Why are people attracted to each other? This is a question that you too may have asked yourself at some point. Actually, much more research has been done on affection and attraction between people than on other topics.
Perhaps this is because it has always been something simple to explore. After all, it is fairly easy to create attraction in people who do not know each other. But it can be difficult to encourage and observe romantic relationships over a long period of time.
Elizabeth Barret Browning, the nineteenth century poet, wrote, “How do I love you? Let me count the ways.” Browning chose this way to express her feelings on a subject that is central to most people’s lives. Attraction is very important to social psychologists.
Factors that influence the attraction between people
Traditional studies help us understand the factors that trigger incipient attraction between two people. Here we will discuss some aspects that according to social psychologists are the most important.
If you live in a community center or flat, think about the friends you’ve made since you moved there. Probably the people closest to you are your best friends. This is actually one of the most concrete findings in the literature about the attraction between people. Thus, we can easily show that closeness leads to affection (Festinger, Schachter, and Back, 1950).
Just the contact
Repeated contact with someone is often enough to cause attraction between people. An interesting fact is that repeated exposure to any stimulus (a person, a painting, a CD, or something else) will make you find that stimulus more pleasurable (Zajonc, 1968).
Because the process of familiarizing yourself with a stimulus can generate positive feelings. The feelings that the intimacy creates are transferred to the stimulus itself. But there are some exceptions.
If the interactions are negative at the outset, it’s unlikely that repeated contact will make us like someone more. The opposite is actually true. Because the more we interact with that person, the less we like them.
A folk wisdom says that two people are “made for each other.” Unfortunately, another folk wisdom says that opposites attract. The final verdict comes from the social psychologists. They show which of these two statements is true.
We tend to attract people who are similar to us. Meeting people whose attitudes, values, and traits are similar to ours encourages affection. The more someone resembles you, the more attractive you will find that person (Byrne, 1969).
There are several reasons why equality increases the likelihood of mutual attraction. One of the reasons is that we assume that people with the same attitudes will view us in a positive way. Affection has a strong effect on reciprocity. As a result, if we know that someone sees us in a positive light, we are encouraged to pay attention to that person.
The need for someone who complements us
We all know exceptions to the general rule that equality determines the attraction between people. Because there are couples who seem to have nothing in common. They have no similar traits, interests, or ideas. And yet their characteristics attract each other.
Social psychologists give some examples of this phenomenon. Some people attract others because they fulfill a particular need. According to this reasoning, you may be attracted to people who fulfill most of your needs.
For example, a dominant person will look for someone who is submissive. And the submissive person is looking for someone who is dominant. Their differences can make them seem incompatible. But in a relationship with each other, they fulfill the needs of the other.
For most people, the old saying “beauty equals goodness” is unquestionable. Physically attractive people are more popular than unattractive people. Everything else is equal.
This discovery contradicts the values most of us claim to possess. Despite this, even during childhood, it turns out to be true. It also continues to be true when we are adults. Physical attraction between people is perhaps the most important individual element of affection. However, its influence diminishes when people get to know each other better.
Physical attraction has its advantages. But it also has a negative side. In the case of men, physical beauty gives them an advantage in work situations. But for women, the opposite is true. In policy positions, it can actually work to the disadvantage of women.
A common stereotype causes this phenomenon. It occurs frequently but lacks any grounding. The idea is that successful and attractive women obtain their positions because of their appearance.
Despite this, being physically attractive in social situations is usually an advantage. It is a very strong determining factor for people’s social lives. Because it affects who can attract other people and people’s social life.
We’ve looked at a number of factors here. But those are not the only aspects that influence the attraction between people. In a study of more than 400,000 individuals, these are the qualities people value most in a friend: the ability to keep secrets, loyalty, warmth and affection. Then came support, honesty and a sense of humor.