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Summary - Psychology
1.1.1 Reward/Need Satisfaction
We are attracted to people who provide us with direct reinforcement
Operant conditioning: rewarding stimuli lead to positive feelings and punishing stimuli lead to negative feelings
- We enter into some relationships because that person creates positive feelings in us e.g. happy, secure e.t.c.
- We do not enter relationships with some individuals because they create negative feelings in us e.g. unhappy, threatened e.t.c.
Griffit and Guay: participant rating (for liking) of an experimenter was highest when the experimenter had positively evaluated the participant, producing positive feelings for them.
We are attracted to people who are associated with pleasant events
Classical conditioning: they acquire positive value because of their association with something else that makes us happy
- A relationship is likely to succeed when positive feelings outweigh the negative feelings
- A relationship is likely to fail when the negative feelings outweigh the positive feelings
Griffit and Guay: onlookers who witnessed the experimenter's evaluation were also more likely to be liked by the participant when the onlooker had witnessed a positive evaluation of the participant than a negative one. Giving in fact the same ratings of 'likability' to both the experimenter and the onlookers.
Culturally biased and gender biased:
Does not account for cultural and gender differences, suggesting that this is not a universal explanation of the formation of relationships.
Lott: in many cultures women are more focused on the needs of others than on recieving reinforcement.
Lack of mundane realism:
Most studies are lab studies, which dont necessarily show the principles of need satisfaction in real life.
However, some studies (e.g. Caspi and Herbener) have been conducted on real-life couples and have tended to support the claims of this theory.
Similarity (of personality and attitudes) promotes liking:
- Sort potential partners for dissimilarity, avoiding those who are too different
- From those remaining, we choose those most similar to ourselves
- Therefore more likely to form relationships with people similar to ourselves
We are more likely to be attracted to those with similar rather than dissimilar or complementary personality traits.
Caspi and Herbener: Married couples with similar personalities are more likely to be happy than those with dissimilar personalities.
If partners's attitudes toward important issues differ, the process of attitude alignment may occur, as one or both partners modify their attitudes to produce similarity.
Lehr and Gehr: imaginary strangers were liked more (and seen as more suitable as a potential date) if he/she had similiar attitudes to the participant doing the rating
Evolutionary explanation (IDA):
Aron et al: the brain reward system associated with romantic love evolved to focus courtship energy on specific individuals
Similarity is important in the formation of relationships because:
- By ruling out dissimilar people, we lessen the chance of being rejected as a partner
- When people share our attitudes and beliefs, it tends to validate them, which is also rewarding
But Rosenbaum suggests that dissimilarity rather than similarity is the more important factor in determining whether relationships will (or won't form).
This 'dissimilarity-repulsion' hypothesis has been tested and supported across a number of different cultures including Singapore and the USA. By demonstrating cultural similarities, this suggests that sorting prospective partners initially according to dissimilarity is a universal phenomenon.
1.2.1 Social Exchange Theory
People exchange resources (e.g. form relationships with others) with the expectation that they will earn a 'profit' - i.e. rewards exceed costs incurred.
- Rewards include: being cared for, companionship and sex
- Costs include: effort expended developing a relationship, financial investment and time wasted
- Commitment to a relationship is dependent on profitability, with less profitable relationships being more vulnerable to termination.
Selfish nature of the theory, i.e. the claim that people are only motivated to maintain relationships out of selfish concerns. Its is possible that the principles of SET apply only in individualist cultures, which are characterised more by individual concerns.
Moghaddam: suggests that SET would only apply to relationships in Western cultures, and only to short-term relationships among individuals with high mobility (e.g. students).
Long-term relationships within less mobile population groups (e.g. in non-Western cultures) are more likely to value security rather than personal profit.
This suggests that the SET doesn't represent a universal explanation of the maintenance of relationships.
We develop a comparison level (CL): against which new relationships are judged.
It is the product of previous relationships plus expectations of the current relationship.
If potential profit from a new relationship exceeds the CL, then it will be judged worthwhile.
Comparison level for alternatives (CLA): potential increase in rewards from new partner minus costs of ending current relationship
Does not explain why people leave relationships despite having no alternative, nor does it suggest how great the disparity in CL has to be for it to become unacceptable.
There is evidence of profit and loss in real-life:
Concept of CLA can be used to explain why some women stay in an abusive relationship.
Rusbult and Martz: argue that when investments are high (e.g. children, financial security) and alternatives are low (nowhere else to live, no money), this might be considered a profit situation, and so the woman might choose to stay in the relationship.
Jacobsen et al: Importance of positive exchanges highlighted in Integrated Behavioural Couples' Therapy (IBCT) helps partners break the negative exchanges that cause problems in their relationships.