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Interpersonal Attraction: Liking & Loving

Interpersonal Attraction
= Positive feelings toward another

Key Factors in Attraction

What is the message of a show like ABC's Extreme Makeover or other such shows?

1. Physical Attractiveness

  • Is it "personality" or "looks" at the beginning of a relationship?
  • Key factor early in relationship (according to the research) = physical attractiveness, esp. by males looking for females
  • Matching hypothesis: we are likely to take as partners people who are roughly about the same level of physical attractiveness, e.g., married couples tend to be similar.

                      Woman2. Similarity

  • Do opposites attract? Not really.
    • Couples tend to be similar on many qualities: age, race, religion, SES, attitudes, intelligence, etc.
    • Friendship: similarities of SES, education, religion, ethnicity, occupational status
  • Why?
    • Shared attitudes (attitude similarity), beliefs, and outlooks
    • People become more alike (attitude alignment) 

3. Reciprocity

  • We like those who like us. By showing us that they like us, we tend to respond (reciprocate)
  • Married & dating partners: Tendency to idealize the other partner, i.e., you have a higher estimate of the other than they have of themselves.
  • Best relationships: focus on partner's virtues and positive factors rather than faults or negatives.

The Nature of Love

     Hatfield     Berscheid      Bob Sternberg

Elaine Hatfield (U Hawaii, L)
Ellen Berscheid (U Minn, M)
Bob Sternberg (Yale U, R)

Types: Passionate & Companionate

  • Passionate Love => intense absorption or attention to the other including tender sexual feelings and intense emotions. This predominates in the beginnings of a marital relationship.
  • Companionate Love => feelings of warmth, affection, trust, and tolerance toward another whose life is closely connected with one's own. This kind of love begins to predominate in a marital relationship which has matured.

Robert Sternberg's Theory

  • Passion = Passionate Love
  • Companionate Love is divided into two factors
    • Intimacy: warmth, closeness, sharing
    • Commitment: Desire to stay in relationship in spite of difficulties or costs

Research suggests that commitment is central. At early stages of a relationship, it is a better predictor of whether the relationship breaks up than overall ratings of love.

Attachment & Love

Do adult styles of relationship and love parallel patterns of attachment of infants and children?


Cindy Hazan


Phil Shaver
(UC Davis)

Recall the attachment styles of infants and children

  • Secure
  • Avoidant
  • Anxious-Ambivalent

In 1980s, Hazan & Shaver found parallels between adult relationship (attachment) styles and early parenting & infancy attachment styles. They found that adults recalled that the quality of their interactions as children with parents was similar in many respects to the ways in which they responded in current relationships.

Adult Attachment Style

YouTube Video demonstrating these styles in adulthood

  • Secure: Ease in entering into relationships, getting close to others, and trusting the partner in a relationship
  • Avoidant: Difficult to get close to others, lack of intimacy
  • Anxious-Ambivalent: Preoccupied with love, expectation of rejection, jealousy, volatile relationship with partner

Research has tended to support these findings:

  • Securely attached adults = more committed, more satisfied, longer duration in relationships
  • Anxious-ambivalent adults = greater swings (highs & lows) in their relationships; experience greater stress when in conflict with partner
  • Avoidant = more casual sex which requires little psychological intimacy
  • Avoidant & anxious-ambivalent adults do not seek out similar adults as partners


Attitudes: Making Social Judgments

Attitudes = positive or negative evaluations of objects of thought

What are objects of thought?

Components & Dimensions of Attitudes

Three elements together make up out attitudes:

1. Cognitive: Beliefs about object of thought

2. Affective: Feelings & emotions evoked by object of thought

3. Behavioral: Predisposition to act toward the object of thought

For example, an object of thought might be "Obama" which might lead to the following set of contrasting attitudes:
[Attitudes toward Obama
                  Pro and Con]

   Positive Attitude (Pro)
 Negative Attitude (Anti)
 Cognitive He is a smart and tough "new" politician who has tackled hard issues -- the economy, health care, etc. -- despite unyielding opposition. He is relentless in tracking down terrorists and protecting the US from them. He is a loving husband and devoted father.
He is an extremist with sympathies to enemies of the United States ("he is a Muslim and a socialist or communist"). He is aloof and out-of-touch with real America. He wants to give away hard-earned money to those who are unwilling to work.
 Affective Pride, passion, commitment Contempt, disgust, anger
 Behavioral Tend to vote for him for President or contribute to his campaign
Listen to FOX News, give money to the Romney/Ryan campaign, vote for anyone but Obama

Changing Attitudes: Factors in Persuasion
Source Message Channel Receiver
Who? What? How? To Whom?
  • High Credibility
    • Expertise
    • Trustworthiness
  • Likablility
  • Logical vs. Emotional
  • Balance (1 vs. 2 sided): 2-sided often better
  • Fear does work
  • TV or Radio
  • Personal
  • Computer (Internet!)
  • Print
  • Personality
  • Expectations
  • Knowledge
  • Strength of Preexisting Attitude

Ronald Reagan

Bill Clinton

Michael Jordan

(Obama 2012 campaign)

"Believe in America!"
(Romney 2012 campaign)
The Congress in 2003 responded to a mostly Internet-based outcry against the FCC's ruling to increase media concentration Readers of Consumers' Report are less easily swayed by salespersons because they already know about products and their qualities

Theories of Attitude Formation & Change

How do we get our attitudes? Why do we change what we believe? There are three sets of theories.

1. Learning Theory

2. Dissonance Theory (Leon Festinger)


The phenomenon of "cognitive dissonance" is also similar to the notion of Effort Justification, i.e., when we have put a lot of work and effort into something that doesn't turn out the way we expected it to be, we tend to conform or change our attitudes to account for or justify the effort.

3. Elaboration Likelihood Model (Richard Petty & John Cacioppo)

Two routes to persuasion:

  • Central Route: Based on content & logic; requires a lot of mental effort to process; attitude change is more enduring. Very difficult.
  • Peripheral Route: Based on superficial elements like attractiveness, emotion, spokesperson credibility; requires little mental effort to process; attitude change is less enduring. Easier.

This page was originally posted on 11/07/03 and last updated on November 10, 2016