Theories of the Formation of Romantic Relationships

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The sociobiological explanation is an evolutionary theory perceiving relationship formation as a form of ‘survival efficiency’, with a difference between genders. Davis (1990) performed a content analysis of personal advertisements, finding that men look for health and attractiveness, while offering wealth and resources. Females look for resources and status, while offering beauty and youth, supporting the idea of evolutionary-based gender differences in relationship formation. However, although relevant to the EEA (Environment of Evolutionary Adaptiveness), the model doesn’t suit modern environment. Many women now have resources of their own and do not need to rely on the resources of men. This casts doubts on the suitability of this explanation in modern days as its applicability, has over the years gradually decreased. The sociobiological explanation is reductionist, seeing relationship as a means of reproduction, therefore disregarding other reasons for being in romantic relationships, like companionship. It can be argued that theories of relationship formation are deterministic, as relationships are seen as having a lack of free will – that is, determined by factors beyond personal control. For example, the rewards and needs satisfaction theory sees relationship formation an unconscious process based on learned associations. The reinforcement and needs satisfaction explanation is a behaviourist explanation, perceiving conditioning as an explanation for relationship formation. People may directly reward us (operant conditioning) by meeting our psychological needs for friendship, love and sex. Their provision of such needs is reinforcing, and therefore we like them more and want to be around them. As a result we are more likely to form a relationship. Also, people may be indirectly rewarded (classical conditioning), where they become associated with the pleasant circumstances and so again the likeliness for forming a relationship increases. Argyle (1994)...
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