The Science of Attraction

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SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
LIKING AND LOVING

Liking and Loving: Interpersonal Attraction and the
Development of Relationships

Nothing is perhaps more important in people’s lives than their relationships with others, and consequently, it is not surprising that liking and loving have become a major focus of interest for social psychologists. Known more formally as the study of interpersonal attraction or close relationships, this area addresses the factors that lead to positive feelings for others.

HOW DO I LIKE THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS

By far, the greatest amount of research has focused on liking, probably because it is easier for investigators conducting short-term experiments to produce states of liking in strangers who have just met than to investigate and observe loving relationships over long periods. Consequently, research has given us a good deal of knowledge about the factors that initially attract two people to each other. The important factors considered by social psychologists are the following:

Proximity. If you live in a dormitory or an apartment, consider the friends you made when you first moved in. Chances are, you became friendliest with those who lived geographically closest to you. In fact, this is one of the more firmly established findings in the literature on interpersonal attraction: Proximity leads to liking.

Exposure. Repeated exposure to a person is often sufficient to produce attraction. Interestingly, repeated exposure to any stimulus---a person, picture, song, or virtually anything--- usually increases the possibility that we will like the stimulus more. Becoming familiar with a person can evoke positive feelings; we then transfer the positive feelings stemming from familiarity to the person himself or herself. There are exceptions, though. In cases of initial negative interactions, repeated exposure is unlikely to cause us to like a person more. Instead, the more we are exposed to him or her, the more we may dislike the individual.

Similarity. Folk wisdom tells us that birds of the same feather flock together. However, it also maintains that opposites attract. Social psychologists have come up with a clear verdict regarding which of the two statements is correct: We tend to like those who are similar to us. Researchers including Prof. Susan Cloninger, believe that similarity leads to liking due to the following reasons: (1) Confirmation of worldview

(2) Knowledge of other’s traits
(3) Inference that the other will like us (Reciprocity of Liking Effect)

Physical Attractiveness. Why do advertisers use beautiful showbiz personalities instead of reliable experts to endorse products? Why was Marian Rivera chosen to tell you that Maxipeel will help exfoliate your skin? Wouldn’t a leading dermatologist do a more convincing job at something like that? This, and many other instances, show what researches have found in the way people perceive physical appearance: Beauty=Good. People presume that beautiful people also possess other desirable traits (halo effect), making beautiful people seem more likable.

The question stands however, ‘what do we mean when we say physically attractive?’ Some researches suggest that beauty has a strong cultural basis. Burmese women, for example, add neck rings throughout their lives as a sign of beauty. Some tribal African women put lip plates as a sign of beauty. Many Filipinos prefer fair skin over their own morena(o) complexion while those with fair skin think chocolate brown skins are exotic.

Thin vs Voluptuous Figure
There are indications based on paintings and sculptures that during the Hellenistic and Renaissance periods in art, sexy and beautiful meant voluptuous. However, modern fashion and the media today tell you that changing times show a preference for thinner figures. According to some sociological research, in areas where food is scarce, people...
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