MCAT Content / Social Behavior / Attraction

Attraction

Topic: Social Behavior

Numerous factors influence the multifaceted ways in which love and attraction are felt and expressed.

A major area in the study of people’s relations to each other is interpersonal attraction. This refers to all of the forces that lead people to like each other, establish relationships, and in some cases, fall in love. Several general principles of attraction have been discovered by social psychologists that contribute to interpersonal attraction. Physical proximity increases the likelihood of attraction, whereas long distances make relationships difficult to form and maintain. Familiarity also plays a role in attraction, or “mere exposure,” also increases attraction, influencing people even if the familiarity is not consciously noticed. One of the most important factors in interpersonal attraction is similarity: the more similar two people are in attitudes, background, and other traits, the more probable it is that they will like each other.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg views love as a triangle whose three sides consist of passion, intimacy, and commitment. When two people share all three, they are said to be in a state of consummate love; this condition is relatively rare and difficult to maintain for a long period of time. Love can be best described in reference to a relationship between two or more people, and is more evident in relationships that contain a mutual understanding, mutual support, and enjoyment of each other’s company.

Passionate versus Companionate Love:

Passionate love is an emotional love that is mostly expressed in a physical manner; it is a love that is shared between people who are intensely enamored with each other. Passionate love is both exciting and intense, and can be defined as a state of intense longing for union with another.

Companionate love, on the other hand, is best defined as passionate love that has settled to a warm enduring love between partners in a relationship; in Sternberg’s terms, it is comprised of intimacy and commitment. Often found in long-term relationships, the companionate love shared between partners consists of fewer ups and downs than does passionate love. It is more stable and involves a deeper respect and affectionate attachment between partners. While the passion may have died down over time, a deep affection and commitment for the other person still remains.

Romantic love derives from a combination of the intimate and passionate components of love. Romantic lovers are bonded both intimately and passionately, but without sustaining commitment. Fatuous love is both passionate and committed, but lacks the stability that intimacy brings to relationships. It is termed fatuous because the commitment is made on the basis of passion alone.


Key Points

• Several factors have been found to influence attraction, including proximity, familiarity, similarity, and physical attractiveness.

• Psychologist Robert Sternberg (1998) views love as a triangle whose three sides consist of passion, intimacy, and commitment. When people share all three, they are said to be in a state of consummate love.

• Passionate love is an emotional love that is mostly expressed in a physical manner; it is a love that is shared between two people who are intensely enamored with each other.

• Companionate love is best defined as passionate love that has settled to a warm enduring love between partners in a relationship. This type of love is stable and involves a deeper respect and affectionate attachment between partners.

• Love is expressed in many ways based on time and culture.


Key Terms

passionate love: a form of love marked by an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire

companionate love: a type of love often found in long-term relationships; defined as stable and involving a deep respect and affectionate attachment between partners

interpersonal attraction: the study of the attraction between people

enamored: to be filled with a feeling of love for.



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