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pened to be physically close to each other at some point in your life. For example, you
might have been neighbors or sat next to each other in elementary school. Physical
proximity, or physical immediacy, is an important determinant of attraction, especially
at the beginning of a relationship.
The importance of the physical proximity effect in the formation of friendships was physical proximity effect
The fact that we are more likely
shown in a study of the friendship patterns that developed among students living in on-
to form a relationship with
campus residences for married students (Festinger, Schachter, & Back, 1959). As the dis-
someone who is physically
tance between units increased, the number of friendships decreased. Students living close
close to us; proximity affects
to one another were more likely to become friends than were those living far apart. interpersonal attraction,
Physical proximity is such a powerful determinant of attraction that it may even mostly at the beginning of a
overshadow other, seemingly more important, factors. One study looked at friendship relationship.
choices among police recruits in a police academy class (Segal, 1974). Recruits were
assigned to seats alphabetically, and the single best predictor of interpersonal attraction
turned out to be the letter with which a personʼs last name began. Simply put, those
whose names were close in the alphabet and were thus seated near each other were more
likely to become friends than those whose names were not close in the alphabet and
were thus seated apart. The proximity effect proved more important than such variables
as common interests and religion.
Why is proximity so important at the beginning stages of a friendship? The answer
seems to have two parts: familiarity and the opportunity for interaction. To understand
the role of familiarity, think about this common experience. You buy a new compact
disc, but when you ¬rst listen to it, you donʼt like it very much. However, after repeated
exposure, it “grows on you.” That is, exposure to the new music seems to increase your
appreciation of it. A similar effect occurs with people we encounter. These are examples
of the mere exposure effect, in which repeated exposure to a neutral stimulus enhances
oneʼs positive feeling toward that stimulus. Since it was ¬rst identi¬ed in 1968 by Robert
Zajonc, there have been over 200 studies of the mere exposure effect (Bornstein, 1989).
These studies used a wide range of stimuli, and in virtually every instance, repeated
exposure to a stimulus produced liking.
Physical proximity, in addition to exposing us to other people, also increases the
chances that we will interact with them. That is, proximity also promotes liking, because
it gives us an opportunity to ¬nd out about each other. Physical proximity and the nature
of the interaction combine to determine liking (Schiffenbauer & Schavio, 1976). If we
discover that the other person has similar interests and attitudes, we are encouraged to
pursue the interaction.

Physical Proximity and Internet Relationships
Traditional social psychological research on the proximity effect has focused on the role
of physical closeness in interpersonal attraction and relationship formation. However,
with the widespread use of the Internet as a communication tool, the old rules concern-
Social Psychology
328

ing physical proximity need to be reevaluated. The Internet allows for the formation of
relationships over great distances. One need no longer be in the same class, work at the
same place, or live on the same block with another person to form a relationship. The
Internet effectively reduces the psychological distance between people, even when the
physical distance between them is great.
There is evidence that people are using the Internet to form relationships. For
example, in one study 88.3% of male and 69.3% of female research participants
reported using the Internet to form “casual or friendly” relationships with others. The
study also found that 11.8% of men and 30.8% of women used the Internet to form inti-
mate relationships (McCown, Fischer, Page, & Homant, 2001). In another study, 40%
of college students reported using the Internet to form friendships. One of the main
reasons for using the Internet in this capacity was to avoid the anxiety normally asso-
ciated with meeting people and forming friendships. Finally, there was no gender dif-
ference in how the Internet was used to form relationships (Knox, Daniels, Sturdivant,
& Zusman, 2001).
How do relationships formed via the Internet stack up against relationships formed
the old-fashioned way? Apparently, they stack up quite well. McKenna, Green, and
Gleason (2002) found that relationships formed on the Internet were important in
the lives of those who formed them. This parallels what we know about relationships
formed in a face-to-face situation. Further, they found that online relationships became
integrated into the participantsʼ lives, just as face-to-face relationships do. The Internet
relationships formed were stable and tended to last over a 2-year period. Once again,
this parallels more traditional relationships. Finally, McKenna et al. found that women
found their relationships to be more intimate than men.
There are some differences between Internet relationships and off line relation-
ships. Chan and Cheng (2004), using a sample of participants from Hong Kong, had
participants describe the quality of one Internet relationship and one traditional, off line
relationship. Their results showed that off line relationship descriptions tended to show
that these relationships were more interdependent, involved more commitment, and
had greater breadth and depth than Internet relationships. However, both types of rela-
tionships tended to improve over time and fewer differences between the two types of
friendships were noted as the relationship matured.
So, it seems clear that the Internet is serving as a medium for the formation of mean-
ingful interpersonal relationships. Is there any downside to this method of relationship
formation? The answer is yes. One other ¬nding reported by McKenna et al. (2002) was
that individuals who felt that the “real me” was represented on the Internet were most
likely to form Internet relationships. These individuals also tend to be socially anxious
and lonely. It is these anxious and lonely individuals who are most likely to turn to the
Internet as a way to form relationships that they ¬nd threatening off line.
So, is lonely peopleʼs use of the Internet to form relationships a bad thing? It depends
on what one means by loneliness. Weiss (1973) suggested that there are actually two
types of loneliness. Social loneliness consists of the negative affect associated with not
having friends and meaningful relationships. Emotional loneliness refers to an empty
feeling tied to the lack of intimate relationships (Moody, 2001). A study conducted by
Moody (2001) evaluated how face-to-face and Internet relationships related to these
two forms of loneliness. Moody found that face-to-face relationships were associated
with low levels of both social and emotional loneliness. However, Internet relationships
were associated with lower levels of social loneliness, but higher levels of emotional
loneliness. In Moodyʼs words: “the Internet can decrease social well-being, even though
it is often used as a communication tool” (p. 393). So, while Internet relationships can
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 329

ful¬ll oneʼs need for social contact, they may still leave a sense of emotional emptiness.
Additionally, shyness has also been found to correlate with a condition called Internet
addiction. The shyer the person, the more likely he or she is to become addicted to the
Internet (Chak & Leung, 2004). Shyness is related to loneliness, with shy individuals
being more likely to also be lonely (Jackson, Fritch, Nagasaka, & Gunderson, 2002).
So, even though the Internet can help shy, lonely people establish relationships, it comes
with an emotional and behavioral cost.

Similarity
The importance of the similarity effect as a determinant of interpersonal attraction is
suggested by all three models we looked at. Similarity in attitudes, beliefs, interests, per-
sonality, and even physical appearance strongly in¬‚uence the likelihood of interpersonal
attraction. An interesting study conducted by Byrne, Ervin, and Lamberth (2004) dem-
onstrated the effects of similarity and physical attractiveness on attraction. This study
used a computer dating situation in which participants were given a 50-item question-
naire assessing personality characteristics and attitudes. Students were then paired. Some
students were paired with a similar other and others with a dissimilar other. The pairs
were then sent on a 30-minute date, after which they reported back to the experimenter
to have their date assessed. Byrne et al. found that similarity and physical attractiveness,
as expected, positively related to interpersonal attraction. So, there may be some validity
to the claims of eHarmony.com, a company that purports to match people on a number
of important dimensions, leading to successful relationships being formed!
Clearly, there are many possible points of similarity between people. Attitude similar-
ity, for example, might mean that two people are both Democrats, are both Catholics, and
in addition to their political and religious beliefs, have like views on a wide range of other
issues. However, it is not the absolute number of similar attitudes between individuals that
in¬‚uences the likelihood and strength of attraction. Far more critical are the proportion and
importance of similar attitudes. It does little good if someone agrees with you on every-
thing except for the one attitude that is central to your life (Byrne & Nelson, 1965).
What about the notion that in romantic relationships, opposites attract? This idea
is essentially what Newcomb called complementarity. Researchers have found little
evidence for complementarity (Duck, 1988). Instead, a matching principle seems to
matching principle
apply in romantic relationships. People tend to become involved with a partner with
A principle that applies
whom they are usually closely matched in terms of physical attributes or social status
in romantic relationships
(Schoen & Wooldredge, 1989).
suggesting that individuals
Different kinds of similarity may have different implications for attraction. If you become involved with a
and someone else are similar in interests, then liking results. Similarity in attitudes, on the partner with whom they are
other hand, leads to respect for the other person. In a study of college freshmen, similarity closely matched socially and
physically.
in personality was found to be the critical factor determining the degree of satisfaction in
friendships (Carli, Ganley, & Pierce-Otay, 1991). This study found similarity in physical
attractiveness to have some positive effect on friendships but not a large one.
Why does similarity promote attraction? Attitude similarity promotes attraction in
part because of our need to verify the “correctness” of our beliefs. Through the process
of social comparison, we test the validity of our beliefs by comparing them to those of
our friends and acquaintances (Hill, 1987). When we ¬nd that other people believe as
we do, we can be more con¬dent that our attitudes are valid. It is rewarding to know
that someone we like thinks the way we do; it shows how smart we both are. Similarity
may also promote attraction because we believe we can predict how a similar person
will behave (Hat¬eld, Walster, & Traupmann, 1978).
Social Psychology
330


Limits of the Similarity-Attraction Relationship
The similarity-attraction relationship is one of the most powerful and consistent effects
found in social psychology. This, however, does not mean that similarity and attraction
relate to one another positively in all situations and relationships. Similarity is most
important for relationships that are important to us and that we are committed to (Amodio
& Showers, 2005). For less committed relationships, dissimilarity was actually more
strongly related to liking and maintaining a relationship over time (Amodio & Showers,
2005). Also, in supervisor-subordinate relationships within organizations, dissimilar-
ity is associated with greater liking on the part of the subordinate for the supervisor
(Glomb & Welch, 2005). In organizations, dissimilarity is most likely to translate into
positive interpersonal relationships when there is a commitment to diversity (Hobman,
Bordia, & Gallois, 2004).
Along the same lines, Rosenbaum (1986) argued that it is not so much that we are
attracted to similar others as that we are repulsed by people who are dissimilar. Further
examination of this idea that dissimilarity breeds repulsion suggests that dissimilarity
serves as an initial ¬lter in the formation of relationships. Once a relationship begins to
form, however, similarity becomes the fundamental determinant of attraction (Byrne,
Clore, & Smeaton, 1986; Smeaton, Byrne, & Murnen, 1989). Thus, the effect of simi-
larity on attraction may be a two-stage process, with dissimilarity and other negative
information leading us to make the initial “cuts,” and similarity and other positive infor-
mation then determining with whom we become close.

Physical Attractiveness
Physical attractiveness is an important factor in the early stages of a relationship.
Research shows, not surprisingly, that we ¬nd physically attractive people more appeal-
ing than unattractive people, at least on initial contact (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, &
Longo, 1991). Moreover, our society values physical attractiveness, so a relationship
with an attractive person is socially rewarding to us.
In their now classic study of the effects of physical attractiveness on dating, Elaine
Hat¬eld and her colleagues led college students to believe that they had been paired at a
dance based on their responses to a personality test, but in fact, the researchers had paired
the students randomly (Hat¬eld, Aronson, Abrahams, & Rottman, 1966). At the end of
the evening, the couples evaluated each other and indicated how much they would like to
date again. For both males and females, the desire to date again was best predicted by the
physical attractiveness of the partner. This is not particularly surprising, perhaps, because
after only one brief date, the partners probably had little other information to go on.
Physical attractiveness affects not only our attitudes toward others but also our
interactions with them. A study of couples who had recently met found that, regardless
of gender, when one person was physically attractive, the other tried to intensify the
interaction (Garcia, Stinson, Ickes, Bissonette, & Briggs, 1991). Men were eager to ini-
tiate and maintain a conversation, no matter how little reinforcement they got. Women
tried to quickly establish an intimate and exclusive relationship by ¬nding things they
had in common and by avoiding talk about other people.
There are, however, gender differences in the importance of physical attractiveness.
Generally, women are less impressed by attractive males than are men by attractive
females (Buss, 1988a). Women are more likely than men to report that attributes other
than physical attractiveness, such as a sense of humor, are important to them.
Despite the premium placed on physical attractiveness in Western culture, there is
evidence that individuals tend to match for physical attractiveness in much the same
way that they match on personality and attitudinal dimensions. You can demonstrate
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 331

this for yourself. Look at the engagement announcements accompanied by photographs
of the engaged couples. You will ¬nd remarkable evidence for matching. Beyond such
anecdotal evidence, there is research evidence for matching for physical attractive-
ness. Shafer and Keith (2001) found that married couples (especially younger and older
couples) matched for weight.

Dimensions of Physical Attractiveness
What speci¬c physical characteristics make someone attractive? Facial appearance has
been shown to strongly affect our perceptions of attractiveness through much of our
life span (McArthur, 1982; Zebrowitz, Olson, & Hoffman, 1993). Moreover, various
aspects of facial appearance have speci¬c effects. One group of researchers suspected
that people ¬nd symmetrical faces more attractive than asymmetrical faces (Cardenas
& Harris, 2006; Thornhill & Gangestad, 1994). Cardenas and Harris had participants
examine pairs of faces, asking them to indicate which was more attractive. They found
that more symmetrical faces were chosen over less symmetrical faces. Interestingly,
when the researchers added asymmetrical makeup decoration to a symmetrical face, it
reduced the perceived attractiveness of the symmetrical face. Similarly, Thornhill and
Gangestad took photographs of males and females, fed those photos into a computer,
created computer versions of the faces, and made precise measurements of the sym-
metry of the faces. They then asked subjects to rate the computer-generated images for
attractiveness. They found that people do judge symmetrical faces to be more attrac-
tive than asymmetrical ones. Finally, Mealey, Bridgestock, and Townsend (1999) report
that between identical twins, the twin with the more symmetrical face is judged to be
more physically attractive.
Thornhill and Gangestad also asked the photographed students to ¬ll out question-
naires about their sex and social lives. Those with symmetrical faces reported that they
were sexually active earlier than others and had more friends and lovers. Why should
symmetry and facial features in general be so important? The answer may lie more in
our biology than in our psychology, an issue we explore later in the chapter.
There is a growing body of research that suggests that peopleʼs facial appear-
ance plays a role in how others perceive and treat them (Berry, 1991; Noor & Evans,
2003; Zebrowitz, Collins, & Dutta, 1998; Zebrowitz & Lee, 1999). Zebrowitz and
her coworkers (1998) noted that there is a physical attractiveness bias, a “halo,” physical attractiveness
bias The tendency to confer
whereby individuals who are physically attractive are thought to also have other posi-
a number of psychological
tive attributes. One cultural stereotype is that what is beautiful is good. That is, we
and social advantages
tend to believe that physically attractive individuals possess a wide range of desirable
to physically attractive
characteristics and that they are generally happier than unattractive individuals (Dion, individuals.
Berscheid, & Walster, 1972) Not only do we ¬nd attractive individuals more appealing
physically, but we also confer on them a number of psychological and social advan-
tages. We think that they are more competent and socially appealing than the average-
appearing person. Moreover, unattractive individuals may experience discrimination
because of their appearance. A recent study by Noor and Evans (2003) con¬rms this.
They found that an asymmetrical face was perceived to be more neurotic, less open,
less agreeable, and less attractive than a symmetrical face. So, individuals with sym-
metrical faces are associated with more positive personality characteristics than those
with asymmetrical faces.
Much of this attractiveness bias is probably learned. However, there is some evidence
that the attractiveness bias may have a biological component as well. In one experi-
ment, infants 2 or 3 months old were exposed to pairs of adult faces and their prefer-
ences were recorded (Langlois, Roggman, Casey, Riesner-Danner, & Jenkins, 1987).
Social Psychology
332

Preference was inferred from a measure known as ¬xation time, or the amount of time
spent looking at one face or the other. If the infant prefers one over the other, the infant
should look at that face longer. As shown in Figure 9.2, when attractive faces were
paired with unattractive faces, infants displayed a preference for the attractive faces. It

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