Outline and Evaluate theories of the formations of relationships

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There are two main theories in the formation of relationships. These are the Reward/Need Satisfaction Theory and the Filter Theory.

The Reward/Need Satisfaction theory (Bryne and Clore, 1970) states the mutual attraction occurs when each partner meets the other person’s unmet needs. This model heavily relies on operant and classical conditioning.

According to operant conditioning we are more likely to repeat a behaviour that leads to something good happening and avoid behaviours that lead to something bad happening. So if then apply this principle to the formation of relationships then it would suggest that we enter into relationships because the presence of some individuals is directly associated with reinforcement (i.e. the person creates positive feelings in us), which makes them more attractive to us.

Classical conditioning is built up in stages. In the first stage a unconditioned stimulus produces a unconditioned response. This stage also involves a neutral stimulus which doesn’t produce a response. In the next stage the neutral stimulus which previously gave off no response is associated with the unconditioned stimulus and so therefore this becomes the conditioned response. At this point the conditioned stimulus is associated with the unconditioned stimulus and creates a conditioned response. If we then apply this principle to relationships then if you meet someone in a positive atmosphere then you are much more inclined to like them than in you meet them in unhappy atmosphere. Bryne and Clore believe that relationships where the positive feelings outweigh the negative feelings were more likely to develop.

A study that supports this theory is Griffith and Guay (1969). They did a study where paticipants were given a creative task. The experimenter then evaluated their task and the group was then given one of the two conditions. The first condition where the experimenter gave them positive feedback and told them they were creative. The second conclusion is where the experimenter gave them negative feedback and told them they weren’t creative. The participants were then asked to rate how much they liked the experimenter.

They found that the rating was higher with those who received the positive feedback compared to those who weren’t. This supports the theory as it shows the operant conditioning in how the liking of the experimenter depended on the extent of which he had provided direct reinforcement for the participants. However there is a big ethnic issue which is associated with this. This is that you are telling people that their bad even if they may actually be good which could lead


James Ellacott


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