The Formation of Relationships

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Resource summary

The Formation of Relationships
  1. RewardNeed Satisfaction Theory
    1. Definition:
      1. Role of reward: We are motivated to seek rewarding stimuli and avoid punishing stimuli even in the context of relationships.
        1. Role of need: The sort of things we find rewarding tend to reflect our unmet needs e.g. the need for company, money, etc.
          1. Mutual Attraction: Relationships form through mutual attraction. This occurs when each partner meets the other's needs, e.g. one may have the need for financial security, while the other may crave love. This explains seemingly unbalanced relationships.
          2. Role of classical Conditioning:
            1. We also like people who associate with pleasant experiences.
              1. Pleasant experience = unconditioned stimulus (UCS) positive feelings = unconditioned response (UCR)
                1. Potential partner= neutral stimulus (NS)
                  1. Potential partner, NS paired with pleasant experience, UCS, leads to a controlled stimulus, CS.
                    1. This leads to positive feelings, a conditioned response, CR.
                      1. Therefore, relationships where the positive feelings outweigh the negative feelings are successful, and relationships where the negatives outweigh the positives end in failure.
                    2. Research Support
                      1. Rabbie and Horowitz (1960) found that strangers expressed greater liking for each other when they were successful in a game-like task than when unsuccessful.
                    3. Role of Operant Conditioning
                      1. Rward/punishment- some people reward us by creating positive feelings in us, such as happiness.
                        1. Other relationships 'punish' us by making us unhappy.
                          1. We are likely to repeat any behaviour that leads to a reward, therefore we form a relationship with a person because we seek to repeat the positive feeling they create in us.
                            1. Research Support
                              1. Griffit and Guay (1969) conducted an experiment in which participants were evauluated on a creative task by an experimenter, then asked to rate how much they liked the experimenter. Rating was highest when the experimenter had positively evaluated (rewarded) the participant's performance on the task.
                                1. Participants also had to say how much they liked an onlooker. The onlooker was rated more highly where the participant's performance was rated positively. This links to classical conditioning.
                            2. Evaluation
                              1. Cate et al (1982) did an experiment with 337 participants. The reward level was superior to all other factors in determining relationship satisfaction.
                                1. Aron et al (2005) looked early stage, intense romantic love, and found that it was associated with elevated levels of activity in the reward regions of the brain.
                                  1. This experiment is good because it can't be affected by demand characteristics etc.
                                  2. The theory only explores the receiving of rewards, and suggests we are entirely selfish
                                    1. Hay (1985) found that we gain satisfaction from giving as well as receiving.
                                    2. The theory does not account for cultural and gender differences in the formation of relationships.
                                      1. Lott (1994) suggests that in many cultures, women are more focussed on the needs of others rather than receiving reinforcement.
                                        1. However, you could argue that satisfying the other's needs is a way of rewarding themselves with a good feeling for doing so.
                                      2. Most of the studies carried out are lab studies and therefore lack mundane realism and ecological validity.
                                        1. However, Caspi and Herbener studied real life couples, and have supported the lab studies' results.
                                    3. Similarity Thoery
                                      1. Definition: You are attracted to a person because you have significant similarities to them (Byrne, Clore and Smeaton). There are two stages.
                                        1. 1. Sort potential partners for dissimilarity, avoiding those who appear too different to you.
                                          1. 2. Then, choose someone who is similar to you.
                                            1. Think of it as SIMILARITY being the ultimate deciding factor, that's why it is called SIMILARITY theory, because it is SIMILARITY that ultimately decides which particular person it is.
                                        2. Personality: Research consistently demonstrated that people are more likely to be attracted to others who have similar personality traits than non-similar. (bescheid and Reis 1998) Tough opposites do sometimes attract, similarity has been found to promote happiness more in the long term (Caspi and Herbener)
                                          1. Attitudes: People prefer potential partners with similar attitudes. however, when people who are similar in most ways disagree a little on something, a process of attitude alignment occurs. This is where partners modify their attitudes so they become more similar.
                                            1. Evaluation
                                              1. Explanations of why similarity is so important strengthen the theory.
                                                1. 1. We assume that people similar to us will be more likely to like us too; chances of rejection are lessened (Condon and Crano, 1988)
                                                  1. 2. When other people share our attitudes and beliefs it tneds to reinforce them and reward us (leads to reward-need satisfaction theory)
                                                  2. Lehr and Geher (2006) did a lab experiment where participants read descriptions of a stranger, and rated liking of the stranger as higher when they were similar to them. Reciprocal liking was also measured, and participants also liked the stranger more when the stranger 'liked' the participant compared to when the description included that the stranger disliked the participant.
                                                    1. Rosenbaum (1986) Dissimilarity-repulsion hypothesis: dissimilarity is more important than similarity. Support for this across cultures:
                                                      1. Singh and Tan, 1992, did a Singapore study, and Drigotas 1993 study US findings both support this.
                                                        1. Both found tghat participants were first attracted to each other because of similarity,then those who were more dissimilar became less attracted to each other.
                                                          1. However, you could argue that according to these findings, similarity still holds for relationship formation, and the findings about dissimilarity refer more to relationship maintenance/breakdown i.e. locate dissimilarities when relationship is formed, and these imply whether the relationship will be maintained or broken off. IDA: Culture
                                                      2. Research on similarity focusses only on attitude and personality. Yoshida (1972) factors such as similarity of self-concept, economic level and physical condition are equally important.
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