Relationship Formation

  • Created by: Amy Bugg
  • Created on: 25-02-16 19:13

Reward and need for satisfaction model - outline

The reward and need for satisfaction model (R+N) says there are 2 ways in which we form a relationship; through direct and indirect reinforcement. Direct reinforcement (operant conditioning) says we directly provide positive reinforcement  to fulfil the needs and provide satisfaction for the other person. The more rewarding it is, the more likely we are to form the relationship. We are also more likely to form a relationship becuase of the reward they provide e.g. being kind, having a good sense of humour.

Indirect reinforcement (classical conditioning) is providing positive reinforcement because they have become associated with pleasurable events. The more rewarding an event is, the more likely we are to form a relationship with theme e.g. meals, holiday, cinema and day trips. 

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R+N research evidence

Limited evidence for the role of R+N in the formation of relationships come from Griffit and Guay, who found that participants rated an experience more positive if they were praised for their performance on a task. This shows that R+N does play a role in liking; in turn affecting the formation of relationships as you feel positively towards someone if they provide direct positive reinforcement. However, it is based on liking someone and not the formation of realtionships. 

Further weak evidence to support to role of R+N in the formation of realtionships comes from May and Hamilton, who found that femal students were more likely to say that a male was attractive when listening to pleasant music compared to unpleasant music. This shows that pleasurable events or situtaions does play a role in the formation of relationships as pleasant music increases the attractiveness of men; this is indirect reinforcement. However it is only weak evidence as is is based upon someones attractiveness rather than the formation of the relationship. 

Further weak evidence to support the role of behavioural factors in relationship formation comes from Argyle, who found that individuals who showed most reinforcing characteristics were most liked. This shows that R+N is likley to play a role in relationship formation as we are likely to be attracted to a potentional romantic partner who shows most direct positive reinforcement. 

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R+N methodological evaluation

A weakness of all evidence to support the role of R+N in formaton of relationships is that they have low internal validity. This is the extent to which a theory successfully measured what it intended to. This is becuase all evidence was based on elements of a relationship rather than the formation of a relationship e.g. attractiveness or liking; this is not what the theory intended. 

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R+N Theoretical evaluation

Suggesting insufficiency of R+N as an explanation of relatinship formation, a weakness is that it is beta-biased. This is when a theory unfairly simplifies differences between men and women. This is because Lott suggested that women are more conditioned to be more attentie to the needs of others and less concerned by their own needs which the model ignores. 

Another limiting factor of this model is that it is eurocentric. This is when a theory is developed in Europe or North America and is unfairly applied to other cultures. This is becuase Hill suggested that relationships in non-western cultures dont rely on their own needs and rewards which the theory does not consider.

However, a strength of R+N is that it is parsimonious. This is when a theory is justifiably simplistic. This is because it has a simple explanation that is supported by research evidence e.g. Argyle. 

On the other hand, the model can also be cirticised for being constrained. This is when a theory unfairly ignores free will and person choice. This is because it suggests we dont have much free choice over who we form a relationship with e.g. we are more likely to form a relationship with someone of the same class rather than someone of a different class. 

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Social exchange theory -SET (Thibaut and Kelly) is arguing for the role of cognitive factors within the formation of relatonships. It says that we form a relationship on two levels; the comparison level where the compare costs and benefits of the relationship itself in the anitcipated future; and on the comparison level for alternatives, where we make the same evaluation for relationships in the aniticipated future for alternative relationships (friends, family and media relationship) and alternative partners. If our benefits out weight the costs of the relationship, it will create the pay off matrix where the relationship is formed. 

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SET research evidence

Convincing evidence against the role of cognitions in the formation of relationships comes from Rusbult, who found that the comparison of costs and benefits within the relationshp do not play a role during the formation of relationships, but during the maintenance stage of a relationship. This suggests that the SET is incorrect in say we form a relationship if benefits outweigh the costs as they arent considered. 

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SET theoretical evaluation

A weakness of SET is that it is unfalsifiable. This is when a theory cannot be measured using an IV or DV. This is becuase Argyle tried to measure the costs and benefits using an artificial method which doesnt use real life situations therefor it is not scientific as it doesnt allow for hypothesis testing, emperical methods, nor is it replicable. 

It is also seen to be speculative. This is when a theory cannot be tested and can only be assumed that this is how relationships are formed. This is becuase there is no way to test how a relationship is formed, and we can only look at the aspects that may affect the way the relationship is formed e.g. costs and benefits, attracitveness. 

A strength of the role of cognitions in the formation of relationships is that the recognise Free will. This is when a theory takes into consideration a persons free will. This is because it allows us to make our own judgements of costs and benefits as we evalutate our own and decide whether to form the relationship or not. 

Whilst both theories are compelling, it is likely that we form a relationship through behavioural factors and use the cognitive factors in the later stages of a relationship. Indeed, due to the excitement during the formation stage, it is unlikely that we think rationally about the costs and benefits of the relationship. 

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