Interpersonal attraction is a favorable attitude toward, or a fondness for, another person.
Interpersonal attraction is a type of attraction between people that generally results in the initiation and development of friendships and/or romantic relationships. Such feelings as admiration, affection, liking, love, and respect are characteristics of interpersonal attraction. The presence of interpersonal attraction is important to humans because they are a sociable species. Such attraction among humans helps to form social bonds and networks, which then become the basis for increased fulfillment, happiness, satisfaction, and an overall improvement in the group and each individual within the group. The opposite of interpersonal attraction is interpersonal repulsion.
The process of becoming attracted to another person—what is called interpersonal attraction—is a distinct concept from an individual's perception of whether another person is believed to be, or not to be, physically attractive. This perception of the number and degree of physical traits that contribute to being considered beautiful, desirable, and/or pleasant is called physical attractiveness. Physical attractiveness is considered an important factor in romantic attraction.
Although physical attractiveness is distinct from interpersonal attraction, it is still one of several factors that influence the degree of interpersonal attraction that one person has for another person. Besides the outward characteristics inherent in the concept of physical attractiveness (such as beauty or handsomeness) there are some initially not-so-apparent aspects that contribute to physical attractiveness such as emotional sensitivity, dependability, intelligence, health, honesty (values and ethics), fertility (when procreation is important), and many others.
Both personal characteristics and environment play a role in interpersonal attraction. The factors important to interpersonal attraction include proximity, reciprocity, similarity, and responsiveness.
Proximity, which is sometimes also called propinquity, is a major determinant to interpersonal attraction because the closer one is geographically to another person the more likely the individuals are to be in a relationship (by the mere fact of exposure to each other). People who come into contact regularly and have no prior negative feelings about each other generally can become attracted to each other as their degree of mutual familiarity and comfort level increase. The situation in which people first meet may also determine how they will feel about each other. One is more likely to feel friendly toward a person first encountered in pleasant, comfortable circumstances.
Reciprocity of attraction (also called reciprocal liking) means that each person has positive feelings for the other person; that is, the individuals like each other. People tend to like others who help them out and comply and judge them favorably.
Another factor important for interpersonal attraction is responsiveness; that is, those messages and signals sent out to indicate someone is accepted and liked are answered favorably.
One of the most important shared attitudes between two people is that liking and disliking the same people creates an especially strong bond between individuals. The connection between interpersonal attraction and similar attitudes is complex because once two people become friends, they begin to influence each other's attitudes. Similarity is important throughout all types of relationships, between friends and between romantic partners.
Personality type is another determinant of interpersonal attraction. In areas involving control, such as competition, dominance, and self-confidence, people tend to pair up with their opposites. An example is the complementary pairing of a dominant person with a submissive one. However, for the most part, people gravitate to others who are like themselves in terms of characteristics related to affiliation, including sociability, friendliness, and warmth. Of course there is also a lot of variability in this regard.
Each culture has standard ideas about physical appearance that serve as powerful determinants in how those people perceive character. Kindness, sensitivity, intelligence, modesty, and sociability are among those characteristics that are often attributed to physically attractive individuals in research studies. Many studies have found that prospective employers give preferential treatment to physically attractive job applicants (both male and female) when compared with equally qualified candidates who are less physically attractive. Body weight is another physical characteristic that has been shown to be differentially responded to by employers and potential mates. There is also evidence that physical appearance has a greater role in the attraction of males to females than vice versa. Behavior, as well as appearance, influences interpersonal attraction. No matter what the circumstances are, behavior is often seen as reflecting a person's general traits (such as kindness or aggressiveness) rather than as a response to a specific situation.
Developed by American psychologist Donn Byrne (1931–2014), the Interpersonal Attraction Judgment Scale, sometimes called the Interpersonal Judgment Scale (IJS), measures interpersonal attraction, or the degree of liking, bestowed upon one person by another person. Byrne wrote about the IJS in his 1961 article “Interpersonal Attraction and Attitude Similarity,” which was published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. The IJS rates a person on such factors as adjustment, desirability, intelligence, knowledge, likeability, and morality. It was still being used by psychiatrists and other professionals in the early part of the twenty-first century.
The type of interpersonal attraction that has particular interest to most people is sexual attraction. To a certain extent, romantic attraction is influenced by evolutionary considerations, one being the survival of the species. Some experts claim that when people select potential mates, they look for someone whose status, physical attractiveness, and personal qualities are roughly equivalent to their own. According to another theory, individuals choose a partner who will enhance their own self-image or persona. For the most part, scientific studies have shown that women are more attracted to men whose physical attributes include broad shoulders, relatively taller height, a narrow waist, and a V-shaped body trunk. By contrast, men tend to be more attracted to women who are shorter than they are and possess a youthful look, have full lips, a low waist-hip ratio (what is called an hourglass figure), full breasts, and longer hair. Both sexes prefer symmetrical faces and bodies to less symmetrical features. Symmetrical features are considered signs of genetic health.
Researchers generally acknowledge a specific set of courting or flirting behaviors, employed by both sexes to attract a sexual partner. Initially, both men and women use varied repertoires of body language to signal interest and/or availability. Men may stretch, exaggerate ordinary motions (such as stirring a drink), or engage in preening motions, such as smoothing the hair or adjusting neckties, and younger men often affect a swagger. Women draw attention to themselves by tossing or playing with their hair, tilting their heads, raising their eyebrows, giggling, or blushing. The first connection is generally made through eye contact, often an intent gaze that is then lowered or averted. If the eye contact is positively received, a smile often follows and a conversation is initiated.
This mirroring activity is not confined to romantic relationships. Infants begin to mirror adult behavior shortly after birth. In addition, therapists, salespeople, and others whose work depends on establishing a sense of closeness with others consciously practice this technique. Generally, the adoption of each other's postures may be seen in virtually any grouping of individuals who feel comfortable with and are close to each other.
See also Bonding ; Sexuality.
Fugee, Madeleine A., Jennifer P. Leszczynski, and Alita J. Cousins. The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships. New York: Palgrave, 2015.
Zayas, Vivian, and Cindy Hazan, eds. Bases of Adult Attachment: Linking Brain, Mind and Behavior. New York: Springer, 2015.
Byrne, Donn. “Interpersonal Attraction and Attitude Similarity.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 62, no. 3 (May 1961): 713–15.
Singh, Ramadhar. “Remembering Donn Byrne.” Association for Psychological Science. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2014/ december-14/remembering-donn-byrne.html (accessed August 15, 2015).
Williams, Kipling. “Interpersonal Attraction.” http://www3.psych.purdue.edu/~willia55/240-'06/Lecture13-F.pdf (accessed August 15, 2015).
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