Interpersonal attraction refers to positive feelings about
another person. It can take many forms, including liking, love, friendship, lust,
Many factors influence whom people are attracted to. They include
physical attractiveness, proximity, similarity, and reciprocity:
- Physical attractiveness: Research shows that romantic
attraction is primarily determined by physical attractiveness. In the early
stages of dating, people are more attracted to partners whom they consider
to be physically attractive. Men are more likely to value physical
attractiveness than are women.
- People’s perception of their own physical attractiveness also
plays a role in romantic love. The matching hypothesis proposes
that people tend to pick partners who are about equal in level of
attractiveness to themselves.
- Proximity: People are more likely to become friends with
people who are geographically close. One explanation for this is the mere
exposure effect. The mere exposure effect refers to people’s
tendency to like novel stimuli more if they encounter them repeatedly.
- Similarity: People also tend to pick partners who are
similar to themselves in characteristics such as age, race, religion, social
class, personality, education, intelligence, and attitude.
- This similarity is seen not only between romantic partners
but also between friends. Some researchers have suggested that similarity
causes attraction. Others acknowledge that people may be more likely to have
friends and partners who are similar to themselves simply because of
accessibility: people are more likely to associate with people who are
similar to themselves.
- Reciprocity: People tend to like others who reciprocate
Many researchers focus on one particular form of attraction: romantic
Kinds of Romantic Love
Researchers have proposed that romantic love includes two kinds of
love: passionate love and compassionate love. These two kinds of love may
occur together, but they do not always go hand in hand in a relationship:
- Passionate love: Involves absorption in another
person, sexual desire, tenderness, and intense emotion.
- Compassionate love: Involves warmth, trust, and
tolerance of another person. Compassionate love is sometimes considered
to have two components: intimacy and commitment. Intimacy
is the warm, close, sharing aspect of a relationship.
Commitment is the intent to continue the relationship even
in the face of difficulties. Researchers believe commitment is a good
predictor of the stability of a relationship.
Some researchers study the influence of childhood attachment styles on
adult relationships. Many researchers believe that as adults, people relate
to their partners in the same way that they related to their caretakers in
infancy. (See Chapter 4 for more information on attachment styles.)
Cultural Similarities and Differences
There are both similarities and differences among cultures in romantic
attraction. Researchers have found that people in many different cultures
place a high value on mutual attraction between partners and the kindness,
intelligence, emotional stability, dependability, and good health of