What Are the Social Factors That Influence Interpersonal Attraction? Discuss in Relation to Relevant Psychological Theories and Studies

Topics: Interpersonal relationship, Psychology, Sociology Pages: 7 (2160 words) Published: May 4, 2012
What are the social factors that influence interpersonal attraction? Discuss in relation to relevant psychological theories and studies

Interpersonal relationships are the close relationships we form with others around us. They range from close romantic relationships up to more casual relationships such as acquaintances or university peers. There are numerous numbers of social factors that may lead to interpersonal attraction such as proximity, physical attractiveness, similarity and reciprocity. There are also numerous theories into attraction and how humans form interpersonal relationships.

Proximity or being close to a person has a big influence on our choice of friends or romantic partners, previous research suggests that the nearer we are to someone the more likely we are to have some sort of interpersonal relationship with them. Festinger, Schachter and Black (1950) found that two-thirds of married graduate students close friends had once lived in the same block of flats as them. Suggesting that the proximity of the graduate students had led them to develop an interpersonal relationship with each other.

Physical attractiveness is also a factor that determines whether or not an individual will form an interpersonal relationship with another person. The first thing one notices about a stranger is their physical appearance. This can include factors such as how they have their hair, their dress sense, if they are well kept or not. There is a general consensus on what is seen as being attractive in society, such as women with baby like faces are seen as attractive (Cunningham 1990), however there are obvious individual differences in what someone finds attractive. Socially people who are physically attractive are perceived as being popular, intelligent, and honest. In a study by Sigall & Ostrove (1975) attractive women were given more lenient court sentences when being prosecuted for a crime which was not related to their attractiveness. However if the crime was related to their attractiveness then they were given harsher sentences. In a further study by Landy & Sigall (1974) essays with an attractive photograph attached to them received a higher grade in comparison to those that had less attractive photographs attached to them. Also evolution plays a part in how physically attractive we may find someone, women who look healthy are seen as physically attractive with rosy cheeks, child bearing hips and glowing skin. Men who seem to be financially stable are also seen as physically attractive. These are factors that are involved in evolution hence why they lead to being physically attracted to another person.

Another factor into physical attractiveness was contributed by Singh (1993), the waist to hip ratio is seen as a sign of health and fertility in women and men. Women should have a waist to hip ratio of about 0.7, whilst men should have a waist to hip ratio of 0.9 these indicate signs of optimal health in both men and women. Singh stated that the most attractive part of a woman is her waist to hip ratio. As stated above we are attracted to signs of health and fertility in our partners, and having a healthy waist to hip ratio is a good indicator of this. However there are significant cultural differences in what waist to hip ratio should be. In some cultures especially those in Europe find a waist to hip ratio of 0.7 is attractive, whereas in some African or South American cultures a waist to hip ratio of 0.9 is seen as attractive. A further limitation of this theory is that people tend to look at the body weight of a person instead of focusing on just their waist to hip ratio as body weight is obviously a better indicator of how healthy a person appears.

Similarity is another factor that can lead to interpersonal attraction. People with similar personalities are more likely to become involved in a relationship. However this is not always the case Winch (1958) found that in relationships couples who were...
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