- A major determinant of who we end up being
attracted to is propinquity, or sheer closeness of contact
with potential targets of attraction. To a remarkable
extent, the people one knows, and likes, and
even loves, are those with whom one comes in contact
most frequently in neighborhoods, on the job,
and in recreational settings.
- Three reasons for the power of propinquity are: (a)
sheer availability: one has to come into contact with
others to have a chance to know and like them, (b)
anticipation of interaction: people tend to put their
best foot forward for those they know they will see
again, and (c) the mere exposure effect: simply
encountering a person or object, even under negative
circumstances, makes us like the target more.
- A second major source of attraction is similarity.
Engaged couples are more similar to one another
than are randomly paired men and women. Studies
using the bogus stranger paradigm invariably find
that people like individuals who resemble them
more than individuals who do not. There is scant
evidence that "opposites attract."
- Four reasons for the effect of similarity on attraction
are: (a) similar others validate our beliefs and values,
(b) similarity facilitates smooth interactions, (c) we
expect similar others to like us (which is rewarding),
and (d) similar others have qualities we like.
- Physical attractiveness is another major source of
attraction. Physically attractive people are much
more popular with the opposite sex. Attractive peo-
ple are given higher grades for their work. People
who are physically attractive earn more money in
the workplace, and they even receive lower sentences
for crimes. In short, they benefit from a halo effect,
in that they are believed to have many positive qualities
that go beyond their physical appearance.
- Attractiveness has an impact even in infancy and
childhood: attractive infants receive more attention
from their mothers, and attractive children are
believed to be more intelligent by their teachers.
People think a transgression by a child is less serious
if the child is attractive. Moreover, even threemonth-
olds will look longer at an attractive face
than at an unattractive one.
- Gender is an important variable when it comes to
attractiveness, with physical appearance affecting
the lives of women more than men. Women
deemed unattractive at work suffer worse outcomes
than men who are considered unattractive.
- Physical attractiveness has such impact because: (a) it
has immediacyyou see it before any other virtues
or faults, (b) the attractiveness of one's friends and
partner affects one's prestige, and (c) biology plays a
rolethat is, we are wired to appreciate some kinds
of physical appearance more than others.
- Evolutionary psychologists argue that our biology
prompts an attraction to features that signify reproductive
fitnessthat is, the capacity to perpetuate our
genes in future generations if we were to mate and
have children with a person who possesses those features.
These include physical characteristics that signal
vitality, fertility, and likely reproductive success.
- Evolutionary psychologists also claim that there are
biologically based differences between men and
women in the importance placed on attractiveness
and in the determinants of attractiveness.
- In species in which parental investment is greater
for the female, the males must compete vigorously
among themselves (intrasex competition) for access to
choosy females. The males also must compete for
the females' attention (intersex attraction) and are
typically the louder and gaudier of the species.
- In the human species, say the evolutionary psychologists,
differential parental investment on the part
of men and women leads women to prefer fewer
sexual partners than men. It leads men to prefer
women whose physical appearance gives the
impression that they will be fertilefor example,
features such as smooth skin and a waist that is narrow
in relation to hips. Women are attracted to men
who can be expected to provide for them and for
their childrenmen who are strong, industrious,
and have social status.
- Though much evidence from the animal kingdom
and from the study of humans supports the
hypotheses of the evolutionists, most of the human
findings can be explained without resort to an evolutionary
explanation. The strongest support for the
evolutionary approach to attractiveness in humans
comes from studies showing that women increase
their preference for attractive (or at least symmetrical)
and masculine men during the ovulatory phase
of their menstrual cycles, when they have a relatively
higher probability of conceiving.
- The notion of reward can explain most of the reasons
we like peoplewe tend to like those who provide us
with the greatest rewards (broadly construed).
- Another way to understand attraction is in terms of
social exchange. This theory holds that people pursue
those interactions that provide the most favorable
difference between rewards and costs.