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That sounds rather romantic.
Indeed, evidence suggests that women are driven, at least in long-term mate selec-
tion strategies, by behavior and traits represented by the good provider models. Although
men are strongly in¬‚uence by traits such as youth and attractiveness, women tend to
select partners on the basis of attributes such as social status and industriousness (Ben
Hamida, Mineka, & Bailey, 1998). Note the intriguing differences between traits that
men ¬nd attractive in women and those that women ¬nd attractive in men. The obvious
one is that men seem to be driven by the “good genes” model, whereas womenʼs pref-
erences seem to follow the good provider models. This preference appears across a
range of cultures. One study by Shackelford, Schmitt, and Buss (2005) had males and
females evaluate several characteristics that could de¬ne a potential mate. The partici-
pants were drawn from 37 cultures (including African, Asian, and European). Their
results con¬rmed that, across cultures, women valued social status more than men and
men valued physical attractiveness more than women.
The other difference, however, is that traits that make women attractive are in
essence uncontrollable: Either you are young or you are not; either you are attractive or
you are not. Modern science can help, but not much. Therefore, a woman who desires
to increase her value has the problem of enhancing attributes that are really not under
her control (Ben Hamida et al., 1998). Male-related attributes”status, achievement”
are all, to a greater or lesser extent, under some control and may be gained with effort
and motivation. Ben Hamida and his colleagues argue that the uncontrollability of the
factors that affect a womanʼs fate in the sexual marketplace may have long-term nega-
tive emotional consequences.
Before we conclude that there is an unbridgeable difference between men and
women and that men only follow the good genes model and women only the good
provider model, we should consider the possibility that what one wants in the sexual
Social Psychology

marketplace depends on what oneʼs goals are and what one can reasonably expect to get.
In fact, it appears that when looking for a casual sexual partner, both men and women
emphasize attractiveness, and when searching for a long-term relationship, both look
for a mate with good interpersonal skills, an individual who is attentive to the partnerʼs
needs, has a good sense of humor, and is easygoing (Regan, 1998). In fact, Miller (2000),
an evolutionary psychologist, argued that the most outstanding features of the human
mind”consciousness, morality, sense of humor, creativity”were shaped not so much
by natural selection but rather by sexual selection. Miller suggested that being funny
and friendly and a good conversationalist serves the same purpose for humans as an
attractive tail serves peacocks: It helps attract mates.
Regan (1998) reported that women were less willing to compromise on their stan-
dards. For example, although women wanted an attractive partner for casual sex, they
also wanted a male who was older and more interpersonally responsive. Men wanted
attractiveness and would compromise on everything else. In fact, a womanʼs attractive-
ness seems to overcome a male potential partnerʼs common sense as well. Agocha and
Cooper (1999) reported that when men knew a potential partnerʼs sexual history and
also knew that she was physically attractive, they weighed attractiveness as much more
important in the decision to engage in intercourse than the probability of contracting
a sexually transmitted disease as suggested by that sexual history. However, women
and men are less willing to compromise when it comes to long-term relationships. The
results conform to the idea that casual sex affords men a chance to advertise their sexual
prowess and gain favor with their peer group but that long-term relationships are driven
by quite different needs (Regan, 1998).
Finally, students often ask about any differences between heterosexual and homo-
sexual mate preferences. The available research suggests that mate selection prefer-
ences between these groups may not differ all that much (Over & Phillips, 1997). For
example, a study of personal advertisements placed by heterosexual and homosexual
males and females was conducted by Kenrick, Keefe, Bryan, Barr, and Brown (1995).
Kenrick et al. found that mate selection patterns for heterosexual and homosexual men
were highly similar and showed similar patterns of change with age. Both groups of
men preferred younger mates and this preference grew stronger with age. There was
a slight difference between homosexual and heterosexual women. Younger women in
both groups expressed interest in same-aged mates. However, with age, homosexual
women were more likely than heterosexual women to desire a younger partner. In
another study, homosexual women were found to be more interested in visual sexual
stimulation and less in partner status than heterosexual women. Homosexual men placed
less emphasis on their partnerʼs youth than heterosexual men (Bailey, Gaulin, Agyei,
& Gladue, 1994).

Dynamics of Close Relationships
We have discussed why people form close relationships and why they form them with the
people they do. We turn now to the dynamics of close relationships”how they develop
and are kept going and how in some cases con¬‚ict can lead to their dissolution.
But what exactly are close relationships? What psychological factors de¬ne them?
There appear to be three crucial factors, all of which we saw in the relationship between
Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. The ¬rst factor is emotional involvement, feelings of
love or warmth and fondness for the other person. The second is sharing, including
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 339

sharing of feelings and experiences. The third is interdependence, which means that
oneʼs well-being is tied up with that of the other (Kelley et al., 1983). As is clear from
this de¬nition, a close relationship can be between husband and wife, lovers, or friends.
Note that even when research focuses on one type of close relationship, it is usually
also applicable to the others.

Relationship Development
Models of how relationships develop emphasize a predictable sequence of events.
This is true of both models we examine in this section, the stage model of relationship
development and social penetration theory. According to the stage model of relationship
development, proposed by Levinger and Snoek (1972), relationships evolve through
the following stages:

Stage 0, no relationship. This is a personʼs status with respect to virtually all other
people in the world.
Stage 1, awareness. We become conscious of anotherʼs presence and feel the
beginning of interest. When Stein and Toklas ¬rst met in the company of
friends, their conversation suggested to each of them that they might have much
in common.
Stage 2, surface contact. Interaction begins but is limited to topics such as
the weather, politics, and mutual likes and dislikes. Although the contact
is super¬cial, each person is forming impressions of the other. Stein and
Toklas moved into this stage the day after their ¬rst meeting and soon moved
beyond it.
Stage 3, mutuality. The relationship moves, in substages, from lesser to
greater interdependence. The ¬rst substage is that of involvement, which
is characterized by a growing number of shared activities (Levinger,
1988). A subsequent substage is commitment, characterized by feelings
of responsibility and obligation each to the other. Although not all close
relationships involve commitment (Sternberg, 1988), those that have a serious
long-term in¬‚uence on oneʼs life generally do. We noted how Stein and Toklas
began by sharing activities, then feelings, and then an increasing commitment
to each other.
social penetration theory
A second model of relationship development, social penetration theory, devel-
A theory that relationships
oped by Altman and Taylor (1973), centers on the idea that relationships change over
vary in breadth, the extent
time in both breadth (the range of topics people discuss and activities they engage in
of interaction, and depth,
together) and depth (the extent to which they share their inner thoughts and feelings). suggesting they progress in an
Relationships progress in a predictable way from slight and super¬cial contact to greater orderly fashion from slight and
and deeper involvement. First the breadth of a relationship increases. Then there is an super¬cial contact to greater
and deeper involvement.
increase in its depth, and breadth may actually decrease. Casual friends may talk about
topics ranging from sports to the news to the latest rumors at work. But they will not,
as will more intimate friends, talk about their feelings and hopes. Close friends allow
each other to enter their lives”social penetration”and share on a deeper, more inti-
mate level, even as the range of topics they discuss may decrease.
Evidence in support of social penetration theory comes from a study in which college
students ¬lled out questionnaires about their friendships several times over the course
of a semester and then again 3 months later (Hays, 1985). Over 60% of the af¬liations
Social Psychology

tracked in the study developed into close relationships by the end of the semester. More
important, the interaction patterns changed as the relationships developed. As predicted
by social penetration theory, interactions of individuals who eventually became close
friends were characterized by an initial increase in breadth followed by a decrease in
breadth and an increase in intimacy, or depth.
An important contributor to increasing social penetration”or to the mutuality stage
of relationship development”is self-disclosure, the ability and willingness to share
intimate areas of oneʼs life. College students who kept diaries of their interactions with
friends reported that casual friends provided as much fun and intellectual stimulation
as close friends but that close friends provided more emotional support (Hays, 1988b).
Relationship development is fostered by self-disclosure simply because we often respond
to intimate revelations with self-disclosures of our own (Jourard, 1971).

Evaluating Relationships
Periodically we evaluate the state of our relationships, especially when something
is going wrong or some emotional episode occurs. Berscheid (1985) observed that
emotion occurs in a close relationship when there is an interruption in a well-learned
sequence of behavior. Any long-term dating or marital relationship develops sequences
of behavior”Berscheid called these interchain sequences”that depend on the part-
ners coordinating their actions. For example, couples develop hints and signals that
show their interest in lovemaking. The coupleʼs lovemaking becomes organized, and
the response of one partner helps coordinate the response of the other. A change in the
frequency or pattern of this behavior will bring about a reaction, positive or negative,
from the partner. The more intertwined the couples are, the stronger are their inter-
chain sequences; the more they depend on each other, the greater the impact of inter-
ruptions of these sequences.

Exchange Theories
One perspective on how we evaluate relationships is provided by social exchange theory
social exchange theory
A theory of how relationships (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959), which suggests that people make assessments according to
are evaluated, suggesting rewards and costs, which correspond to all the positive and all the negative factors
that people make assessments derived from a relationship. Generally, rewards are high if a person gets a great deal
according to the rewards
of grati¬cation from the relationship, whereas costs are high if the person either must
(positive things derived from
exert a great deal of effort to maintain the relationship or experiences anxiety about the
a relationship) and costs
relationship. According to this economic model of relationships, the outcome is decided
(negative things derived from
a relationship). by subtracting costs from rewards. If the rewards are greater than the costs, the outcome
is positive; if the costs are greater than the rewards, the outcome is negative.
This doesnʼt necessarily mean that if the outcome is positive, we will stay in the
relationship, or that if the outcome is negative, we will leave it. We also evaluate out-
comes against comparison levels. One type of comparison level is our expectation of
what we will obtain from the relationship. That is, we compare the outcome with what
we think the relationship should be giving us. A second type is a comparison level of
alternatives, in which we compare the outcome of the relationship we are presently
in with the expected outcomes of possible alternative relationships. If we judge that
the alternative outcomes would not be better, or even worse, than the outcome of our
present relationship, we will be less inclined to make a change. If, on the other hand,
we perceive that an alternative relationship promises a better outcome, we are more
likely to make a change.
Chapter 9 Interpersonal Attraction and Close Relationships 341

A theory related to social exchange theory”equity theory”says that we evaluate
our relationships based on their rewards and costs, but it also focuses on our perception
of equity, or balance, in relationships (Hat¬eld, Traupmann, Sprecher, Utne, & Hay,
1985). Equity in a relationship occurs when the following equation holds:

Person Aʼs Bene¬ts (rewards “ costs) Person Bʼs Bene¬ts (rewards “ costs)
Bʼs Contributions Aʼs Contributions

Rewards may include, but are not limited to, companionship, sex, and social support.
Costs may include loss of independence and increases in ¬nancial obligations. The
contributions made to the relationship include earning power or high social status. The
rule of equity is simply that person Aʼs bene¬ts should equal person Bʼs if their contri-
butions are equal. However, fairness requires that if Aʼs contributions are greater than
Bʼs, Aʼs bene¬ts should also be greater.
Thus, under equity theory, the way people judge the fairness of the bene¬ts depends
on their understanding of what each brings to the relationship. For example, the spouse
who earns more may be perceived as bringing more to the marriage and, therefore, as
entitled to higher bene¬ts. The other spouse may, as a result, increase her costs, perhaps
by taking on more of the household chores.
In actual relationships, of course, people differ, often vigorously, on what counts as
contributions and on how speci¬c contributions ought to be weighed. For example, in
business settings, many individuals believe that race or gender should count as a con-
tribution when hiring. Others disagree strongly with that position.
Has the fact that most women now work outside the home altered the relationship
between wives and husbands as equity theory would predict? It appears, in keeping
with equity theory, that the spouse who earns more, regardless of gender, often has
fewer child-care responsibilities than the spouse who earns less (Steil &Weltman,
1991, 1992).
However, it also appears that cultural expectations lead to some inequity. Husbands
tend to have more control over ¬nancial matters than wives do regardless of income
(Biernat & Wortman, 1991). Moreover, a study of professional married couples in
which the partners earned relatively equal amounts found that although the wives
were satis¬ed with their husbandsʼ participation in household chores and childrear-
ing, in reality there was considerable inequity (Biernat & Wortman, 1991). Women
were invariably the primary caregivers for the children. Men spent time with their
children and did many of the household chores, but they were not the primary care-
givers. This may re¬‚ect a lack of equity in these relationships, or it may mean that
women simply do not fully trust their husbands to do a competent job of taking care
of the children.
What happens when people perceive inequity in a relationship? As a rule, they
will attempt to correct the inequity and restore equity. If you realize that your partner
is dissatis¬ed with the state of the relationship, you might try, for example, to pay more
attention to your partner and in this way increase the rewards he or she experiences. If
equity is not restored, your partner might become angry or withdraw from the relation-
ship. Inequitable relationships are relationships in trouble.
In one study, researchers measured the level of perceived equity in relationships
by means of the following question and scale (Hat¬eld, Walster, & Berscheid, 1978,
p. 121).
Social Psychology

Figure 9.3 Relationship
longevity as a function
of belief in destiny and
initial satisfaction with a
relationship. Individuals who
believed in romantic destiny
and had initial satisfaction
with the relationship tended
to have longer relationships
than those who did not.
However, when initial
satisfaction was low,
individuals who believed in
destiny tended not to give
the relationship a chance
and exited the relationship
after a short time.
From Knee (1998).

tend to have more positive descriptions of their ideal partner as compared to those with
lesser self-images. Klohnen and Mendelsohn reported a signi¬cant similarity between
one partnerʼs description of the ideal self and his or her description of the partner. In
fact, individuals tended to bias their views of their partner in the direction of the ideal
It appears then that successful relationships require that each partner work to af¬rm


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