Attraction: Describe and evaluate two psychological theories of interpersonal attraction.

Essay by SMacCollege, Undergraduate November 2003

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Describe and evaluate two psychological theories of interpersonal attraction. In this consider the extent to which attraction is determined by cultural and social factors, rather than an act of choice.


Attraction can be considered as a relatively simple process, which has a number of different forms such as friendships, sexual attraction and romantic love. There are various factors and processes which are involved in attraction, which will be covered in this essay.

Interpersonal attraction does have an important function, in that it firstly, fulfills the basic human need to reproduce. Secondly, man can be considered as gregarious. The effects of social deprivation have been outlined in various studies such as Bexton et al (1954), Schachter (1959), Newcomb (1990). Social interaction is also essential with regard to confidence and self-esteem, and provide vital information about a persons competence and worth. Social interaction also provides reassurance in situations of fear and uncertainty as shown by Schachter (1959) and Karmarck et al (1990).

Research has identified a number of factors such as physical attractiveness, similarity, complementarity, familiarity, proximity, reciprocal liking and perceived fallibility which influence the process of attraction to varying degrees.

The first stage of interpersonal attraction is physical attractiveness. There are various theories about the importance of physical attraction and the influence of factors such as culture and generation. It has been shown in many studies that physical attractiveness has significant bearing in many areas of society from employment desirability to the implementation of justice. It has been concluded that if a person is considered as physically attractive then they are likely to be treated more favourably. Studies carried out by Dion (1972) concluded that an attractive child's behaviour was considered as less serious than that of an unattractive child, even for the exact same act. Studies by Sigall...