Interpersonal Attraction
Chapter 3

How do intimate relationships get started?

A.  What are the reasons why two individuals love one another?

B.  Although feeling attracted to and liking someone are not the same as being in love, initial attraction is necessary if love is to occur.

Rewards: The Fundamental Basis of Attraction

      Direct Rewards

   All the positive consequences we receive from being with someone.  Attention, interest, approval, witty interaction, physical beauty.

      Indirect Rewards

   Being in someone’s company during pleasant circumstances. i.e. our feelings about someone emanate from the emotional tone of the surrounding situation.



      Direct and Indirect rewards highlight the interactive nature of attraction.

      Attraction involves the perceived characteristics of the other person, but it also involves the needs, preferences, and desires of the person who becomes attracted, and on the situation the people are in.  Thus, great variety is possible.


A.  One theory of interpersonal attraction focuses on the role of proximity in the formation of intimate relationships.

B.  People's friendships and their love relationships usually grow out of the daily interactions they have with those around them.

C.  To meet people is not necessarily to love them, but to love them we must first meet them.


D.  Research indicates that people who live closer to each other will be much more likely to become friends than are those who live further apart. The mere exposure effect.

E.  Whenever we choose the exact place where we will live or work or go to school, we also take a major step toward determining who the significant others in our life will be.

F.  It is important to realize, however, that the effects of proximity, when they do occur, are not always positive.

G.  The negative effects of proximity have been called "environmental spoiling."


      Festinger, Schacter, and Back (1950) M.I.T. study. Random assignment in 17 different buildings.  People living close to each other were much more likely to become friends then those who were not.

      270 people  listed 3 closest companions

   1 door away 41%, 2 doors 22%, 3 – 16%, 4 – 10%

Why  these results?



      On the other hand – close proximity to obnoxious people did not increase positive feelings.

      (Ebbesen, 1976) found that most residients’ friends lived nearby, but so did their enemies!!

II.  Physical Attractiveness: 
      To see you is to like you.

  INTRODUCTION: What is the first thing we notice about others?  Their Looks, of course.

We tend to assume that good looking people are more likable, better people than those who are unattractive. (Shallow Hal Syndrome)

1.  If we ask people why they become attracted to someone, most people will tell us that a person's physical attractiveness is not very important.

2.  However, when we examine what people really do when they respond to others, we find that physical attractiveness plays a major role in romantic attraction.


II.  Physical Attractiveness: 
       To see you is to like you.

 INTRODUCTION (continued):

4. The evidence is quite convincing that, at least when we first meet people, their physical attractiveness affects how we respond to them.

5. Our perceptions of another's looks strongly affect how we relate to them.

6. Numerous studies have found a strong association between how attractive people perceive someone to be and their positive evaluation of that person as someone they would want to meet or to date.

II. Physical Attractiveness:
B.  Beliefs About Physically Attractive People (continued):


a.  The literature indicates that attractive people are believed to be:

1. sexually warm and responsive, kind, strong, modest, outgoing, nurturant, sensitive, interesting, poised, sociable, exciting dates, better character.

b.The literature indicates that attractive people will have these types of future:

1. more prestige, have a happier marriage, have more social and professional success, be more competent in marriage, and have more fulfilling lives.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:

B.  Beliefs About Physically Attractive People (continued):

1. There is a great deal of evidence that people usually respond favorably to physically attractive others, although it is not entirely clear why this occurs.

2. There is a tendency to assume that attractive people are nicer people in general ("what is beautiful is good").

The Attractiveness Stereotype

      We assume attractive people are vivacious and socially skilled, reasonable intelligent and well-adjusted, but it doesn’t affect our judgment of their integrity or compassion.

      Gorgeous people are also assumed to be more likely to be vain and promiscuous.

      Attractive people make better impressions on strangers than unattractive people.

         The Bias for Beauty                  

      Exists in Eastern as well as Western cultures, but with slightly different content.

      In Korea, attractive people have the same qualities attributed to them as in the U.S., but additionally are presumed to be concerned with the well-being of others.



BIAS (cont)

      Beauty can be confused with talent.

      Physically attractive people are more likely to be hired after an interview and get paid more.

      U of Pitt MBA grads rated 1 to 5 on looks.

      1 point increase in attractiveness rating worth $2600 in average annual salary (M) and $2100 (W)

      Good looking misdemeanor convicts in Texas got lower fines than if they were unattractive.

Who is beautiful?

      Diverse observers agree on their perceptions of beauty more than they disagree.

      This is true across racial lines, too.

      3 month old babies show preferences for faces that adults find attractive too, gazing longer at attractive faces.

      So, what is universally attractive? 


      “Baby-faced” features

    Large Eyes

    Small Nose

    Small Chin

    Full Lips

      Combined with signs of maturity

    Prominent cheekbones

    Narrow cheeks

    A broad smile


      May be more complex

   Strong jaws, broad foreheads-looking strong and dominant are thought handsome (George Clooney)




   More feminized and baby-faced, looking warm and friendly are more attractive (Leonardo DiCaprio)




      There is  a variation in women’s preferences for these two types of looks:

      Rugged, manly features preferred when ovulation is occurring.

      Youthful boyishness preferred the rest of the month. (Penton-Voak et al., 1999)

Physical findings

      Symmetrical faces are consistently seen as more beautiful than unsymmetrical ones.

      A waist to hip ratio (WHR) of .7 is seen as most attractive (waist is 30% smaller than hips)

      Men like larger breasts rather than smaller on if the WHR is low. 


      Men are seen as most attractive when waist is slightly smaller than hips WHR .9.

      The WHR of men affects women’s evaluation of him only if he has a healthy salary, not so attractive if he is handsome but poor. (Joe Millionaire)

Evolutionary Perspective

      All cultures generally agree on who is beautiful

      Babies seem to be born with same preferences as adults, thus may be inherited.

      People with symmetrical faces tend to enjoy better physical and mental health, thus are better mates.

      WHR’s are hormonally related and signify the highest likelihood of good health in the other sex.

      Physical attractiveness seems to matter most to those living in equatorial regions where many pathogens endanger good health.

Cultural Perspective

      Renaissance paintings-during hard times when food is scarce heavier women seen as more attractive. Slender less desirable.

      During times of plenty the opposite is true.

      Norms differ across ethnic groups too. Different feelings about weight among black and white women in U.S.

      Black men still prefer the .7 WHR!



      U of Minn. 376 blind computer dates were created.  Students had filled out various personality and attitude measures, but were in reality paired at random.

      After two hours of conversation, what do you think was the key factor in how much they liked each other?…similar background, interests, compatible personalities?


      The better looking the students were, the more their partners liked them.

      Overall a partner’s physical attractiveness is more important to men than women.

      In 1998 91% of cosmetic surgery in the U.S. was performed on women.


Self - Monitoring

      People high in self-monitoring (the tendency to to tailor one’s behavior to make a good impression on others) are more concerned with having good looking dating partners, than those low on this trait. Low self-monitors are more concerned with substance over beauty.


      Men’s attractiveness may play a larger role in access to the other sex than women’s attractiveness does. 

      There is no correlation between a woman’s looks and the amount of time she spends interacting with men. Attractive women get more dates, but plainer women interact with men a great deal in group settings.


      On the other hand:

      Men’s looks are correlated with th enumber and length of interactions they have with women.

      Unattractive men have fewer interactions of any sort with fewer women than attractive men do.

      Physical attractiveness plays a larger role in the social lives of men than women!!

II.  Physical Attractiveness:

C.  Are attractive people more socially skilled:

1.  Another possible explanation for why people tend to respond more favorably to physically attractive individuals is that physically attractive people could be more socially skilled.

2.  Others have argued that physical attractiveness and social skills are not packaged together, but instead each contributes separately to successful social interactions.


a.Reis found a positive relationship between males' self-reports of their social skills and attractiveness.

b.Nonetheless, attractiveness was found to make an independent contribution to men's social interactions.

c.Reis also found that women's social skills were negatively related to their attractiveness.

d. However, both attractiveness and social skill level independently contributed to women's positive social interactions.


II.  Physical Attractiveness
C.  Are Attractive People more Socially Skilled (cont.):

3.   These findings can best be understood in light of the theory that attractiveness serves to magnify gender-role stereotyped behavior--i.e.,

           People tend to respond to attractive males in such a way so as to promote their active, assertive social skills.

           By contrast, people tend to respond to attractive females by discouraging assertive social behavior, leaving women with one of two possible routes to social success:  to be beautiful or to be skillful.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:

D.  Long-Term Consequences of Attractiveness:

1.  What happens to the most attractive people on campus when they become middle-aged?

2.  The literature indicates that the more attractive people are more likely to have gotten married.

3.  However, attractive people were no more likely to report either greater marital satisfaction or middle-aged happiness than were unattractive persons.

4.  SUMMARY:  Thus, over time beauty is not destiny.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:

A.  Male Versus Female:

1.  There are a number of gender-linked differences in the social effects of attractiveness.

2.  Males, for instance, rate physical attractiveness as a more important aspect of an enjoyable heterosexual date than do females.

3.  Interestingly, however, there is very little evidence that once they have begun dating someone, males are more influenced by physical attractiveness.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:

A.  Male Versus Female:

4.  The research for women, by contrast, indicates that after they have had a brief date with a male, they are affected as much as males are by their date's physical appearance.

5.  Research also indicates that men overestimate how important physical attractiveness will be in their actual interactions with women.

a.  Women, by contrast, underestimate how much physical appearance will influence their attraction to a man.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:

A.  Male Versus Female:

6. In the area of interpersonal attraction, one of the most important gender-role stereotypes has to do with who does the asking for a date with a person of the other gender.

a.According to this theory, the dating history of traditional women should be more tied to their ability to elicit a positive response from men, since they believe they have to attract men to them.

b.By contrast, the theory argues that a traditional man's dating life will be determined by his own active efforts--


By how hard he tries to get someone to go out,
By  how many people he asks, and
By  what kind of people he asks.

The relationship between frequency of actual dating and one's own physical attractiveness is considerably stronger for women than for men.


II.  Physical Attractiveness:

A.  Male Versus Female (continued):

    7.  The effects of physical attractiveness on friendship are considerably less clear than the way in which physical attractiveness influences romantic, heterosexual


a.  Physically attractive males have more other-sex 

     friends than do less attractive men.

b.  Research, however, does not indicate any clear-cut relationship between women's attractiveness and their same-sex friendships.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:
A.  Male Versus Female (continued):

      8.  Several people have examined the notion that attractive people are more likely to behave in accord with sex-role stereotypes.

a.   For example, research indicates that highly attractive boys are more active in their attempts to influence their peers, whereas highly attractive girls are the least active.

b.  This finding is consistent with the view that highly attractive children are more conforming to the traditional sex-role stereotypes that the male should be socially active and females should be socially passive.

II.  Physical Attractiveness:
A.  Male Versus Female (continued):

9. The relationship between attractiveness and conformity to gender-role stereotypes has also been found to influence people's social interactions.

a. Attractive males were found to have more other-sex but fewer same-sex social interactions than less attractive men.

b.  Among highly attractive females, physical attractiveness was associated with fewer social interactions, regardless of the gender of the other person.


c.  In addition, physical attractiveness was positively associated with assertiveness among males, but negatively associated with assertiveness for females.

d.  Similarly, attractive males were found to be highly active in initiating contacts with females, whereas more attractive females were less active with males.


II.  Physical Attractiveness:
A.  Male Versus Female (continued):

10. All of this research is consistent with the notion that attractiveness is associated with an exaggeration of the gender-role stereotypes of the active male and the passive female.

11. It is important to emphasize, however, that the attractive women in this research were socially passive but happy, while the attractive men were socially active but not particularly happy.


      Partners in in established relationships tend to have similar levels of physical attractiveness.

      Also, this works in the beginning of relationships…if there is a mismatch the more attractive one is usually not interested.

       a source of trouble in marriage is that one partner “has let themselves go.”


      The matching hypothesis suggests that we should pursue partners likely to return our interest:

      Desirability = Physical Attractiveness X   

                           Probability of Acceptance

High likelihood of acceptance is an important consideration for most of us.


      Movie study demonstrates this (see page 81 and 82)

      25% of men sat with attractive women when the movies were the same.

      75% did when the movies were different



Balance Theory

      People desire consistency in their among their thoughts, feelings and social relationships.

      When two people like or dislike each other their feeling fit together and are “balanced.”

      Students more generous to supervisor who was nice to pleasant experimenter, or mean to the unpleasant one…when the interactions seemed balanced!!!


III. Similarity:  Liking People Who Are Just Like Us

  Demographic Similarity:

1.  People who form relationships with each other appear similar on almost every objective variable one can think of.

2.  Physical health, family background, age, religion, and education--demographic characteristics that have been found to be similar between members of heterosexual couples.

3.  These findings are consistent with the notion that people tend to be attracted primarily to those who are similar to them.

4.  However, they are also consistent with the position that we tend to be around only those who are similar to us.

Similarity:Liking People Who Are Just Like Us

B.  Personality Similarity:

    Another way in which people may be similar to each other is in terms of their personalities.

2. Husbands and wives whose personalities are similar report greater happiness in their marriages.

III. Similarity:  Liking People Who Are Just Like Us

1. One of the major research areas in the study of similarity and attraction has involved attitudinal similarity.

2. This work examines how similar people are in their opinions, beliefs, and evaluations.

3. There is a great deal of evidence that we will be more attracted to someone we believe has attitudes similar to our own than to someone we believe is attitudinally dissimilar.

4. There is also evidence that we will be more attracted to someone who actually is attitudinally similar.

Other Factors                              

      Perceived similarity is a major factor initially in relationships until people get to know each other.

      Marital satisfaction is more highly correlated with perceived similarity than real similarity.

      Another theory is that dissimilarity is unattractive and leads to avoidance, so we are left with those believed not to be too dissimilar to ourselves.

      Complementarity – reactions that fit our own and contribute to our goals is also attractive.

      What is the effect on self-esteem of these factors?


      Reactance – when people lose their freedom of action or choice they strive to regain it, thus the Romeo and Juliet effect:

   The more interference with a romance the more love people feel for their partners.

      Also, the “closing time effect” wherein unattached bar patrons find members of the other sex more attractive as closing time approaches (occurs even with no drinking).

Stimulus-Value-Role Theory

      Stimulus stage – attraction based on obvious information like age, sex, physical appearance.

      Value stage – attraction depends on similarity of attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.

      Role stage – compatibility depends on agreement about basic life tasks, i.e. careers, children, chores other life tasks.


“Fatal Attractions”                

      A quality that initially attracts us becomes an extremely irritating, upsetting, and distress producing aspect of the other person as time passes. Usually, they are qualities opposite from our own.

   Spontaneity may become irresponsibility

   Strength may become dominance

What Do Men and Women Want?

      Warmth and kindness

      A desirable personality

      Being liked in return.