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Factors affecting attraction

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Factors affecting attraction

We have already seen how evolution may influence attraction and sexual selection. We have also seen why this may not apply to our lives today. In an age of online dating and casual relationships, what other factors influence attraction and why?

Each year, people send 132 million winks on Match.com and members go out on six million dates.¹ But why do these people send winks and go on dates?

Some psychologists argue that self-disclosure is the key to attraction. This means that partners must share personal information to develop a romantic relationship.

Others see physical attractiveness as a key influencing factor. In this explanation, we will focus specifically on the Halo effect theory and the matching hypothesis. We will discuss Filter theory as a factor affecting attraction wherein people put potential matches through a series of filters in order to assess their compatibility.

Self-disclosure as a factor affecting attraction

This is the idea that attraction occurs by sharing information with a partner, information about yourself that you may not feel comfortable sharing with anyone else. When a person shares personal information with another one, this indicates that they feel secure with and trust their partner.

Self-disclosure leads to greater intimacy, which brings more satisfaction to the relationship. Altman and Taylor (1973) developed this idea with their Social penetration theory. This theory states that self-disclosure must gradually increase over time in depth (more personal information) and breadth (larger amount of information) for a relationship to be successful.

Factors affecting attraction self disclosure StudySmarterA couple sharing information - StudySmarter Originals.

Physical attractiveness as a factor affecting attraction

Physical appearance influences attraction in a number of ways. Although on face value you may think that people are attracted to physically good-looking people just because they are good-looking, in reality, psychologists have theorised that physical attractiveness links to evolutionary needs for survival (e.g. being physically fit means you can evade predators).

Did you know? Psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania studied data from over 10,000 speed daters and found that most people make a decision regarding a person’s attraction within three seconds of meeting.²

Two explanations of why physical attractiveness affects attraction are the halo effect and the matching hypothesis.

The halo effect

This is the belief that people who are deemed physically attractive have more positive traits than less attractive people. In a study by Dion et al. (1972), physically attractive people were rated to have more positive personality traits. Dion et al. called this the ‘beauty-is-good’ stereotype.

Matching hypothesis

According to Hatfielt et al. (1966), when people choose a partner, they don’t automatically go for the most attractive person they can find. They tend to find a partner that is similar to them or ‘matching’ in physical attractiveness. This way, they can still find the most attractive partner they can attain while avoiding rejection.

Filter theory as a factor affecting attraction

Filter theory, established by Kerckhoff and Davis (1962), states that people narrow down their selection of prospective partners by putting them through a series of filters. There are three levels of filters:

1. Sociodemographic characteristics: these are physical proximity (if they live close to us), level of education, social class, religion, etc.

2. Similarity of attitudes: this is if prospective partners share the same fundamental beliefs as us, such as if they think family is important.

3. Complementarity: this is when partners have traits that balance each other out. For example, if one partner is very indecisive and the other likes to take charge and make decisions, they complement each other.

Fun fact: Couples usually wait for six to eight dates before they are willing to enter into an exclusive relationship. ³ Could this be the time it takes to go through the filters of Kerchoff and Davis’ theory?

Factors affecting attraction - Key takeaways

    • There are three main factors affecting attraction: self-disclosure, physical attractiveness, and filter theory.

    • Self-disclosure is sharing information about ourselves with others. This indicates that you feel secure with and trust your partner, which leads to greater intimacy and satisfaction in the relationship.

    • Physical attraction influences attraction. Two explanations of this are ‘the halo effect’ and the Matching hypothesis. The halo effect is the belief that people who are physically attractive have more positive traits than less attractive people. The Matching hypothesis proposes that people tend to find a partner that is similar to them or ‘matching’ in physical attractiveness.

    • Filter theory states that people narrow down their selection of prospective partners by putting them through a series of filters. These are sociodemographic characteristics, the similarity of attitudes, and complementarity.


Sources

  1. Match.com

  2. Kurzban and Weeden, HurryDate: Mate preferences in action, Evolution and Human Behavior, 2005.

  3. Factretriever.com

Frequently Asked Questions about Factors affecting attraction

Self-disclosure, physical attractiveness, and filter theory.

Self-disclosure, physical attractiveness, similarity of attitudes and complementarity (to name a few)!

Personal appearance, proximity, similarity, and complementarity.

Personal appearance, proximity, similarity, and complementarity.

Psychologists debate what the most important factors affecting attraction are. Some think that physical attractiveness is most important, others think that complementarity is key. Others think that self-disclosure is important. 

Final Factors affecting attraction Quiz

Question

 Self____ is a factor affecting attraction.

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Disclosure

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Information sharing is known as what in the context of attraction?

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Self-disclosure 

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Who developed filter theory?


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Kerchoff and Davis

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What is Kerchoff and Davis' theory of attraction?


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The Filter theory 

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When did Kerchoff and Davis develop filter theory?


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1962

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Which psychologist discovered that physical attractiveness makes people think you have positive personality traits?


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Dion

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What kind of attitudes need to be similar in order to maintain a relationship according to Kerchoff and Davis' filter theory?


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Answer

Partners should have shared attitudes towards morality, ethics, politics etc.

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 'Dave and I just get on so well! He loves doing the washing but I hate it so I do the dusting instead which he hates! ' 


What part of Kerchoff and Davis' filter theory is described here?


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Answer

Complementarity 

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‘You have such beautiful eyes, you must be a lovely and kind person.’ 


What does this compliment reveal about physical attractiveness?


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Answer

That people link physical attractiveness to positive personality traits.

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‘We share everything: our hopes, dreams, even what food we like!’ 


Why, according to some psychologists, might this quote be the sign of a successful relationship?

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Answer

The sharing indicates the partners self-disclose much, meaning they have greater intimacy.

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Question

What psychological theory could you use to explain why dating apps show the distance between you and a potential match? 


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According to Kerchoff and Davis, physical proximity is one of the first filters we put potential partners through.

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Self-disclosure must increase in_____ and depth over time.


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breadth

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What psychological reasons could you use to explain why dating apps use photos as the main point of attention?


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We often assume things about a person from their looks. If we find someone attractive we might also think they are a good or healthy person.

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What is social penetration theory?


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It is the idea that over time we share more with our partners and that leads to more emotional intimacy.

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_____ attractiveness is a factor affecting attraction.

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Answer

Physical

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The ______ effect is when people link physical attractiveness with positive personality traits.

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Angel

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Who proposed the matching hypothesis and when? 

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Answer

Walster et al. (1966).

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According to the matching hypothesis why do people look for partners with a similar level of attractiveness to them?


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Answer

To avoid rejection. 

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What is one strength of the halo effect as an explanation for attraction? 

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Answer

It is supported by Palmer and Peterson (2012) study in which attractive people were judged as more knowledgeable and politically competent than unattractive people. 

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The_______ hypothesis explains attraction as an attempt to find a partner who is a similar level of attractiveness to you. 

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Answer

Minimising

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Which groups did Cunningham (1996) investigate in their study of attraction? 


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Hispanic, Inuit, Asian. 

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Who found that there was a strong correlation between partners' ratings of their attractiveness?


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Feingold 

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Which study contradicts the matching hypothesis and why?


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Taylor (2011) found that on dating sites, people sought out those who they viewed as more attractive. This contradicts the matching hypothesis, as people did not seek out those with a similar level of attraction to themselves. 

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What is one weakness of the halo effect? 


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Attractiveness is based on personal opinion and is subjective, meaning you cannot generalise who is attractive and who isn’t, as Dion et al. (1972) did in their study. 

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Who established the filter theory and when?

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Answer

Kerckhoff and Davis (1962).

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What are the three filters of the filter theory?

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Sociodemographic characteristics, the similarity of attitudes, and complementarity. 

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Describe the filter theory.

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Filter theory states people narrow down their selection of prospective partners by putting them through a series of filters. 

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What two studies suggested that filter theory may not be accurate as similarities and complementarity may result from a relationship?

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Answer

Anderson et al. (2003) and Davis and Rusbult (2001). 

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What results did Gruber-Baldini et al. (1995) find in their study?

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At the start of their relationships, those with similar educational backgrounds and ages were more likely to succeed.

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What is one advantage of the filter theory?

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It has face validity, meaning it makes sense in everyday life. 

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What did Newcomb (1961) find?

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Newcomb (1961) studied roommates who lived in free accommodation for a year and found that those with similar backgrounds and attitudes got along best.

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According to the filter theory, why is the similarity of attitudes important?

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People tend to think those that share their beliefs and values are more attractive.

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What are two weaknesses of the filter theory?

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The dispute over the length of a long-term relationship and the direction of causality (instead of being similar from the start of a relationship, couples may become more similar as time goes on). 

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Why may sociodemographic characteristics not be as significant a factor in today's society?

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Answer

Due to the internet, we may choose to have a relationship with someone further away. As a society, we are also more multicultural, so we may have a relationship with someone of a different demographic. 

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What is self-disclosure theory?

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Answer

Self-disclosure is the idea that relationships are formed through a gradual development of trust, as demonstrated by slowly but surely revealing personal information, such as your innermost thoughts and feelings. Revealing this 'inner self' leads to greater intimacy and ultimately more satisfaction. 

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Question

What did Collins and Miller (1994) find in their meta-analysis of self-disclosure and liking people?

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Answer

They found that people who engage in disclosing intimate information are more liked than those who don't disclose intimate information. They also found that people will be more likely to disclose information to those they personally initially like, and they like others based on if they have disclosed information to them.  

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Who developed Social Penetration Theory?

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Answer

Altman and Taylor (1973)

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What is the social penetration theory often depicted as in a metaphor?

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It is often depicted using an onion metaphor - people peel back the layers to reveal deeper levels of personal information until they reach the core.  

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What are the layers of the social penetration theory>

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Answer

Superficial layer, middle layer, inner layer, core personality

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At the beginning of a relationship, partners might share a lot of information, known as _____. but this information may not be very personal. When the information shared becomes less superficial and more intimate, _____ increases. 

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Answer

Breadth, Depth.

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Question

What are some self-disclosure examples?

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Answer

  • Revealing political views
  • Revealing a deep, personal secret
  • Sharing hopes, dreams and aspirations
  • Sharing information on your deepest fear
  • Telling someone about your likes and dislikes (such as your favourite colours, foods, and music)

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What did Sprecher and Hendrick (2004) find in their evaluation of self-disclosure in relationships?

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Answer

 Men and women reported similar, high levels of self-disclosure. They found that overall, in heterosexual relationships, as self-disclosure increased so did relationship satisfaction. This highlights the importance of self-disclosure in the satisfaction and longevity of relationships. 

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What did Laurenceau et al (2005) find in their evaluation of self-disclosure in relationships? 

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Answer

They found that greater levels of self-disclosure or perception of disclosure led to increased feelings and actions of intimacy. Laurenceau also found that the reverse was true; the less self-disclosure, the less intimacy. 

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Question

What did Has and Hartford (1998) find in their evaluation of self-disclosure in relationships?  

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Answer

They studied homosexual couples and found that 57% of gay men and women thought that open self-disclosure was an important way to maintain close relationships.  

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Question

What is the boom and bust phenomenon?

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Answer

 The 'Boom and Bust' phenomenon refers to Cooper and Sportolari's 1997 study, which found that in online relationships, anonymity meant users shared much more personal information more quickly. This information also became more important or overpowered physical levels of attractiveness. However, this meant that the couples didn't establish the foundation of trust needed for self-disclosure to be successful, leading to a 'bust' wherein the relationship breaks down. 

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Question

What is the sharing isn't everything criticism of self-disclosure theory?

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Answer

Sharing isn't everything: if self-disclosure was the key to the attraction we would feel romantically for everyone we shared our innermost thoughts and feelings with. 

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Question

What is the reductionist, nomothetic approach criticism of self-disclosure theory? 

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Answer

Self-disclosure reduces attraction to a single factor and ignores many other important factors when choosing a partner, such as personality, appearance, cultural practices and more.  

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Question

How is self-disclosure/social penetration theory culturally biased?

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Answer

Social penetration theory was developed based on research from western, more individualistic cultures. This means it may not apply to collectivist cultures. For instance, Tang et al. (2013) found that men and women in the USA tended to disclose more to their partners than couples in China, despite the level of relationship satisfaction being high in both cultures. Therefore, the suggestion that self-disclosure is necessary for relationship fulfilment is culturally biased. 

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Question

What are some factors that may influence self-disclosure?

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Answer

Fear of humiliation

Fear of rejection

How well you know the person

The number of people around you

Consumption of alcohol

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