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1. A2 Relationships 1.1 Interpersonal Attraction: The Matching Hypothesis Key word: Key picture: The first thing we generally notice when meeting a stranger is their…
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  • 1. A2 Relationships 1.1 Interpersonal Attraction: The Matching Hypothesis Key word: Key picture: The first thing we generally notice when meeting a stranger is their physical appearance. This includes how they are dressed and whether they are clean or dirty. People tend to aggress with each other about whether someone is physically attractive. Women whose faces resemble those of young children are often perceived as attractive. E.g., photographs of females with: • Relatively large and widely separated eyes • A small nose • Wide cheek bones • Narrow cheeks • And a small chin are regarded as more attractive. However, when looking at physical attractiveness in men the predominant features that make them more attractive are: • A square jaw • Small eyes • Thin lips More importantly, research has found that people who are perceived as being attractive are also thought to be more sociable, interesting, independent, exciting and sexually warm. This is called the halo effect, the tendency for the total impression formed to be unduly influenced by one outstanding trait. According to Walster et al. (1966) people are attracted to others who have a similar level of physical attractiveness to their own. Furthermore, we are likely to seek out people similar to ourselves in other attributes such as IQ, athleticism, etc. There are many possible reasons why we should be attracted to physically attractive people (e.g., there is a great deal of prestige to be gained in dating a physically attractive person), but there are also potential costs of rejection from someone who does not see us as physically attractive. Self-esteem also influences this process. When a person is feeling low in self-esteem, it is more likely that they will target someone who is less likely to reject them. If, however, their self esteem is high, then they might believe that no one can reject them and may target people that they might otherwise consider as being ‘out of their league’. Of course, there are plenty of couples who appear physically mismatched, but proponents of the Matching Hypothesis are that such ‘mismatched’ couples balance out in other areas. However, in relationships where partners are mismatched, there are several consequences. The less attractive partner may feel insecure and jealous of the attention given to their partner, or the less attractive partner may feel unattractive compared to their partner. It follows, then that mismatching may place strains on a couple and threaten long-term success of that relationship. Therefore, the matching hypothesis proposes that we don’t seek the most physically attractive person but that we are attracted to individuals who match us in terms of physical attraction. This compromise is Unit 4: Chenderit School Mr.Snape
  • 2. A2 Relationships 1.1 necessary because of a fear of rejection (a more attractive person may reject your advances) and/or to achieve a balance between partners. Research into the Matching Hypothesis: Murstein (1972) Couple’s attractiveness and matching photographs (CAMP) study:  Murstein took photographs, first of 99 engaged couples, then of a separate sample of random people that posed as couples for the experiment.  Independent judges rated the photographs for physical attractiveness without knowing ‘who belonged to whom’.  The couples had to rate their own and their partner’s physical attractiveness.  Engaged couples received very similar ratings, and these were significantly more alike than the ratings given to ‘random couples’.  Murstein therefore concluded that individuals who have an ‘equal market value’ for physical attractiveness were more likely to associate in intimate relationships. Walster’s Computer Dance Study (1966)  A computer dance was advertised during freshers week at a college. - A total of 752 males and females attended for just $1.00. - Each student was independently assessed by judges for attractiveness when they signed up. - Students were then randomly paired by a computer (except no man went with a taller woman). - During the dance and again 2 days later students completed questionnaires about the dance and their dates. They found:  That physical attractiveness was the most important factor in liking.  The most physically attractive students were liked more by their dance partners.  Physical attractiveness was a good indicator of whether they would see each other again.  Six months later when asked if the participants had seen their date again they found that the participants were more likely to have dated if they were of similar attractiveness. Silverman’s research (1971)  Couples were observed in a naturalistic dating settings: bars, social events, theatre lobbies.  Two males and two females formed the observer team.  The observed couples were predominantly 18-22 year olds and unmarried.  Each observer independently rated the dating partner of the opposite sex, on a 5- point scale.  There was an extremely high degree of similarity between the attractiveness of the couple members. Also, the more similar their attractiveness, the happier they seemed to be with each other.  They found that the greater the degree of physical attractiveness existing between the two people the more physical intimacy (e.g., touching, kissing, holding hands) was displayed. Unit 4: Chenderit School Mr.Snape
  • 3. A2 Relationships 1.1 Evaluation of the Matching Hypothesis Strengths:  One strength of the Matching Hypothesis is that the research is not gender specific. Research by Aronson et al. (1966) claimed that when using homosexual couples to investigate the matching hypothesis, physical attractiveness was still a priority when seeking a mate. This suggests that the research into the matching hypothesis is universal and can be applied to any gender.  A second strength is that Silverman’s research has high ecological validity. The reason for this is because he carried out his research in a natural environment (a bar). This allowed participants to act naturally and prevented demand characteristics occurring. This suggests that Silverman’s research can be applied to real life situations.  A third strength of the matching hypothesis is that it has further empirical support provided by Berscheid et al. (1971) When people were allowed to choose their partners and knew that their partners might reject them, the more attractive men chose more attractive women for their date. The study also showed that because the possibility of rejection subjects lowered their aspirations and chose a partner whom they thought would agree to date them. This suggests that there is wider academic credibility for the notion of the matching hypothesis. Weaknesses:  One weakness of Silverman’s research is that there is a problem of experimenter bias. As the observers saw both dating partners together, so a ‘halo’ emanating from one dating partner to another might have influenced the observers’ rating of the other partner. For example, the expectation of similarity could have biased the observers’ rating towards a more similar rating of the one member based on the rating of the other. This suggests that caution is needed when interpreting these results.  One criticism of physical attractiveness as an explanation of interpersonal attraction is that it provides only a partial explanation and is hence reductionist. For example the explanation does not take account of the role of third parties in a relationship, such as the effects of friends and family. This explanation also fails to account for individuals that people meet that are physically attractive but disliked because of their attitude and/or body language. For example the person may be viewed as self-obsessed and vain despite their attractive exterior and hence people may choose not to form a relationship with them. This suggests that physical attractiveness is an oversimplification when considering it as an explanation of interpersonal attraction.  A further criticism of this explanation of interpersonal attraction is that research that has been carried out in this area is culturally specific. Studies have been completed in western societies (individualist cultures) and although some researchers have taken into account the differences in preferences the explanation fails to recognise many forms of relationship that are not necessarily governed by physical attraction. For example in arranged marriages attractiveness plays a minimal role. Here it is the families of the suitors that are considered and the benefits/opportunities that the joining of two households could bring to each other. This suggests that physical attractiveness research/explanation cannot be applied reliably across all cultures.  A weakness of Walster’s research is that there are ethical issues. The reason for this is because the students were told that the questionnaire information would be used to match them with their ideal mate. But the matching was purely random. They also didn’t know that their attractiveness was being assessed, or that they were taking part in a study at all. This suggests that there is a problem of informed consent in Walster’s study and therefore the researchers did not protect their participants from harm. In contrast… Unit 4: Chenderit School Mr.Snape
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