Interpersonal attraction  

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This page Interpersonal attraction is part of the interpersonal relations seriesIllustration: Fashionable Contrasts (1792) by James Gillray.
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This page Interpersonal attraction is part of the interpersonal relations series
Illustration: Fashionable Contrasts (1792) by James Gillray.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In social psychology, interpersonal attraction (known as biological attraction in animals/insects) is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships. In a colloquial sense, interpersonal attraction is related to how much we like, love, dislike, or hate someone. The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of study in social psychology. Interpersonal attraction can be thought of as a force acting between two people tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation. A person or a person's qualities that tend to attract do so by appealing to another person's desires. When measuring interpersonal attraction, one must refer to the qualities of the attracted as well as the qualities of the attractor to achieve predictive accuracy. Repulsion is also a factor in the process of interpersonal attraction, one's conception of "attraction" to another can vary from extreme attraction to extreme repulsion.

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Evolutionary theories

The evolutionary theory of human interpersonal attraction states that opposite-sex attraction most often occurs when someone has physical features indicating that he or she is very fertile. Considering that the primary purpose of conjugal/romantic relationships is reproduction, it would follow that people invest in partners who appear very fertile, increasing the chance of their genes being passed down to the next generation. This theory has been criticized because it does not explain relationships between same-sex couples or couples who do not want children, although this may have something to do with the fact that whether one wants children or not one is still subject to the evolutionary forces which produce them.

Another evolutionary explanation suggests that fertility in a mate is of greater importance to men than to women. According to this theory, a woman places significant emphasis on a man's ability to provide resources and protection. The theory suggests that these resources and protection are important in ensuring the successful raising of the woman's offspring. The ability to provide resources and protection might also be sought because the underlying traits are likely to be passed on to male offspring. Critics of this theory point out that most genes are autosomal and non-sex-linked (Gould, et al.)

Evolutionary theory also suggests that people whose physical features suggest they are healthy are seen as more attractive. The theory suggests that a healthy mate is more likely to possess genetic traits related to health that would be passed on to offspring. People's tendency to consider people with facial symmetry more attractive than those with less symmetrical faces is one example. However, a test was conducted that found that perfectly symmetrical faces were less attractive than normal faces.

It has also been suggested that people are attracted to faces similar to their own. Case studies have revealed that when a photograph of a woman was superimposed to include the features of a man's face, the man whose face was superimposed almost always rated that picture the most attractive. This theory is based upon the notion that we want to replicate our own features in the next generation, as we have survived thus far with such features and have instinctive survival wishes for our children. Another (non-evolutionary) explanation given for the results of that study was that the man whose face was superimposed may have consciously or subconsciously associated the photographically altered female face with the face of his mother or other family member.

Evolutionary theory also suggests that love keeps two people together so that they can raise a child. Back in the tribal days—when much of human evolution took place—it would probably require two people to successfully raise an offspring, and a mother with a supporting partner would probably have more surviving offspring than a mother who does not have such a partner. Thus, people with the ability to form love would produce more offspring than those without that ability. And these offspring would have the genes for love. Thus, the genes for love would become common, and that is why most people today have the ability to love.

Complementarity

The model of complementarity explains whether "birds of a feather flock together" or "opposites attract".

Studies show that complementary interaction between two partners increases their attractiveness to each other (Nowicki and Manheim; 1991). Complementary partners preferred closer interpersonal relationship than non-complementary ones (Nowicki & Manheim,1991). Couples who reported the highest level of loving and harmonious relationship were more dissimilar in dominance than couples who scored lower in relationship quality. (Markey & Markey (2007)).

Mathes and Moore (1985) found that people were more attracted to peers approximating to their ideal self than to those who did not. Specifically, low self-esteem individuals appeared more likely to desire a complementary relationship than high self-esteem people. We are attracted to people who complement to us because this allows us to maintain our preferred style of behavior (Markey & Markey (2007), and through interaction with someone who complements our own behavior, we are likely to have a sense of self-validation and security (Carson, 1969).

Similarity or complementarity?

Principles of similarity and complementarity seem to be contradictory on the surface (Posavac, 1971; Klohnen & Mendelsohn, 1998). In fact, they agree on the dimension of warmth. Both principles state that friendly people would prefer friendly partners. (Dryer & Horowitz, 1997)

The importance of similarity and complementarity may depend on the stage of the relationship. Similarity seems to carry considerable weight in initial attraction, while complementarity assumes importance as the relationship develops over time (Vinacke, Shannon, Palazzo, Balsavage, et-al, 1988). Markey (2007) found that people would be more satisfied with their relationship if their partners differed from them, at least, in terms of dominance, as two dominant persons may experience conflicts while two submissive individuals may have frustration as neither member take the initiative.

Perception and actual behavior might not be congruent with each other. There were cases that dominant people perceived their partners to be similarly dominant, yet in the eyes of independent observers, the actual behavior of their partner was submissive, in other words, complementary to them (Dryer 1997). Why do people perceive their romantic partners to be similar to them despite evidence to the contrary? The reason remains unclear, pending further research.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Interpersonal attraction" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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