Relationship formation Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 15 September 2017

Relationship formation

A relationship is an encounter with another person or a group of people that endures over time. It happens with celebrities even though you don’t meet them. Derrick (2008) discovered how these ‘fake relationships’ (parasocial relationships) could provide a safe route for people who have a difficult time with real interpersonal relationships. People with low self-esteem can use parasocial relationships to feel closer to their ideal selves (i.e. the person they would rather be than the person they actually are). Relationships are important to social well being. They are characterised by features including the following: responsibility, giving,, taking, rules (for e.g. you can’t sleep with your friend’s ex-partner) and roles (best friend, wife, daughter mother etc).

There are two main theories that explain why relationships are formed. I am going to begin with the reward/need satisfaction model (Byrne and Clove, 1970) this suggests that both operant and classical conditioning play a part in relationships. This theory states that we learn to associate with people for positive and enjoyable situations even if they are not directly rewarding us in these instances. In other words, we enter a relationship that rewards us the most or give us the most pleasure. As generally when time is spent with others we have a laugh and feel happy, vibrant and awesome. Whereas when we spend time alone we tend to feel sad and lonely to some extent lethargic.

Also, this theory uses conditioning and reinforcement. Classical conditioning is when we associate with pleasure rather than being directly rewarded. In contrast, operant conditioning is when we are directly rewarded such as through gifts, companionship and sex. Positive reinforcement is when you are rewarded by compliments for example. On the other hand negative reinforcement is achieved by taking something good away from you such as you split with your boyfriend but to make the sadness go away from splitting up with your partner by sleeping with someone else or going out with someone else (rebound).

Therefore, this relationship is based on negative reinforcement as you are involved in the relationship to take away the upset and sad feelings you have. In addition May and Hamilton (1980) asked female students to say how much they liked the look of male students (strangers), whose photographs they were given. Some students viewed them while pleasant music was being played. Others looked at the photographs while unpleasant music was being played. A comparison (control) group viewed the same pictures, but no music was played. As predicted in the hypothesis, the students who had heard the pleasant music while looking at the photographs liked the men best and rated them more attractive.

This and many experiments (e.g. Cunningham, 1998) have shown that positive effect (feeling/emotion) can lead to attraction. However this experiment didn’t take into account individual differences as participants may like the unpleasant music just as much as the pleasant music. Also doesn’t take into account gender differences as the type of music played may not affect males on their scoring.

Overall, the reward/need satisfaction model doesn’t take into account that giving may provide people with pleasure rather than just receiving. Hays (1985) found when examining student friendships as much value was given to rewarding the other person than as being rewarded oneself. Participants in relationships are often more concerned with equity and fairness in rewards and demands than with the desire to maximise their own benefits. Furthermore, this model tends to focus on western cultures hence lacks ecological validity. In non -western cultures you tend to be rewarded for being like everyone else rather than individualistic so being in a relationship wouldn’t be rewarding in these cultures.

Hill (1972) showed that kinship bonds are very influential resilient not dependent on reinforcement. Indicating social relationships are more commonly found in these countries and show little concern for the receipt of reinforcements. In addition this theory doesn’t take into account gender differences as women are more focused on the needs of others, with men it is against their ‘machismo’ and ‘manliness’, who are orientated towards the gratification of their own needs, (Lott, 1994). However it could be argued that ‘meeting the needs of others’ might be reinforcing in itself.

Moreover, the matching hypothesis (Walster et al, 1966) suggests that physical attractiveness is the main thing we look for in a mate and that we are attracted to those that are similar to us. Further research lead to the following main theories: socially desirable individuals seek out other socially desirable individuals and matched couples tend to be more successful than unmatched couples. When we are choosing a mate we are influenced by desirability and the probability of the person saying yes (realistic choice). Murstein (1972) supports the theory that physical attractiveness is the main factor when forming a relationship (the matching hypothesis).

Murstein argues that individuals’ initial attraction towards each other in the formative stages of a relationship depends on available costs that indicate their social desirability (e.g. physical attractiveness). Data collected in the real world shows strong evidence for the matching effect in correlational studies conducted with actual couples (e.g. Murstein 1972, Silverman 1971). In these studies the attractiveness level is measured for each partner for actual couples.

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