Why do people fall in love?
There are many reasons as to why people fall in love, and why romantic relationships may form between two people. However, there is no definite factor that makes an individual fall in love. Today, reasons as to why we fall in love still remain a mystery, but psychologists have tried explaining this through different theories. They used two main theories to try to explain this question. The first being Relationship Formation Theories and the second is Economic Theories.
The Socio-biological Theory is based on the assumption that behaviours in other individuals that promote reproduction are naturally selected. Evolutionary theorists believe that individuals are attracted to the physical qualities of another individual that give signs of youth and good health, because it is believed that the main biological aim of romantic relationships is to pass our genes onto the next generation. Therefore, individuals are more likely to select a mate with stronger genes in order to ensure that our genes get the best chance of survival when passed onto the offspring. However, what are considered the ‘fittest’ physical qualities in an individual vary between both genders. Men are more likely to choose a younger woman with large breasts and wide hips, as these features indicate that she is fit for reproduction. Whereas, women look for men with resources for the best upbringing of their offspring.
A number of studies support this theory, such as, Fellner and Marshall (1981), who looked at the willingness of 39 people to donate a kidney to a relative. Results showed that 86% of these were willing to donate their kidney for their children, 67% of individuals would do it for their parents and 50% would donate their kidney for their siblings. Therefore, these findings support the Socio-biological Theory as individuals are more concerned on protecting the genes and health of their offspring. However, demand characteristics may have made the findings of this study biased, as individuals may have given certain answers due to social pressures.
Another study supporting this theory is the survey carried out by Buss (1989). He evaluated the results of over 10,000 questionnaires, where participants were asked to rate factors such as age and intelligence in a romantic partner, according to how essential they considered these factors. It was found that men valued physical attractiveness more in women, whereas women gave more importance to factors such as a good income and a high occupational status. It was also found that in every culture, both men and women preferred the man to be the older individual in the couple.
However, the Socio-biological Theory has a few flaws, for example, features such as wide hips and large breasts are not indispensible for successful offspring upbringing. Therefore, there is no evidence to suggest that attraction to these features has arisen from the process of natural selection. Also, none of the studies above suggest a biological influence.
Another theory that has tried explaining why people fall in love and how romantic relationships form, is the Matching Hypothesis, by Murstein (1962). This theory suggests that individuals would prefer to have the most attractive mate, but instead, they tend to form relationships with individuals of similar levels of attractiveness to themselves. Individuals establish their own level of attractiveness and look for a mate who matches this attractiveness. It is argued that this is because of a fear of rejection, but Brown (1986) argued that individuals want to achieve a match with qualities that reflect what they have to offer, in terms of aesthetics, personality and intelligence, making the relationship equal and rational.
A study was conducted by Walster (1966) to test this theory. The study involved the experimenter advertising a dance club for students. When the students went to sign up for the dance club, four...