PSYA3 - relationships

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Describe and evaluate two theories of the formation of relationships.

There are two theories used to try to explain how and why we form relationships. One of which is the filter model of attraction put forwards by Kerckhoff and Davis 1962 who said that “We filter out potential partners from the field of eligible’”. Research has shown that filters are used to determine who we form a relationship with. These filters include Proximity (physical closeness); this is because we are social animals and need to be with others. Proximity is the best predictor of attraction as where we live and work influences the friends that we make. Festinger studied campus friendship patterns and found that participants were most friendly with those in the room next to theirs and least friendly with those further away, suggesting that proximity does affect the formation of relationships. And Physical attractiveness; according to the ‘Halo effect’ (Dion et al) we think that attractive people will have a more attractive personality and therefore we are rewarded by the kudos of being with an attractive person.

An issue with this theory is that it holds a limited view. This is because biological factors have not been taken into account. Research has shown that men find women much more attractive when in oestrus, due to the release of pheromones.

The second theory is the reward/need/satisfaction theory by Byrne and Clore 1970 who said “We like those who reward us and/or fulfil our needs”. Argyle suggested that there are basic motives or needs, which can be satisfied at least in part, by intimate relationships. The reward/need/satisfaction theory is based on conditioning which is the learning theory’s account of relationship formation through reinforcement. This is because some people rewards us directly, e.g. via sex (operant conditioning) or indirectly by association to pleasant circumstances (classical conditioning).

There is a debate about the importance of rewards. Cate et al asked participants to assess their current relationship in terms of reward level and satisfaction. Results suggested that the reward level was superior to all other factors in determining satisfaction. However, a problem with the reward/need/satisfaction theory is that it only takes into account the receiving rewards, whereas Hayes found that we also gain satisfaction through giving as well as receiving.

However there is research supporting the reward/need/satisfaction theory. Griffit and Guay conducted a study requiring participants to be evaluated on a creative task by an experimenter and then asked about how much they liked the experimenter. The rating was higher when positive evaluation was given by the experimenter suggesting the importance of reward.

The reward/need/satisfaction theory is culturally and gender bias as it doesn't account for the differences in the formation of relationships. Lotte suggested that women in many cultures are more focused on the needs of others suggesting that the theory is not a universal explanation of the formation of relationships and is therefore culturally biased.

There are also methodological problems as most of the studies carried out in this area are


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