Why Do We Like, Who We Like?
Mary Kay Elsner
Grand Canyon University
October 19 2013
Attraction is what makes someone or something intriguing to us as human beings. The manner of how and why people are attracted to one another is a very fascinating and confusing topic for discussion. Accordingly, people desire to be wanted and loved, sometimes loneliness can have an ill effect on those who do not connect with others. Proximity Effect, Mere Exposure Effect and Social Exchange Theory will be looked at within this paper, as well as what is beautiful and attractive. There is a difference in an intimate relationship with physical desires being met, as compared to a platonic friendship between people. Likewise, reciprocity is crucial to healthy relationships and can be determined by what each individual is gaining from the relationship. Different people have different ideas of what is attractive and worth investing in when it comes to friendships and relationships.
Keywords: attraction, reciprocity, social exchange theory
Attraction: Why Do We Like Who We Like?
A woman with an hour glass figure, tiny waist and long black hair walks into a room wearing a red dress and four inch red heels and people turn to look at her, why? What is the reason that this woman is beautiful? Is the red dress the reason because it is an eye catching color or is this woman attractive for multiple reasons? According to Saul Kassin in Social Psychology human beings have a need for affiliation and as human beings we are drawn to each other like magnets (Kassin, 2010). The question is what attracts one to another? Aesthetics are important when it comes to what each individual finds attractive, pleasing to the eye, gentle on the spirit. The Proximity Effect states being around someone enough can ignite attraction, however the Mere Exposure Effect states the more you are exposed to a certain stimulus the more positive of an effect it can have on you (Kassin, 2010). Social Exchange Theory look’s at reciprocity as a key factor in how long and how deeply we let a relationship go based on the even exchange of rewards and outcomes each person receives in the relationship (Nakonezy, Denton, 2008). Attraction defines if we choose a meaningful friendship, an intimate marriage to a person, or a casual friendship.
Humans Desire for Connection
People desire to belong, whether it is to a group, a church, a family or a partnership human beings are social beings. Dan McAdams calls this social motivation the need for affiliation, (McAdams, 1989) which is a desire for people to establish a connection with others. Of course, everyone is different in their desire to belong and how much social interaction they have. Likewise, people will make friends and choose lovers based on attractiveness and what can be gained by any given relationship. In Zick Rubin’s scale of liking and loving published in 1970 studies looked at how much a couple liked or loved one another based on a series of questions and they found those who loved the other person rather than just liked would spend more time gazing at one another than those that liked someone (Grohl, 2007). People will connect to those they feel an attraction to based on what they find attractive. For this reason, knowing how much social interaction a person desires and the kind of people they are attracted to will assist them in finding friendships and romantic relationships that last.
At the same time, people need other people in times of trouble. When a death occurs in a family people come to the grieving person’s home almost immediately upon finding out about the death. People lean on one another in times of grief and in times of stress. When choosing a support squad or a group of people we desire in our lives the decision is based on many factors of what makes an attractive friendship. Characteristics of the person help in the decision making process of whether there is the possibility of a friendship or a romantic relationship. Is the person trustworthy? Is the person honest and reliable? Is the person nearby geographically? The proximity Effect and the Mere Exposure Effect can help with understanding why we like who we like.
The Proximity Effect/ Mere Exposure Effect
According to Kassin (2010), the best predictor of a relationship starting is how much people are around each other. When people work together day after day they get to see what a person is really like and can make a judgment as to their level of relationship with this person. Among work environments and neighborhood relationships people are around each other more than just seeing someone once a week at say, church or a weekly outing. The church a person belongs to as well as the neighborhood they live in determines who will more than likely become close friends and possibly a partner for life. According to the article, The Science of love popular among female students (2012), author Nishidoji reports on a teacher, Morikawa who has been giving lectures on the study of love since 2008. Morikawa believes a person’s employment status is one of the most influential factors when seeking a mate for a long term partnership (Nishidoji, 2012). This would align with the Proximity Effect since most adult’s work a minimum 40 hour work week, and quite a few marriages have been started in the workplace. Humans have a need to feel connected as discussed earlier and the work place offers a place to spend a lot of time with a person.
The Mere Exposure Effect is a phenomenon founded by Robert Zajonc in 1968 that states the more a person is exposed to something the more positive effect it has on them (Kassin, 2010). Zajonc believed that even though a person is unaware of this effect it does happen and can affect who we are attracted to. For example, a person is attending a large University where they pass a person in the hall often and after two semesters they have a class together, this exposure previous to class could lead to the person wanting to work with this person or choose them in a group situation. Being exposed to someone over and over, yet not necessarily engaging in conversation or physical intimacy can lead to a feeling of comfort between individuals (Zajonc, 1980). Another interesting discovery in the topic of attraction, that seeing someone or being in close proximity for a length of time, can start a romantic relationship or a close friendship.
What defines Attractiveness?
A man finds a woman at work rather pleasing to his eye and yet his best friend states she is not that attractive. What causes the difference in these two men’s opinion is a difference in what is pleasing to each. Studies have shown the media has a huge effect on what Americans find attractive based on marketing schemes, magazines and the easily accessible world of pornography on the internet (Jacobs, Renken, Cornelissen, 2012). Women have an unrealistic set of expectations as to what their body should look like based on air brushed super models and sexy advertising gimmicks. For example to make a Hardees burger look bigger the advertiser will use a tiny model to hold the burger, so proportionally the sandwich looks huge next to the tiny face of the actor. Men tend to be more attracted to the hourglass figure in a woman rather than the athletic body type. Marylyn Monroe was a size 14 and had an hourglass shape and was one of the sexiest women of her time, today the models are a size zero or one. Over the years what is considered attractive has changed in the media, however men still prefer a woman with some meat on her bones according to recent polls in America (Jacobs, Renken, Cornelissen, 2012).
Indeed human beings are more drawn to a beautiful person than an average person, in most cases. Of course, there is never a for sure answer in every situation as to how a person will respond to another person’s looks or personality. Attractiveness is a complete package of physical appearance, voice tone, clothing and mannerisms. In Social Psychology, Kassin talks about the, what is beautiful is good stereotype and it simply means that physically attractive people also have good personalities (Kassin, 2010). Is this true in all cases? Absolutely not and can be very misleading if people would just automatically assume a beautiful person is trustworthy, hence the saying a wolf in sheep’s clothing. People are attracted to one another for a variety of reasons and no two people will be able to explain exactly why or what it is about the other person that may have drawn them together in the first place. There are many books, movies, songs and plays about love and understanding love and why people are attracted to who they are. The Social Exchange Theory attempts to explain why relationships fail or are successful.
Social Exchange Theory
The Social Exchange Theory simply states that people want to gain from their relationships more than they lose in them. In marriage this is true for a woman choosing a husband; she wants a man who can help pay the bills and helps her to feel beautiful and loved. If a man cannot pay at minimum his half of the bills and she is struggling to support him, he may not be the best choice in a husband and this may make him unattractive in her eyes. When two men are becoming friends and decide they want to be on a dart league together if one of them is horrible at dart’s this may make him unattractive as a partner in a competitive league, so a different partner may seem more pleasing. Rewards and costs is what the Social Exchange Theory breaks down to in its simplest form. According to Edward Lemay and Margaret Clark in the article Projection of Responsiveness to Needs and the Construction of Satisfying Communal Relationships (2007), supporting one another is very important in the success of a communal relationship. A communal relationship is when a couple or two friends fulfill each other’s needs over a period of time and they have an understanding that each other will be supported. This is a form of social exchange; one supports the other in times of need. Communal relationships can be marriages or long time friendships that last many years. Successful marriages and friendships that last decades are long lasting because it is advantageous to both parties to stay in the relationship. Attractiveness embodies more than just physical looks; it is a combination of different parts of a whole that causes a person to desire a relationship with another.
In closing, attractiveness is the quality that causes an interest in another person and can have so many different variables. Humans desire a sense of belonging and a need for affiliation (McAdams, 1989), which causes them to interact with others. Who people choose to spend time with and invest in depends on the rewards and costs of becoming close to a person. If two people are in close proximity to each other they have more of a chance of becoming friends or lovers than if they lived in different cities, this is known as the Proximity Effect. If a person is in contact with another person often they may be more likely to become fond of that person as seen in the Mere Exposure Effect. What is attractive to one human is not always going to be considered attractive to another and if you are losing more than gaining in a relationship with a person, that person may become unattractive in a very short period of time. Truly when discussing what is attractive, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
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My family on my fathers side use drugs-I don’t
I have been clean for 3 plus years-
aunts and uncles don’t like me recovering because their own addictions stare them in the face.
I am clean.
My dad is clean. My mom is clean.
My aunts and uncles,judge, use and abuse,,,
why do I feel so sad for members of my family that are not true—-
not nice—-not honest—
suppose to be thicker than water the ties that bind–as i grow older my family is chosen====my christian friends, my spiritual friends..
these are the people who mend/
I will not be defined by the strength of the lies that the family ties have weaved around me
I will not be contained by the chains that have held me in shame from their lack of respect they show me.
Today is the day I release and relieve myself of the aunts and uncles who judge but don’t know
About 10 years ago my friend Ted acquired a bird from.an old lady who was going into the nursing home…she left her bird with him. I was at Teds house one day, as he was complaining about the bird and I begged to have her….mind you at the time I was still heavy into my drug addiction and I had no clue the responsibilty needed to care for this bird..Betty BOOP.
Needless to say for ten years I moved her from house to.house city to city.I grew attached and loved her.
In may of 2009 I was faced with a tough decision I wanted to.get clean and off drugs…my sponsor suggested moving into C.O.T.S. womens shelter in Appleton..What would I do.with Betty?
Well God has an amazing way of taking care of things, Betty went to my friend Erik who kept her for 2 1/2 years. I finally moved.into my own place april of 2012 and got Betty back home with me.
After three years she remembered my voice, still.did the tricks she did when I got her and loved me unconditionally.
May 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm.Betty passed away in my arms in the sun…I am deeply saddened she is.gone
but grateful she was with me when she passed, in my hands with me.
I dont know if she waited to die til she was safe with me but I know God has a way of taking care of me.
Rest in peace my winged friend, I miss you in the house.
I am complete. I understand my limitations, I get God loves me. In the night when I pray..when I listen…I wonder why He speaks so softly when it seems I listen to yelling much better….or maybe I have been around the wrong people…people who yell. Today I am.healthy . I understand my Creators love for me, how He guides me gently ,silently and with unending patience and belief in me.
As I get ready to launch my first full length Christain Album I am overcome with joy. Spryte, Mary Kay, has developed into one person that lives in joy and wants to spread the Word thru my music and my testimony. The fact that I am a recovering drug addict 3 YEARS clean on May 5th….2012 is a blessing. The peace I have found in walking with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ..The beauty in my silent time while reading the bible. I have decided to go for my ministries license and develop R & R Ministries(its a relationship NOT a religion) To minister to women thru the bible and the 12 steps of recovery which have saved my life.
Getting thru the end of the abusive relationship from last year with the man I was so deeply in love with had me in tears and doubting the grace of God. Thru good teachings from Reverend Jo Ellen Schwandt and the Leadership of Pastor Brad Liebe I am living life according to biblical principles and I couldnt be happier.
I still struggle with anger and being short with people. I swear. I still cry because I am single and wondering if God has a husband for me but then I read my bible and I am at peace in the Word.
Ephesians 5: 15 states Be very careful then how you live-not as unwise but as wise.
today I am making wise decisions one choice at a time one moment at a time..one day at a time….
love and light to you