the ‘type of couple they would like to be’. So, they start with similarity of attitudes, and dissimilar attitudes shift to converge during the relationship.

Thornton and Young-DeMarco 2001 found evidence of changed attitudes towards relationships in young American adults over a period of a few decades. This included weakening of the desire to marry, stay married and have children, and a more relaxed attitude towards living together and the gender roles in marriage.


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issues and debates

Reductionism: Basing explanation of complex phenomenon’s such as romantic relationships on a series of filters is reductionist; it limits the range of real-life romantic experiences that it can explain. Filter Theory doesn’t explain why some stay in long-term abusive relationships despite the lack of complementarity that is theorised as an important factor in long-term relationships. This suggest that a holistic approach to studying romantic relationships may be better suited to explaining relationship maintenance.

Culture bias: Most research supporting filter theory uses participants from individualist, Western cultures. These cultures value free choice in relationships and describe the choice of partners in individual terms of preferences. In these cultures, little influence is applied and so fits the Filter Theory. In collectivist cultures, however, it is more common for relationships to be arranged, and so people are not free to apply individual filter to their future spouse. Filter Theory therefore has a culture bias, as it assumes partner choice in western cultures applies universally.

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Social Exchange Theory

AO1 Rewards, Costs and Profits: Thibaut and Kelly 1959 all social behaviour is a series of exchanges individuals attempt to maximise their rewards and minimise their costs. In our society people exchange resources with the expectation that their will be profit rewards may included effort, financial investment and time wasted. Rewards minus costs equal the outcome for the relationship. Social exchange in the line with other economic theories of human behaviour stresses that commitment to a relationship is dependent on profitability of this outcome

According to Thibault and Kelly, all relationships proceed through a series of stages. They are:

Sampling stage, where people explore potential rewards and costs of relationships, not just romantic ones, either by direct experience or by observing others.

Bargaining stage, which is the first stage of any romantic relationship. At this stage, partners exchange rewards and costs, figure out the most profitable exchanges and negotiate the dynamics of the relationship.

Commitment stage: when relationships become more stable, and partners become familiar with sources of rewards and costs, and each other's expectations, so rewards increase and costs lessen

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Comparison Level

Comparison Level (CL) People also use levels of comparison to assess how profitable their relationships are. The first level, called Comparison Level (CL), is based on person’s idea of how much reward they deserve to receive in relationships. This understanding is subjective and depends on previous romantic experiences and cultural norms of what is appropriate to expect from relationships; books, films and TV programmes, reinforce these norms. Comparison Levels are closely linked to person’s self-esteem – a person with high self-esteem will have higher expectations of rewards in relationships, whereas a person with low self-esteem will have lower expectations. People consider relationships worth pursuing if the Comparison Level is equal to, or better than, what they experienced in their previous relationships.

Comparison Level for Alternatives (CLat):The second level, called Comparison Level for alternatives (CLalt), concerns a person’s perception of whether other potential relationships (or staying on their own) would be more rewarding  than being in their current relationship (costs+ rewards= profit). According to Social Exchange Theory, people will stick to their current relationships if profit level is high in comparison to another relationship. Furthermore, according to some psychologists, such as Duck, if people consider themselves to be content in their current relationships, they may not even notice that there are available alternatives. If these alternatives are more appealing there may be a temptation to leave that relationship relationships may become less stable if partners have low dependence on relationship and they may lack commitment-causing distress because of lack of commitment to relationship 

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Research into social exchange theory

Floyd et al (1994) found that commitment develops when couples are satisfied with and feel rewarded in a relationship and when they perceive that equally or more attractive alternative relationships are not available to them.

Stafford and Canary (2006) asked over 200 married couples to complete measures of equity and relationship satisfaction. Findings revealed that satisfaction was highest for spouses who perceived their relationships to be equitable, followed by over-benefited partners and lowest for under-benefited partners

Evidence for the influence of comparison level for alternatives Sprecher (2001), in a longitudinal study of 101 dating couples at a US university, found that the exchange variable most highly associated with relationship commitment was partners' comparison level for alternatives. Sprecher's study showed that the presence of alternatives was consistently and negatively correlated with both commitment and relationship satisfaction for both males and females. In other words, in relationships where the comparison level for alternatives was high, commitment to, and satisfaction, with the current relationship tended to be low. Sprecher suggests this is not surprising as those who lack alternatives are likely to remain committed (and satisfied), but also those who are satisfied and committed to their relationship are more likely to devalue alternatives. 

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AO2 Ignoring Equity Theory:  Research suggests that men and women might judge the equity of a relationship differently. Steil and Weltman (1991) found that, among married working couples, husbands who earned more than their wives rated their own careers as more important than their wives' careers. However, in couples where the woman's income exceeded the man's neither partner rated their career as more important.

The problem of costs and benefits A problem for social exchange theory is the confusion of what constitutes a cost and a benefit within a relationship. What might be considered rewarding to one person (e.g. constant attention and praise) may be punishing to another (e.g. it may be perceived as irritating). In addition, what might be seen as a benefit at one stage of the relationship may be seen as a cost at another juncture as partners may redefine something they previously perceived as rewarding or punishing (Littlejohn, 1989). This suggests that it is difficult to classify all events in such simple terms as 'costs' or 'benefits, and challenges the view that all romantic relationships operate in this way. 

Overemphasis on costs and benefits A reliance on profitable outcomes as an indication of relationship satisfaction ignores other factors that play some role in this process. An individual's own relational beliefs may make them more tolerant of a relatively low ratio of benefits to costs within their relationship. They may, for example, have the belief that 'If you have committed yourself to a relationship, you live with what it brings'or'It is selfish to focus on one's own needs' Although they may recognise an unfavourable ratio of benefits to costs, their relationship standard means that they continue to provide benefits to their partner and simply put up with the costs. Thus, social exchange alone cannot explain relationship satisfaction without also considering individual differences in relational standards and beliefs. 

real-life application to couples therapy a primary goal is to increase the proportion of positive exchanges to help break negative patterns of behaviour that cause relationship break down Christensen treated 60 couples 2/3 reported improvements 

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issues and debates

Beta culture bias- Moghaddam (1998) suggest that economic theory only apply to Western relationships and even then only to certain short-term relationships among individuals with high mobility. One group of people who fit this description are students in Western societies The majority of research relating to social exchange theory has been conducted in Western individualistic cultures and may, therefore, be culturally biased. The perceived costs and rewards of relationships may be different around the world. For example, in some cultures where basic subsistence is a lifestyle, it may be sufficient to be in a relationship where a partner helps to provide just enough to eat. In more wealthy cultures, on the other hand, a comfortable house in a good neighborhood may be a more important consideration. 

Age bias- his research has been mainly conducted with university students so, therefore, ignore the generational difference in relationships

Environmentally reductionist/determinist- Research into social exchange theory has often concentrated on the short term consequences of relationships rather than looking at the more important long term maintenance. Therefore suggesting research has been reductionist which reduces the validity does not explain why people stay in abusive relationships 

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Equity theory

The social exchange theory has been criticised for being too selfish and couples tend to report greater satisfaction when they both put in an equivalent amount.

Inequity and dissatisfaction- in social exchange theory we learned that all social behaviour is a series of exchanges with individuals attempting to maximise their rewards and minimise their costs equality theory is an extension of that underlying belief that people are most comfortable when they perceive that they are getting roughly what they deserve from any given relationship an equitable relationship should according to the theory be one where ones partner’s benefits less their costs. Relationships that lack equity are associated with dissatisfaction if people feel over benefited, pity, guilt or shame if under benefited they may experience anger, sadness and resentment the greater the inequity the greater the dissatisfaction and stress and the more they are motivated to do something about it

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equity and inequity in marriages

Schafer and Keith 1980 surveyed hundreds of couples of all ages noting those who felt their marriages were inequitable because of an unfair division of domestic responsibilities. During the child, rearing year’s wives often reported feeling under benefited and husbands over benefited. Because of martial satisfaction tended to dip. In contrast, during the honeymoon and empty nest stages both husband and wife were more likely to feel equity and satisfaction in their marriages 

Hatfield and Rapson suggest that how couples are concerned with reward and equity depends on the stage in relationship when couples are in the initial stages of a relationship considerations of reward fairness and equity are important. However once individuals become deeply committed to each other they become less concerned about day-to-day reward and equity. Happily, married couples suggest they tend to not keep score of how much they are giving and getting couples in equitable relationships are also less likely to risk extramarital affairs then their peers and their relationships are generally longer lasting than those of their peers.

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Supporting Research

Another study, conducted by Stafford and Canary (2006), also found similar trends. In their study over 200 married couples completed questionnaires on relationship equity and satisfaction. In addition, participants were asked questions about the ways they maintained their relationships, such as by dividing chores, communicating positively and showing affection for one another. They found that partners, who perceived their relationships as fair and balanced, followed by spouses who over-benefitted from the relationships, experienced the most satisfaction. Those who under-benefitted showed lowest levels of satisfaction. Those with perceived fairness needed for happy relationship

Supporting evidence from the study of non-human primates: Further evidence for the importance of equity and fairness in relationships comes from studies of other primates. In a study with capuchin monkeys, Brosnan and de Waal (2003) found that female capuchin monkeys became very angry if they were denied a highly prized reward of grapes in return for playing a game. If another monkey (who had played no part in the game) received the grapes instead, the capuchins grew so angry that they hurled food at the experimenter. In a later study, Brosnan et al (2005) found that chimpanzees were more upset by injustice in casual relationships than in close, intimate relationships, where injustice 'caused barely a ripple:These studies echo what researchers have found in human relationships and suggest that the perception of inequity has ancient origins. 

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Equity sensitivity:  Equity theory is based on the 'norm of equity: which assumes that everyone is equally sensitive to equity and inequity. This also means that each individual experiences the same level of tension when they perceive inequity. However, this isn't always the case. Huseman et al (1987) developed the idea of equity sensitivity, which determines the extent to which an individual will tolerate inequity. Huseman identified I three categories of individuals: benevolents, equity sensitives and entitleds. Benevolents are 'givers' and tend to be more tolerant of under-rewarded inequity. Equity sensitives behave in accordance with equity theory, experiencing tension when faced with inequity. Entitleds prefer to be over-rewarded, having the attitude that they are owed and than are entitled to receive benefits. As a result, they are dissatisfied when in an under-rewarded or an equitable situation. This norm of equity wrong not everyone experiences same perceived experience of inequity.

A problem of causality Although research has established that inequity and dissatisfaction are linked, the nature of the causal relationship itself is not clear. For example, Clark (1984) argues that, in most relationships, couples do not think in terms of reward and equity. If they do, she claims, it is a sign that their marriages are in trouble. According to this perspective, dissatisfaction with a relationship is the cause, not the consequences of inequity.

However, a study of married couples (Van Yperen and Buunk, 1990) found that people in inequitable marriages became less satisfied over the course of a year, with no evidence for the converse. Hatfield and Rapson (2011) suggest that in failing marriages both processes might be operating. When marriages are faltering, partners become preoccupied with the inequities of the relationship, and this can then lead to relationship dissolution

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issues and debates

Beta gender bias: DeMaris et al. (2010) point out that men and women not equally affected by inequity Women tend to perceive themselves as more under-benefited in relationships. Women are also more disturbed by being under-benefited than are men. DeMaris et al suggest reasons for these gender differences. These include the fact that women's greater relationship focus may make them more sensitive to injustices. An increased emphasis on gender equality in modern marriage may lead women to be more vigilant about, relationship inequity. These results indicate clear gender differences between males and females and highlight the importance of conducting research into males and females separately, to avoid gender bias. However, this may then result in an alpha bias and exaggerate differences between males and females that do not actually exist.

 Equity Theory, like other theories within the relationships topic, proposes a universal theory of romantic relationships that people are content in their relationship if the benefits equal the costs. However, Mills & Clarke argue that it is not possible to assess equity as a lot of the input is emotional and unquantifiable. Consequently, it may be better to study romantic relationships using an idiographic approach (individual and qualitative) which focuses on the qualitative experiences of individuals, rather than employing a nomothetic (quantified and controlled) approach to generate universal laws for human relationships.

 Beta culture bias: in the importance of equity There is a possibility that the concept of equity is not as important in non-Western cultures most research was carried out in Western societies. Aumer-Ryan et al. investigated this possibility. concluded that, in all the cultures they studied, people considered it important that a relationship should be equitable. However, people in the different cultures differed how equitable they considered their relationships to be. Both men and women from the US claimed to be in the most equitable relationships, and both men and women from Jamaica claimed to be in the least equitable relationships. These results highlight a culture bias in this area of research and suggest that Equity Theory does not explain the development of romantic relationships in all cultures.

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Investment model

A way of understanding why people persist in some romantic relationships but not in others. Relationships persist not just because of positive qualities that attract one person to another but also because of the ties that bind partners to each other and the absence of a better option beyond that particular relationship these factors provide the explanatory framework by which we might predict the chances of someone being committed to the relationship

Satisfaction level: satisfaction level refers to the positive versus negative emotions experienced within a relationship and is influenced by the extent to which the other person fulfils the individuals most important needs for example a partner may feel satisfied to the degree that the other partner gratifies their domestic companionate and sexual needs

Quality of alternatives: refers to the extent to which an individuals most important needs might be better fulfilled outside the current relationship perceiving that an attractive alternative might provide superior outcomes to those experienced in the current relationships however if alternatives are not present an individual may persist with a relationship because of a lack of better options attractive alternatives are not necessarily other people as in some cases having no relationship may be seen a more attractive option than staying in the current relationship

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Investment model


Investment size: Rusbult proposed that investment size also contributes to the stability of a relationship investment size is a measure of all resources that are attached to the relationship and which would diminish in value or be lost completely if the relationship were to end . For example, partners invest time and energy in the relationship they share each other’s friends take on shared possession or give things of value to each other. Partners make these sorts of investments expecting that in doing so it will create strong foundation for a lasting future together investment increase dependence on the relationship because they increase connections with the partner that would be costly to break as a result investment create a powerful psychological inducement to persist with a relationship

Commitment level: the term commitment is used to describe the likelihood that an involvement will persist commitment is high in romantic partners who are happy with their relationships and anticipate very little gain and high levels of loss if they were to leave the relationships (the quality of alternatives is low and the investment is high) conversely commitment is low when satisfaction levels and investment are low and quality of alternatives are high when people are satisfied with their relationship feel tied to it because of their investments or have not suitable alternatives they become dependent on that relationship commitment therefore is a consequence of increasing dependence.

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Key studies

Similar trends were found in Le and Agnew’s (2003) study. They conducted a meta-analysis of 52 studies, featuring 11,000 participants in total, and discovered that satisfaction, comparison with alternatives and investment greatly contributed to commitment; and that commitment was a defining feature of long-lasting relationships.

There are numerous research studies supporting the Investment Model. Impett, Beals and Peplau (2002) conducted a longitudinal study using a large sample of married couples over an 18 months period. They found that stability of the relationships positively correlated with commitment shown by the partners.

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Real world application: explain abrasive relationships:The Investment Model provides a plausible explanation for why people stay in abusive relationships. According to the model, if a partner feels that the investment, they made into relationships will be lost if they leave, they are more likely to stay in a relationship even when the costs are high (such as physical or emotional abuse) and rewards are few. Research into abusive relationships supports this idea. For example, Rusbult and Maltz, in their study of 'battered' women, found that women were more likely to return to an abusive partner if they felt they had invested in the relationship and they didn't have any appealing alternatives. This shows that the Investment Model can be applied to a wide range or relationships experiences that the SET and Equity Theory fail to explain, thus increasing the Investment Model’s application to everyday relationships.

Research support: The importance of commitment as an indicator of relationships stability is supported by a meta-analysis by Le et al 2010 137 studies in a 33-year period to discover key variables that predict staying or leaving behaviour in non-marital relationships predicts in line with Rusbults model commitment was a strong indicator of whether a relationship would break up other factors in investment model were only modest predictors

The majority of research into the Investment Model is correlational:so, psychologists are unable to conclude that investment causes commitment in relationships. They have shown this scale to be high in validity and reliability and not culturally bias, but the scale relies on self-report measures problem with people wanting to present themselves in a good light the results may be biased extremely difficult to measure such a subjective state as commitment in any other way

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issues and debates

Even though the importance of investment was clearly demonstrated by research, some psychologists think that Result’s idea of relationship investment is oversimplified. For example, Goodfriend and Agnew (2008) argue that it is not just things we bring to the relationships that could count as investment, but also a couple's plans for their future. In their view, partners will be committed to staying in the relationships because they want to see these plans realised. This shows that investment in romantic relationships is a complex phenomenon, consisting of many different factors, that some people may persist in a relationship because of future plans they want to come to fruition which makes the Investment Model reductionist.

Culture bias doesn't seem to be an issue for the Investment Model. Le and Agnew’s (2003) meta-analysis of 52 studies found support for the Investment Model across individualist and collectivist cultures, such as in the USA (individualist culture) and in Taiwan (collectivist culture). Furthermore, the Investment Model, as an explanation of relationship maintenance, is also shown to be valid for different sub-groups, such as friendships; homosexual relationships; and cohabiting couples, etc. This suggests the universality of the Investment Model, making it applicable to wide range of relationships.

The fact that the evidence for the Investment Model is found across cultures may suggest that the human need for investment and commitment to relationships developed through the process of natural selection to help people survive and reproduce. For example, parents who are committed to their relationship and invest in it will have a higher chance of ensuring their children's survival and therefore of passing on their genes. This means that the Investment Model supports the nature side of the nature-nurture debate.

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Relationship breakdown

Many people view relationship breakdown as a one-off event just happens when one partner decides to leave a relationship. However, social psychologists Steven Duck 2007 suggested that relationship dissolution is a process However, people may not go through all of these stages® The first phase in this process is the intra-psychic stage this is when a persons admits to himself or herself that they are dissatisfied with their relationship. This stages focuses on a persons internal thought process that occurs before confronting the partner before a person moves to the next stage, they reach threshold thinking ‘I can’t stand this anymore’  ®   The second phase, called dyadic occurs when a person confronts their partner and voices their dissatisfaction at this stage there are a lot of complaints coming from the partner initiating the break up common complaints involve a partner’s commitment to relationships the dissatisfied partner also rethinks the alternatives to their current relationships the threshold that is reached at this stage is I would be justified in withdrawing ® If up to this point disagreements private at the next phase, they make their distress public. This is the social phase of relationship breakdown according to Duck once the conflict reaches this stage it is more difficult for a couple to mend their relationship friends and family will take sides intervene in the couples relationship and offer advice which makes reconciliation much more problematic the threshold at this stage is ‘I mean it’ the social phase usually leads to the dissolution of the relationship ® Having left their partner both sides construct their version of why their relationship broke down usually minimising their faults and maximising their partners but at the same time trying to show themselves as trustworthy and loyal in order to attract a new partner this process is called grave dressing signifying the closure of the previous relationship and readiness to start a new one the threshold here is unsurprisingly it is time to start a new life ® Extension- In 2006 Duck and Rolle proposed an addition to the model the resurrection phase they suggested that at this stage people move beyond the pain and distress associated with ending the relationship and experience personal growth

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evaluation -

Most of the research examining relationship breakdown is based on retrospective data using questionnaires or interviews to ask participants about the break up some time after due to post event discussion (Gabbet et al) with people’s memories of the event may not be accurate and may also be coloured by their current situation which means that their answers are not reliable this means ducks phase model even though it seems to be supported by research does not necessarily describe how break up happens in real life weakening the models ability to present an accurate picture of relationship breakdown

Socially sensitive research: ethical issues involved in investigating relationship breakdown such as privacy, especially if the research involves victims of domestic abuse. There are also the ethical issues of confidentiality and protection from psychological harm, as participants may experience distress in the process of the research. This makes the topic particularly difficult to investigate, as researchers may find it tricky to conduct a study where the benefits of research outweigh a possible negative impact on participants. 

The social phase is greatly affected by individual differences, especially in relation to age. Dickson (1995) found that while friends and relatives tend to see teenagers' break-ups as less serious and wouldn't put much effort into reconciling partners, the ending of relationships by older couples is seen as more distressing and those close to the couple put more effort into bringing them back together. This shows that Duck's model won't necessarily apply to all couples, and therefore suggests that the model is unable to accurately predict breakdown in different types of relationship. 


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evaluation +

However, Duck's model has useful applications, especially in relation to couples' counselling. Couples may be advised to use different strategies depending on the phase they are currently in. For example, for a person in the intra-psychic phase it may be more useful to shift their attention to the positive aspects of their partner's personality, while for a couple in the dyadic phase communication about dissatisfaction and ways to balance relationships is crucial. This shows that Duck's model of relationship breakdown can be used successfully to help couples contemplating break-up to improve their relationships and stay together.

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issues and debates

Beta culture bias: Duck's Phase Model The model is based on relationships from individualist cultures, where ending the relationships is a voluntary choice, and separation and divorce are easily obtainable and do not carry stigma. However, this may not be the case in collectivist cultures, where relationships are sometimes arranged by wider family members, and characterised by greater family involvement. This makes the relationship difficult to end, which means that the break-up process will not follow the phases proposed by Duck. As a result, Duck's model is culturally biased as it assumes that break-up process is universal, which is clearly not the case.

Determinist/reductionist nomothetic approach: Duck's model successfully describes how relationships break down, but not why. As most stage theories, it focuses on establishing universal principles of behaviour that would be true for all people However, as shown above, the break-up process is greatly affected by partners' individual differences, and cultural norms and values, so a more detailed idiographic (more detail on the individual) approach may reveal individual reasons for break-up and the experiences different couples go through, giving psychologists a better understanding of the issue. 

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Virtual relationships in social media

Social media sites and thrived in the past few years research has shown that there are differences in the way that people conduct these virtual relationships and how we interact face-to-face. This highlights temporal validity in other research that was not reflected in research done mainly in the 20th century doesn’t reflect the changes that have occurred in recent years. There is constant communication

Self-disclosure in virtual relationships: Jourard 1971 proposed the concept of broadcasting self-disclosure in order to describe the difference between disclosure to a romantic partner and disclosure of information in a public situation disclosure in a public situation involves the person presenting an edited version of themselves to others. Individuals using social network sites exercise different levels of self-disclosure whether the information is being spread publicly or privately people feel more secure disclosing intimate and sensitive information in private because of increased control over disclosure to a selected individual in contrast when sharing self-disclosures in more visible ways with a wider audience EG on a tweet people and more selective over the content, revealing information that is less private and less intimate people compensate for the lack of control over who has access to the information by exercising increase control over what information is always has access to.

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Why is there more self-disclosure on the internet

 Psychological effects of anonymity? Individuals do not usually engage in self disclosure with one another until they are confident that what they disclose remains private the dangerous of this type of self-disclosure in face-to-face interactions confidentiality might be violated or the other person may respond negatively leading to rejection the relative anonymity of internet interaction greatly reduces the risk of such disclosure because people can share their thoughts and feelings with much less fear of disapproval from the other person in this way self-disclosures with online acquaintances are similar to the strangers on a train phenomenon. Rubin 1975 explained that we are more likely to disclose personal information to people we don’t know and probably will never see you again also because a stranger does not have access to individual in a social circle  confidentiality is much less of a problem.

Strangers on a train Rubin carried out a series of studies where can disclose personal information about themselves varying the level intimacy complete stranger on train in airport lounges or when standing at the bus stop he discovered that when to disclose intimate details of their lives to the stranger this was often met with the reciprocal self-disclosure from the stranger

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Absence of gating in virtual relationships

Absence of gating in virtual relationships

in face-to-face relationship personal factors such as physical appearance and mannerisms determine who we approach and who we develop romantic relationships with we use available features such as attractiveness age or ethnicity to categorise potential partners before making a decision about whether you would like to get in a relationship with that person online there tends to be an absence of these barriers the shy or less social skills to form relationships in face-to-face encounters.

Absence of gating and its consequences

because of the relative anonymity of the internet these barriers to interaction are not initially there so are less likely to stop potential relationship blooming a consequence of this removing of traditional dating barriers that dominate initial liking and relationship formation is that a person’s true self is more likely to be active in internet relationships then it is in face-to-face interactions this is made possible by the absence of traditional gating features that dominate initial liking and relationship formation and is a contributed to the establishment of close relationships over the internet

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Supporting Research

Zhao et Al 2008 on online social networks such as Facebook can empower individuals to present the identity they hope to establish an able to in face-to-face situation production of obstacles in the online environment also enables people to stretch the truth a bit in their efforts to project a cell that is more socially desirable than their real identity

Smith and Duggan 2013 in a large scale national survey of over 2000 American participants found the use of online dating is becoming more acceptable with 53% of people agreeing that online relationships is becoming more acceptable with 53% of people agreeing that online dating allows them to find a better match for themselves because they can get to know people a lot more the biggest reasons for using online dating being  meeting people who share similar hobbies 60% and beliefs and values 52% however 54% of internet daters felt like someone else seriously misrepresented themselves in their profile. Internet dating is a way to overcome the gating/ filters in face to face interaction but take advantage of hyper personal model producing a edited version of themselves. Yurchisin et al 2005 however found that most online identities were still close to the person's true identity in order to avoid unpleasant surprises impossible real life encounters.

Mckenna and Bargh 2000 who demonstrated both that people were able to express themselves more online and after two years the 70% of relationships that formed online survived compared to 50% relationships that start face-to-face


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evaluation +

Baker and Oswald 2010 argue that virtual relationships are practically helpful for shy people through social media sites like Facebook shy people are able to overcome the barriers they face when trying to form relationships in real life to test whether shy people really do benefit from internet use they surveyed 207 male and female students about their shyness Facebook usage and the quality of their relationships with students who scored high for shyness used Facebook usage was associated with higher perceptions of friendship and found value in virtual relationships.

Rosenfeld and Thomas 2012 demonstrated the importance of the internet and social media in helping individuals to form and maintain relationships in a study of 4000 adults they found that individuals with internet access at home but far more likely to be partnered and less likely to be single of 4000 individuals 71.8% of those who had access to the internet at home or romantic partner the individuals who did not have access this figure was much lower at 35.9% even after controlling for other important variables such as age gender education sexual preference and religious individual with internet access were still almost twice as likely to have a partner compared to those without internet access this research suggests that the internet may be placing rather than simply complimenting the traditional ways of meeting a romantic partner

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evaluation -

Tamir and Mitchell 2012 pounds evidence of a biological bias for the motivation to self-disclose on social media they found increased MRI activity into brain regions that are associated with reward the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area these areas were strongly activated when people were talking about themselves and less so when they were talking about somebody else they also found that participants in their study experience a greater sensation of pleasure when sharing their thoughts with a friend or family member and less pleasure when they told that the thoughts should be kept private finding suggests that the human tendency to share a personal experiences with others over social media may arise from the rewarding nature of self-disclosure.

Zhao et al 2008 that we should not think of the online world and the offline world has been completely separate as relationships formed online do you have consequences for people’s offline lives. for example the development of virtual relationship online allows individuals to bypass skating obstacles and create the sort of identity they are unable to establish in the offline world he claims that these digital cells can then enhance the individuals overall self-image and as a result may increase their chances to connect with others in the offline world.

Temporal validity : Most of the research examining virtual relationships was conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As technology is changing rapidly, so is the nature of online relationships; therefore, psychological research in this area risks becoming outdated by the time it is published. This lowers the temporal validity of research into online relationships. With apps like snapchat there is higher NV communication.

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issues and debates

Research into virtual relationships is based on the experiences of mainly Western, technologically developed cultures. Internet technology is not readily available in some countries, so the conclusions about the development and effects of virtual communication on romantic relationships cannot be applied to them. In addition, attitudes to self-disclosure are different in different cultures. For example, Nakanishi (1986) found that, in contrast to American culture, women in Japan preferred lower levels of self-disclosure in close relationships. This demonstrates that the level of self-disclosure depends on cultural norms, and may affect the communication styles online. This lowers the validity of research into virtual relationships, limiting the range of relationships it explains.

There are also important gender differences in virtual relationships. McKenna et al. (2002) found that women tended to rate their relationships formed online as more intimate, and valued self-disclosure, especially in regards to emotion, more highly than men. Men, on the other hand, preferred activities-based (such as common interests in motorsports) disclosure, and rated their online relationships as less close than face-to-face ones. This suggests that research into online relationships may show alpha-bias, as it assumes that males' and females' experiences on virtual relationships are different. However, it could be that male and female experiences of virtual relationships are similar and there are methodological issues with the research in this area that exaggerate the differences (e.g. the choice of interview/questionnaires as a research tool)

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What is para-social relationship

 Are one sided relationship where one person expense considerable emotional energy investment and time although the other person (usually a celebrity) is completely unaware of their existence the persuasive nurse of the mass media such as television and internet give the viewer that illusion of having face-to-face relationship with a particular celebrities that association is so strong that the celebrity becomes a meaningful figure in the individual's life.

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attachment theory explanation

Para social relationships functions similarly to real life relationships in terms of attachment behaviour individuals who didn’t form a strong bond with a primary caregiver in early childhood will try to find an attachment substitute as adults, and engaging in para-social relationships allows them to do so. relationships with TV personality exhibit to some degree of fundamental properties of attachment identified by Weiss 1991. Proximity seeking a key component of attachment theory is proximity seeking as individuals attempt to reduce the distance between themselves and the attachment figure fans exhibit many proximity seeking behaviours for example research a show that many people like to stay informed about that favourite celebrities they collect truly about them rearrange schedules to see them on tv I will even attempt to contact them in passing through some letters (leets 1995) Secured base the presence of the attachment figure provides a sense of security for the individual safe haven that allows them to explore the world with PSR weather is little chance of rejection from the attach figure the individual is able to create a secure base from which they can explore other relationship in a Safeway. For example an 18 year old Michael Jackson fan reportedly left her family because Michael Jackson became a secure base and source personal comfort. Protest at disruption the best maker of an attachment maybe the president of pro longest referring separation or loss of the attachment figure bbc acting Jeremy Clarkson in 2015 was met with raw emotion status typical of the last of an attachment figure there was a petition right to bring back Clarkson. Attachment style Cole and leets 1999 explain why some people are more likely to develop PSR through the concept of attachment style in the research they found that the person's willingness to form a para-social bond essential bond with their favourite tv personality is related to their attachment individuals with insecure avoidant attachment where most likely to enter into PSR (they are too afraid of the criticism and rejection that are a part of real life relationships.) avoidment attachment is categorised by the concern that others will not reciprocate ones desires for intimacy they argued that individual with an insecure avoidant attachment find it difficult to develop intimate relationship and the therefore are less likely to seek real life relationship they appear to avoid not only relational intimacy but imagined as well.

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A03- criticisms for attachment theory

There is a lack of support for attachment theory explanations. McCutcheon et al. (2006) examined the correlation between attachment type and celebrity worship levels using 229 participants, and found no link between insecure-resistant attachment and more intense levels of Para social relationships. This contradicts the claim made by attachment theory explanations and suggests that there is no link between attachment type and Para social relationships. Attachments are not fixed and can change

Research into Para social relationships has useful applications. Maltby (2003) linked types of personality (extravertpsychotic and neurotic) to levels of Para social relationships. He found that extraverts were more likely to be at the entertainment-social level, neurotics at the intense-personal level and psychotics at the borderline-pathological level, supporting the absorption-addiction model. This suggests that research into Para social relationships can be used to improve professionals' understanding of psychological disorders and help people struggling with psychological disorders. This model is a predictor of psychotic behaviour.

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A01: Absorption addition model

The reasons why people from PSR are varied as the reason for forming face-to-face relationships for example people may develop these types of relationships due to shyness and loneliness that create a void in a person’s life that can be filled by a PSR. Relationship I’m in a month celebrities and the fam might be particularly appealing to some individuals because their relationships makes few demands because a fan does not usually have a real relationship so not run the risk of rejection as might be in the case of face-to-face relationships (Ashe and McCutcheon 2001) PSR are more likely to form with characters who are considered attractive by the viewer and similar to the viewer. According to absorption addiction model and the levels of PSR McCutcheon 2002 most people never go beyond admiring celebrities because of celebrities’ social value however, some go much further than that. This sense of fulfilment then becomes addictive for the person, leading them to engage in more risky behaviour such as stalking, in order to get mentally, and sometimes physically, closer to the celebrity they worship.


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A01- Celebrity attitude scale Girls and Maltby 200

 Entertainment social fans are attracted to our favourite celebrity and watch and keep up with for example they would agree with such statement as learning alive story of my favourite celebrity is a lot of fun

Intense personal this level involves a deeper level of involvement and flex intensive and compulsive feeling about this celebrity akin to the obsessive tendencies of fans often referred to in the literature for example I love to talk to others who admire my favourite celebrity

Borderline pathological this level is typified by on the one hand empathy with the celebrity as individuals at this level identify with the celebrity successes and failures however it is also categorized as over identification with the celebrity and uncontrollable behaviour and fantasies about their lives for example if I walked through the door of my favourite celebrity’s house would they be happy to see me

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A01- From absorption to addiction

Lange et al suggests that for some adolescents and introvert of nature and difficult social circumstances lack of meaningful relationship may lead them to become increasingly absorbed by the life of their para social friends absorption involves an effortless focusing of attention which leads fans to believe they have a special relationship with the celebrity motivating them to learn more about the object of their attention.

If the level of absorption is high enough the person may move onto higher levels of para-social interaction where the motivational forces driving this absorption may eventually become addictive leading the person to move extreme behaviours in order to sustain satisfaction with para-social relationships they have developed with the celebrity at the borderline pathological level the PSR becomes addictive because of the progressively stronger involvement that is now required to remain connected with the celebrity Lange et al suggest that initially interest in celebrities and development of PSR is via absorption this interest subsequently maintained by the means of psychological addiction

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A03- criticisms of absorption addiction model

The absorption addiction model: Links to mental health Maltby et al (2003) used the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPO) to assess the relationship between Para social relationship level and personality. They found that whereas the entertainment social level was associated with extraversion (i.e. sociable), lively active the intense personal level was associated with neuroticism intense, emotional moody As neuroticism seed anxiety and depression this provides a clean explanation of why higher levels of Para social relationships are associated with poorer mental health Maltby et al suggest that future research might explain the implications of a reported connection between the borderline pathological level and psychoticism impulsive anti-social egocentric as measured by the EPO

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A03- supporting research

Research support for factors involved in Para social relationships Schiappa (2007) ted out a meta analysis of studies that had explored factors that were instrumental in the formation of PSRS They found support for the assumption that people with higher levels of Para social relationships also watched more television The analysis showed that there was a significant positive relationship between the degree to which a person perceives television characters as being real and their tendency to form PSRs Finally, they found evidence to support the claim that the likelihood of forming a PSR with TV characters was linked to those characters perceived attractiveness and their similarity to the viewer

Are Para social relationships linked to loneliness? PSRs were initially believed to be a substitute for ear social relationship and therefore linked to feelings of social isolation and loneliness Although some research (e g Greenwood and Long 2009 has shown that individuals may de clop PSAs as a way of dealing with feelings of loneliness or loss other research (eg Chory-Assad and Yanen 2005) has found no relationship between intensity of loneliness and intensity of PSRs Eyal and Coten (2006) did find evidence of a link between PEERs and intensity of loneliness experienced in a Para social breakup Sample of 279 students who were fans of the popular TV series Friends, the intensity of their PSR with their favourite character was the strongest predictor of their feelings of loneliness following broadcast of the final episode This suggests that PSRS not only compensate for feelings loneliness, but their loss can also create feelings of loneliness (how reinforcements they progress to a pathological addiction stage) 

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A03/2- cultural influences

Loss of a Para social relationship is linked to attachment style An Israeli study Cohen 2004 lends support to the claim that viewers would show the same negative response to loss of a Para social relationship as they would to the loss of a real relationship A sample of 381 adults completed questionnaire including questions about the relationships with the favourite TV characters how they would react those characters were Taken off air and their attachment styles Viewers expecting to lose their favourite dusters anticipated negative reactions feelings of sadness, anger and loneliness similar to those experienced after the loss of close personal relationships These reactions were related both to the intensity of the PSR with the favourite character and to the viewers attachment style with Anxious-ambivalently attached participants anticipating the most negative responses

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A03- methodological issues

Temporal validity- since this research in 2002 there has been a rise in technological advancements through rise in social media platforms the celebrity can interact with fans such as comments replied too they might follow you this may cause issues as the personal may have their feelings validated and in the original study they said that there was no chance of that. 

However, most research is is correlational. This means that cause and effect cannot be clearly established, lowering the scientific explanatory power. For example, while a significant correlation was found between poor body image and intensive celebrity worship in teenage girls (Maltby et al., 2005), this does not mean, however, that intense celebrity worship causes poor body image. It may as well be that girls who already have a poor body image tend to engage in a more intensive level of Para social relationships to enhance their self-esteem.

Another weakness of studies into Para social relationships is that they rely heavily on self-report methods, such as interviews and questionnaires. These methods may not reflect the true picture, as participants may want to answer in a way that reflects them in better light (social desirability bias) and may not respond truthfully to the questions. This means that the reasons for developing Para social relationships may be different from the ones uncovered by research, which lowers the validity of these explanations, making them less applicable to real life

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Issues & Debates: Para social Relationships

The Absorption-Addiction Model is better suited to describing levels of celebrity worship that explain how people develop these attitudes. This model attempts to establish universal principles of behaviour (nomothetic approach) and as such misses out on deep insight into the reasons for behaviour. An idiographic approach, looking into particular instances of Para social relationships, may be better suited to the reasons for why people develop them.

Despite some weaknesses, research into celebrity worship seems to be describing a universal phenomenon.(cultural similarities) For example, Schmidt and Klimmt (2011) studied levels of Para social relationships with characters from the Harry Potter books in different cultures, and found similar levels of worship in Germany (individualist culture) and Mexico (collectivist culture). This suggests that the absorption-addiction model is universally applicable. Homogenising culture.

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