The formation of relationships


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Reward/need Satisfaction Theory (Clore & Byrne, 19

Theory in a nutshell: “We are attracted to individuals whose presence is rewarding for us”

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We spend time in social relationships because they are rewarding. We may get direct rewards (operant conditioning) May reward us indirectly through association (classical conditioning)

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We are more likely to do things that are reinforced and less likely to do things that are punished. Learning through classical and operant conditioning can co-occur – we might initially make a pleasurable association, then engage in the same behaviours again because we enjoyed them so they are reinforced

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Usually the reinforcement comes in the form of making us ‘feel’ better (improving our affect). So we are attracted to people if they make us feel good, their company is rewarding. And we end relationships because their company is no longer rewarding as it doesn’t make us feel good.

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How might relationships start?

  • Proximity - live near someone, like being with people
  • Exposure and Familiarity - the more you see someone, the more you like them
  • Similarity - Like being with people who have similar values, attitudes etc.
  • Reciprocal Liking - We want to spend time with people who like us
  • Physical Attractiveness - We want to be around attractive people, it might well rub off onto us!
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Proximity – Physical closeness we are social animals and need to be with others (affiliation). Relationships meet our needs. Exposure and Familiarity – Proximity increases possibility of interaction (exposure) which leads to familiarity. We like familiar things and find them rewarding. Similarity - “Birds of a feather flock together” This is rewarding as people who think like us make us feel more confident of our own opinions which boosts our self esteem. We also think that people like us will like us, so we like them. This is called: Reciprocal Liking – “I like you because you like me!” If you know someone likes you it makes you feel good and so is rewarding. Physical Attractiveness According to the attractiveness stereotype (Dion et al 1972) we think attractive looking people have more attractive personalities , and we are rewarded with kudos of being with an attractive person

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Proximity: Liking People who are Nearby

The single best predictor of attraction Where we live & work influences the friends we make.

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Proximity: Liking People who are Nearby Evidence:

 Westgate West: Housing at MIT ~1949 (Festinger, 1950)


Close friends: Next door neighbours: 41% Two doors down: 22% Opposite ends of hallway: 10%

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Why does Proximity Work?

Ø Availability: v More likely to meet, so more likely to form a relationship.

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ØMere exposure v The more often people are exposed to an object, the more positively they evaluate that object: Humans like familiar things, they make us feel safe and happy – which is rewarding.

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Exposure/Familiarity Research Evidence

  • Procedure –Four women and a classroom –4 women attended class
  • 1 women 0 times
  • 1 woman 5 classes
  • 1 woman 10 classes
  • 1 woman 15 classes –Students rate women on traits at end of semester vResults The more classes the woman attended, the more favorable her ratings became.
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Reciprocity: Liking Others Who Like Us

Reciprocity: We like people who like us   An enormously powerful effect   How to win friends and influence people (Dale Carnegie, 1937) Sold 15 million copies   If you want others to like you, make sure they know you like them!

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Reciprocity: If you like me, I’ll like you back

Aronson & Linder 1965. Participants had a chat with another person, then they ‘overheard’ this person talking about them!! (to an experimenter). This happened 7 times so the other person could appear to change their opinions. Then .. The participant was asked how much they liked the other person.

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4 conditions

1.The other person was entirely positive 2.The other person was entirely negative 3.The other person was negative at first, then became positive 4.The other person was positive at first, then became negative. The other person was most liked in condition 3 because they felt the person had grown to like them.

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Similarity: Liking People Who Are Just Like Us (B

Procedure Pairs selected based on attitudes ½ similar attitudes ½ dissimilar attitudes Pairs went on a date

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Results Highly similar pairs were more attracted to each other than dissimilar pairs

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Physical Attractiveness

According to the attractiveness stereotype (Dion et all 1972) we perceive attractive people as also having more attractive personalities. (The halo effect)

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Physical Attractiveness Research Evidence:

“What’s beautiful is good” (Dion et al., 1972) Teachers judge attractive students as more intelligent than unattractive students (Clifford & Walster, 1973), Adults, and nurses in pediatric wards, punish unattractive children more harshly than attractive children (Dion, 1974) Texas judges set lower bail and smaller fines for attractive suspects (Downs & Lyons, 1991) Attractive people make more money (Hamermesh & Biddle, 1994) and get better job ratings from bosses (Hosoda et al., 2003) Parents spend more time looking at attractive babies!!!

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Further support

Physical attractiveness is a powerful predictor of being liked. “Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction” (Aristotle) The computer dance study (1966) Incoming college freshmen randomly paired for a dance The most important predictor of desire to date the person afterwards was physical attractiveness (for men and women) To be with someone who is attractive is rewarding for the pleasure of looking at them and the kudos it gives you with your friends and competitors.

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Needs (Argyle, 1994)

How do relationships satisfy our social needs?   Argyle suggested there are seven basic motives or needs : When our needs are satisfied it is rewarding and we learn that doing X makes us feel good   Biological =  Eating together Dependency = Being comforted/nurtured Affiliation = Seeking company/approval Dominance = Establishing social order Sex = Reproduction Aggression = Interpersonal hostility Self-esteem = Being valued by others

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Rewards / needs Liking someone through association

If you meet someone when you are in a good mood you associate that person with your mood and tend to find them more attractive.   Even if they were not involved in making us feel good, after a while we will associate them with the good feeling such that whenever we see them we feel good.   E.G. Holiday romances!

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May & Hamilton 1980: students who heard pleasant music playing while looking at photos tended to rate the photos as more attractive. Veitch and Griffitt (1976) placed participants in a waiting room where they listened to either good or bad news with a stranger present.  When they were asked to rate the stranger the degree of liking was related to the kind of news they had been listening to.

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Liking someone through reinforcement: operant cond

We like people who directly reward us. Rewards can include being friendly towards us, smiling and generally acting positively towards us.   EVIDENCE Griffitt and Guay (1969). Participants were evaluated on a creative task by an experimenter and then asked to rate how much they liked the experimenter. This rating was highest when the experimenter had positively evaluated (i.e. rewarded) the participant’s performance on the task.

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Evaluation of the model

LThe theory assumes that people are selfish and only concerned about the reinforcements they receive.  Hays, 1995 found that in student relationships, as much value was attached to rewarding others as gaining rewards.   LGender differences; there is evidence of gender differences as well as cultural differences.  It has been shown that in may cultures, women are socialized into being more attentive to the needs of others than their own (Lott 1994)   LIt does not account for ‘unrewarding’ relationships

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JThere is much research evidence that supports the model   JHowever these are usually lab studies and rely heavily on ‘bogus stranger studies’ which are criticised for their lack of ecological validity. Do these principles apply in real life?   JThe theory has face validity: is supported by everyday experiences i.e. happy, warm people with a good sense of humour have more friends.   JAccounts for research findings: The theory explains why factors such as proximity, similarity and physical attractiveness are important factors.

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this really detailled but could use some colour to make it more appealing to the eye

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