Key Concepts and ideas on everything you need to know about relationships

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  • Created by: Beckie
  • Created on: 25-11-10 15:54

Evolutionary Theory

Wilson (1975) - Human sexual attraction can be explained through natural selection - maximizing reproductive success of organisms and therefore passing on as many good genes as possible the the next generation, for example attractiveness or fitness
Men and Women have different strategies when choosing a partner to maximize reproductive success

Buss (1990) - 1000 participants from 37 different cultures and found that women prefer men to have good finances so that they can support them and their family. They found that men rated physical attraction the most as they are trying to maximize reproductive success

*) Its deterministic as it suggests that we have no real choice over who we choose to be partners and reproduce with, this theory suggests that people wouldn't be able to be in gay or lesbian relationships

*) It overemphasizes the fact that people only have a relationship and reproduce to spread good genes to a next generation
*) t reinforces western ways of living with patriarchal dominance and stereotypes, only being interested in women for good looks and women only wanting to be with men for their money


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Reward/Need satisfaction model

Byrne and Clore (1970) - possible reasoning why we spend so much time in relationships is because we find them so rewarding this may be direct or indirect

Direct- individuals are rewarding because they are friendly, helpful and cheerful tent to be liked the most. Also positive non verbal signals such as smiling provide positive reinforcement

Liking through association - If we meet someone when we are in a good mood we are more likely to have a positive outlook on that person or find them more attractive than we would if we were to meet them under negative circumstances

Evidence May and Hamilton (1980) asked female students to rate pictures of male strangers half rated while pleasant music played and the other half rated when unpleasant music was played. Students who heard pleasant music rated better


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The Matchiing Hypothesis

We aspire to be with the most socially desirbale partner but if that fails then we look for someone who is as socially desirbale as ourselves

Walster et al (1966) - used 752 American students in a computer dance study, they were asked to fill in a questionnaire asking about their own physical attractiveness and then told they would be randomly allocated a dance partner. In fact the partners were allocated according to matching factors for example attractiveness, social skills ect. According to the hypothesis they should have liked each other but during the intermission they were given another questionnaire asking to see if they liked their partners and how attractive they thought they were. The hypothesis was proven wrong, only physical attraction was rated and social skills were disregarded. It was proven that better looking males and females were more liked

Lacks validity
- America is never assigned a dare, they choose the date themselves so it wasn't part of their culture

Demand characteristics - Students may have been able to guess what the study was about and therefor would have altered their behavior
Conditions- Took place is a noisy ballroom therefor making it harder to talk so all they could rate on was physical attraction

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Emphasizes the physical closeness of people depending on how geographically close they are e.g how near to each other they live

Festinger et al (1950) used college students who were randomly allocated to 17 university buildings. Each participant was asked to complete a questionnaire to name their 3 closest friends - 65% of the time they lived in the same buildings and 41% of the time they were actually next door neighbors. From the study Festinger actually found that those students that lived near the stairs or mail box had he most friends because they came into contact with people more often  

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Hays (1988) suggested that we are more likely to be attracted to someone if they are more similar to us rather than opposite


Newcombe (1936) 34 college students were given a questionnaire asking them questions about themselves. Unknown to them they were paired up with people similar to themselves, on a weekly basis they were asked to rank their roommates on how much they liked them. To start with they were drawn to their roommates because of proximity but then similarity's started to show.
After 15 weeks the study showed that the most stable relationships were the ones with the people who had more in common

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Moreland et al (1982) - repeated exposure to a person leads to a more positive rating of that person


Mita et al - came up with the 'mere exposure effect' they showed participants 2 photo's one was the real photo and the other was a mirror image of the original photo. The study showed that normal participants liked the mirror image whereas close friends preferred the original because it was more familiar to them.

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Social Exchange Theory

Individual in a relationship tries to achieve the highest possible rewards from the relationship with the lowest amount of costs.  For example rewards being - being loved and cared for, stability ect and costs being - Caring for other, financial costs.

Thiabut & Kelly (1959) suggest that individuals go through 4 main stages in relationships
1) Sampling - negotiating pro's and con's of the relationship
2) Bargaining - Negotiating rewards and costs which are agreed
3) Commitment - exchange of rewards and acceptance of costs to have a stabilized relationship
4) institutionalization - norms and values are finally accepted

Levinger (1976) suggest that the chances of a marriage surviving depend on 3 factors
1) Attractions of the relationship

2) Barriers to leaving the marriage
3) The presence of attractive alternatives

+) helps explain why marital dissatisfaction does not strongly predict divorce as there are other factors explained by Levinger
-) Deterministic - Assume all relationships are based on the principles and go through the same stages

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Equity Thoery

The relationship is fair if the balance between the costs and rewards of both partners is equal.
1) a person contributes a great deal but receives very little from the relationship

2) A person receives a great deal but contributes very little
Both of these relationships are inequitable and unsatisfactory for the people who were in them, Equity refers to the balance of costs and rewards between both partners

Walster (1978) suggested 4 main principles to the equity theory
1) People maximize their rewards and minimize costs
2) Distribution of rewards are negotiated to ensure fairness
3) Unfair relationships produce dissatisfaction
4) If the loser from the relationship feels there is a change to restore the relationship then they try to re establish equity

cultural differences - doesn't take into account all cultures
Gender differences - Prins et al found that in dutch couples inequity in a relationship had different consequences for males and females. Males who experienced inequity had no desire to have an affair whereas women who experienced it where more likely to have an affair

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Investment model

Research into relationship breakdown had focused on 3 main factors that influence the decision to stay in the relationship or leave.

1) Satisfaction - The rewards minus the costs, if a relationship is more satisfactory then it is more likely that people will want to stay in it.
2) Attractive alternatives - If there is another option then people may be led towards that option, if another alternative doesn't exists then a person may persist with the relationship they are in.
3) Investment - If a person has invested a lot into the relationship they are less likely to leave, investment is anything that can be lost if you were to leave such as time,energy, financial costs or children.

Rusbult tested this by asking students in heterosexual relationships to complete questionnaires over a 7 month period about how satisfactory their relationship was, how they compared it to alternatives and how much they had  invested into it. Students were also asked to say how committed they felt at these times.
Results- satisfaction, comparison and investment all contributed together to a break up of a relationship . High satisfaction and investment were important in committed relationships & the existence of an attractive alternative was a large factor deciding to end a relationship


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Lee (1984) studies a survey of 112 breakups and identified 5 common stages all relationships went through

1) Dissatisfaction - realization of problems
2) Exposure - problems are brought into light
3) Negotiation - Problems are discussed
4) Resolution - Both partners attempt to resolve issues
5) Termination - Occurs when resolution was unsuccessful

Duck (1984) proposed a 5 stage model of the breakdown of close/intimate relationships
1) Breakdown - 1 partner reaches unhappiness
2) Intrapsyhic - Withdrawal and resentment focusing on partners faults
3) Dyadic - Dissatisfied partner confronts other
4) Social - family/friends are told about the relationship and they take sides
5) Grave dressing - Relationship is buried

deterministic - not all relationship will go through the same stages in the same order
ignores external factors - friends, family, religion and culture

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