Social Psychology (PSY403)
INTERPERSONAL ATTRACTION (CONTINUE........)
To introduce the concept of interpersonal attraction and related concepts
· To describe the characteristics of others as important factors in interpersonal attraction.
· To discuss the situations when social interaction becomes problematic
Characteristics of others & attraction
The following characteristics of others have been involved in interpersonal attraction:
Desirable personal attributes
Despite the old sayings that "beauty is only skin deep" and "you can't judge a book by its cover", We tend
to operate according to Aristotle's 2000-year-old pronouncement that "personal beauty is a greater
recommendation than any letter of introduction."
Research on physical attractiveness stereotype
What is beautiful is good:
In one of the first studies of the physical attractiveness stereotype, Karen Berscheid, and Elaine [Walster]
Hatfield (1972) asked college students to look at pictures of men and women who either were good-
looking, average, or homely and to then evaluate their personalities. Results indicated that the students
tended to assume that physically attractive persons possessed a host of socially desirable personality traits
relative to those who were unattractive. This physical attractiveness effect has also been documented in
Hollywood movies. Steven Smith and his coworkers (1999) asked people to watch the 100 most popular
movies between 1940 and 1990 and to evaluate the movies' main characters. Consistent with the physical
attractiveness stereotype, beautiful and handsome characters were significantly more likely to be portrayed
as virtuous, romantically active, and successful than their less attractive counterparts. Over the past thirty-
five years, many researchers have examined this stereotype, and two separate meta-analyses of these
studies reveal that physically attractive people are perceived to be more sociable, successful, happy,
dominant, sexually warm, mentally healthy, intelligent, and socially skilled than those who are unattractive
(Eagly et al., 1991; Feingold 1992).
Although these findings are based solely on samples from individualist cultures, the
attractiveness stereotype also occurs in collectivist cultures, but its content is a bit different.
Research with children:
The positive glow generated by physical attractiveness is not reserved solely for adults. Attractive infants
are perceived by adults as more likable, sociable, competent, and easy to care for than unattractive babies
(Casey & Ritter, 1996).
Attractiveness and job-related outcomes:
Field and laboratory studies conducted in both individualist and collectivist cultures indicate that physical
attractiveness does have a moderate impact in a variety of job-related outcomes, including hiring, salary,
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and promotion decisions. In one representative study, Irene Frieze and her coworkers (1991) obtained
information on the career success of more than 700 former MBA graduates of the 1973 to 1982 classes at
the University of Pittsburgh. They also judged former students' facial attractiveness based on photos taken
during their final year in school. Results indicated that there was about a $2,200 difference between the
starting salaries of good-looking men and those with slow average faces. For women, facial attractiveness
did not influence their starting salaries, but it did substantially impact their later salaries. Once hired,
women who were above average in facial attractiveness typically earned $4,200 more per year than women
who were below average in attractiveness. For attractive and unattractive men, this difference in earning
power per year was $5,200. Further, although neither height nor weight affected a woman's starting salary,
being 20% or more overweight reduced a man's starting salary by more than $2,000. Overall, the research
literature informs us that physical appearance does indeed influence success on the job.
Obesity and attractiveness bias:
· People who are obese are stigmatized and face discrimination in the workplace.
· The negative view occurs because people are seen as responsible for their weight.
· Anti-fat prejudice is strongest in individualistic cultures (Crandall et al., 2001).
Who is Attractive?
Culture plays a large role in standards of attractiveness. However, people do tend to agree on some features
that are seen as more attractive:
· Statistically "average" faces
· Symmetrical or balanced faces
Taking into consideration all the cross-cultural research, it appears that - all things being equal--men prefer
women with relatively low waist-to-hip ratios because this body type signifies youth, fertility, and current
non-pregnancy. However, in environments where people face frequent food shortages, male preference
shifts to a higher female waist-to-hip ratio because this body type signifies greater ability to both produce
and nurse offspring when food is scarce.
Beyond body type, there is also evidence that there may be universal standards of facial attractiveness. For
example, a number of studies indicate that we prefer faces in which right and left sides are well matched or
symmetrical (Chen et al., 1997; Mealey et al., 1999). Facial symmetry was one thing that Lucy Grealy's
plastic surgeons tried unsuccessfully to restore in countless operations (see lecture 28 for reference).
Evolutionary psychologists contend that we refer facial symmetry because symmetry generally indicates
physical health and the lack f genetic defects,
Besides symmetry influencing attractiveness, studies of people's perceptions of young men and women's
individual faces and composite faces (computer-generated "averages" of all the individual faces), indicate
that what people judge most attractive are faces that represent the "average" face in the population
(Langlois et al., 1994). This tendency to define physical attractiveness according to the "average rule" has
been found in many cultures (Jones & Hill, 1993; Pollard, 1995).
Evolutionary psychologists further contend that, besides symmetry and averageness, youthfulness and
maturity figure into facial attractiveness judgments. Consistent with this hypothesis, a number of studies
have found that possessing youthful or slightly immature facial features (large eyes, small nose, full lips,
small chin, delicate jaw) enhances female attractiveness, while possessing mature facial characteristics
related to social dominance, broad forehead, thick eyebrows, thin lips, large jaw) increases the
attractiveness of males (Cunningham, 1986; Johnston & Franklin, 1993).
Why does attractiveness matter?
· People believe attractiveness is correlated with other positive characteristics (consistent with
implicit personality theory).
· Being associated with an attractive other leads a person to be seen as more attractive him or herself.
· According to evolutionary theory, attractiveness may provide a clue to health and reproductive
Social Psychology (PSY403)
Is the attractiveness stereotype accurate?
Alan Feingold (1992b) conducted a meta-analysis of more than ninety studies that investigated whether
physically attractive and physically unattractive people actually differed in their basic personality traits. His
analysis indicated no significant relationships between physical attractiveness and such traits as
intelligence, dominance, self-esteem, and mental health.
Birds of a feather really do flock together: Similarity
Social Psychological research generally indicates that we are attracted to those who are similar to us.
Research on high school friendships found that students identified their best friends as those who were
similar to them in sex, race, age, and year in school.
In Newcomb's boardinghouse study (as mentioned previously), similarity in age and family background not
only influenced interpersonal attraction, but similarity in attitudes also provided mutual liking, Unlike
physical and demographic characteristics, it generally takes lime to learn another person's attitudes. In
laboratory studies, Dorm Byrne and his colleagues accelerated the getting-acquainted process by having
participants complete attitude questionnaires and later "introducing" them to another person by having
them read his or her responses to a similar questionnaire (Byrne & Nelson, 1965; Schoneman et al., 1977).
The researchers had actually filled out the questionnaire so that the answers were either similar or
dissimilar to the participants' own attitudinal responses. The results showed that the participants expressed
much stronger liking when they thought they shared a greater percentage of similar attitudes with the
individual. This finding is important, for it suggests that the proportion of similar attitudes is more
important than the actual number of similar attitudes. Thus, we should be more attracted to someone who
agrees with us on four of six topics (66 percent similarity) than one with whom we share similar opinions
on ten of twenty-five topics (40 percent similarity). The graph given below describes more clearly the
relationship between attitude similarity and attraction.
Similarity in physical
In fact, researchers who
have observed couples
in public settings have
found that they are
matched in physical
(Feingold, 1988). One
possible reason why we
are attracted to potential
romantic partners who
are similar to us in
is that we estimate they
have about the same
social exchange value
This tendency to be
attracted to others who
are similar to us in particular characteristics, such as physical attractiveness, is known as the matching
hypothesis, and it appears to be a socially shared belief (Stiles et al., 1996). We expect that people who
Social Psychology (PSY403)
have similar levels of physical attractiveness will be more satisfied as couples than those who are phys-
Desirable Personal Attributes
o People appear warm when they have a positive attitude and express liking, praise, and
Nonverbal behaviors such as smiling, attentiveness, and expressing emotions also
contribute to perceptions of warmth.
o We like people who are socially skilled, intelligent, and competent.
The type of competence that matters most depends on the nature of the relationship., e.g.,
social skills for friends, knowledge for professors will be preferred. However, being "too
perfect" can be off-putting
When social interaction becomes problematic
Whenever we approach others, we risk rejection. Even if others do accept our
social overtures, there is the further possibility that we may commit a social blunder that
will cause them to form a negative impression of us.
Social anxiety can keep us isolated from others
Social anxiety is the unpleasant emotion we experience due to our concern with interpersonal evaluation
(Leary & Kowalski, 1995). This anxiety is what causes us to occasionally (or frequently) avoid social
interaction. We can experience social anxiety even when alone: simply anticipating social interaction is
often sufficient to arouse it.
The unfortunate consequence of social anxiousness is that it can trap a person into increasingly unpleasant
social exchanges (DePaulo et al., 1990). Highly socially anxious people anxiously expect, readily perceive,
and intensely react to rejection cues in their surroundings (Downey et al., 2004). For example, they are
more attentive to faces with negative expressions than they are to those with positive or neutral expressions
(Pishyar et al., 2004). This attentional bias in noticing negative social feedback results in highly anxious
persons often acting in ways--avoiding eye contact, appearing nervous and jittery--that fulfill the self-
prophecy (Pozo et al., 1991).
Defining and measuring loneliness
Loneliness is defined as having a smaller or less satisfying network of social and intimate relationships
than we desire (Green et al., 2001).
Age, gender, culture and loneliness
Numerous studies have identified the young--adolescents and young adults--as the loneliest age groups
(Peplau et al., 1982), As people mature and move beyond the young adult years, their loneliness tends to
decrease until relatively late in life, when factors such as poor health and the death of loved ones increase
social isolation (Green et al., 2001). One reason why adolescents and young adults may be lonelier than
older individuals is that young people face many more social transitions, such as falling in and out of love
for the first time, leaving family and friends, and training and searching for a full-time job--all of which
can cause loneliness (Oswald & Clark, 2003).
There are clear age differences in loneliness, but gender differences are not as clear-cut. Some studies have
found a slight tendency for women to report greater loneliness than men, yet other studies fail to find any
differences at all (Archibald et al., 1995; Brage et al., 1993). Despite any firm evidence for gender
differences in the degree of loneliness, there does appear to be evidence that men and women feel lonely
Social Psychology (PSY403)
for different reasons. Men tend to feel lonely when deprived of group interaction; women are more likely to
feel lonely when they lack one-to-one emotional sharing (Stokes & Levin, 1986).
Social skills deficits and loneliness
Similar to the negative consequences of social anxiousness, chronically lonely people often think and
behave in ways that reduce their likelihood of establishing new and rewarding relationships. Studies
conducted with college students illustrate some of these self-defeating patterns of behavior. Typically, in
these investigations, students who are strangers to one another are asked to briefly interact in either pairs or
groups, after which they rate themselves and their partners on such interpersonal dimensions as
friendliness, honesty, and openness, Compared with individuals, nonlonely college students rate themselves
negatively following such laboratory interactions. They perceive themselves as having been less friendly,
less honest and open, and less warm (Christensen & Kashy, 1998; Jones et al., 1983). They also expect
those who interact with them to perceive them in this negative manner. This expectation of failure in social
interaction appears all the more hopeless to the chronically lonely because they believe that improving their
social life is beyond their control (Duck et al., 1994).
Franzoi, S. (2003). Social Psychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 11.
· Lord, C.G. (1997). Social Psychology. Orlando: Harcourt Brace and Company. Chapter 8.
· David G. Myers, D. G. (2002). Social Psychology (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Social Psychology (PSY403)
To introduce the concept of intimate relationships, attachment styles and later adult relationships
To discuss what is intimacy?
To describe how self concepts of important others are manifested in one's own self schemas
To discuss attachment as an adaptive response
To describe link between different attachment styles & later adult relationships:
To discuss attachment styles and romantic relationships as well as friendships
Applied Social Psychology Lab
In the previous lecture, it was pointed out that social skill deficit is likely cause of loneliness, which is the
primary reason of low self esteem. Applied social Psychology Lab exercise highlights the appropriate
social skills, as mentioned below, required for interpersonal interaction.
Amount of personal attention given to one's partner in interaction
Ability to recognize and conform to social norms
Regulating one's mood prior to commencing social interaction
Training includes observation, modeling, role playing, observing one's own interaction on videotape,
speaking on phone, giving compliments, actively listening, etc.
Research has indicated that participation in this kind of training shows improvement in social skills and an
increased level of social satisfaction (Erwin, 1994).
In the following exercise, you are to think of one person who is a close friend, and another person who you
know fairly well but whom you believe you are unlikely to become close to. After you have decided on the
people who will be rating, first rate yourself on whether or not you have each of the characteristics listed by
placing a check on the line for each characteristic that describes you. Then do the same thing for your close
friend and for your acquaintance.
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