How Have Psychologists Studied Interpersonal Attraction?
Who people are attracted to and why, is a very important aspect of human life that has fascinated psychologists for hundreds of years. Why do we like some but dislike others? Why do certain people become our friends or even our partners? Though attempts to answer these questions began with the birth of psychology itself, the use of systematic observation to study interpersonal attraction (IPA) is a relatively recent development, which really began in the 1940s and 1950s, and thrived in the decades that followed. There have been a vast range of psychological theories, investigations and perspectives on the subject since the middle part of the twentieth century up till the present day. So how have psychologists studied Interpersonal Attraction?
A large proportion of the research on IPA since the 1950s has focused on the effect of physical attractiveness on attraction, for example Walster et al (1960); their participants were students at a college dance who had been paired by a computer. They found that the only characteristic that correlated with attraction was physical attractiveness. Similar results were found in the study of a video dating service. Clients selected partners after consulting files that included a photograph and detailed information regarding hobbies, interests and opinions. It was found that both males and females selected a partner on the basis of looks alone (Green, Buchanan & Heuer, 1984). Psychologists have conducted many investigations such as these that show the effect of attractiveness on IPA across age, sex, race and social status. Moreover, attractive people have also been shown to be more likely to be hired after a job interview (Dipboye et al, 1974), treated more leniently by jurors if female (Sigall & Ostrove, 1975) and evaluated more highly on their written work again if female (Landy & Sigall, 1974). Berscheid et al (1971) have also noted in their study that people
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