The 6 Theories Of Interpersonal Attraction

Couple kissing on the street.

One of the main concerns that has traditionally invaded human beings as social animals is the search for a person to occupy the role of partner or sexual partner.

However, what mechanisms underlie the fact that we pay more attention to some people than others? Why are we attracted to some people and not others?

Some social psychological theorists have defined a series of theories of attraction that try to explain what mechanisms or steps a person follows, unconsciously, when feeling any type of attraction for another.

What is attraction?

The physical or sexual attraction that people experience It is defined as the ability to generate and attract the physical, sexual or emotional interest of other people. Likewise, according to some authors, attraction would refer exclusively to sexual or erotic interest.

However, it is proven that people can also feel a romantic attraction towards someone, It is not necessary for sexual attraction and emotional attraction to occur simultaneously, That is, the existence of one does not necessarily imply the existence of the other.

Research carried out in the field of psychology has revealed that there are a series of variables that influence whether a person can feel attracted to another or not. The variables that influence attraction are:

1. Physical attractiveness

Regardless of the conceptions that each individual has about who is attractive and who is not, this point has a very important weight when it comes to feeling attraction towards a person.

2. Arousal

According to a series of investigations, contexts or situations that generate high emotional arousal They create a perfect environment to generate passionate stimuli.

In this way, people who are involved, together, in situations or states of tension, are more likely to feel attracted to each other.

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3. Proximity

This is one of the simplest and at the same time most important variables. The spatial proximity factor It is what determines how many people we can meet and therefore how many you can have the possibility of becoming intimate with.

However, in the Internet era, the so-called “virtual proximity” is an element that is increasingly gaining more weight, allowing people to get to know each other without the need to be geographically close.

4. Reciprocity

Manifestations or displays of intimacy almost always produce more expressions of intimacy. This means that it is usually the people they are attracted to other people they like or, at least, the ones they think they like.

Furthermore, reciprocity is usually important insofar as it allows us to get to know the other. That is, people tend to be attracted to those who show themselves as they are. Likewise, when a person opens up to another, feelings of attraction tend to be generated as long as it is reciprocal.

5. Similarity

This factor can occur in different ways, such as similarities regarding age, education, economic status, hobbies, self-esteem, etc. The more similarities there are between two people, the more likely they are to be attracted to each other.

6. Obstacles

According to this factor, as in the case of Romeo and Juliet, love increases with obstacles. On many occasions, the interference that may arise ends up intensifying the feelings for the other person even more, or making two people feel even more united by having a “common enemy” to fight.

This factor can occur to such an extent that couples create supposed external enemies against which to fight together However, it is necessary that these “enemies” be rather weak. Furthermore, this constant search for interference to enhance feelings of love can end up turning against the couple.

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Theories of attraction

Although they do not have to occur simultaneously, all of these previous factors and variables must be present to a greater or lesser extent so that attraction or even falling in love can be triggered.

As a result of them, a series of theories of interpersonal attraction have been developed that explain how various feelings of attraction arise in people.

1. “Hard to get” theory

This theory is related to the factor of obstacles in the relationship. His main idea is that People are attracted to what they cannot get or, at the very least, there are a large number of difficulties in doing so.

This observation can also be attributed to interpersonal relationships, in which both men and women are attracted to those they perceive as “hard to get.” However, this theory specifies that attraction is not to people who are perceived to be difficult for others to obtain, but relatively affordable for oneself.

In psychology this fact It is explained by the theory of reactance, according to which many people want something that is impossible for them to achieve or difficult to achieve. These individuals feel that their freedom to choose is being undermined or oppose the restriction of their freedom.

On the other hand, this assumption also explains that a person who has never felt any interest in a third party that he has always perceived as reachable or available, begins to desire it the moment it stops being so.

2. Similarity theory

As described above, the similarity factor is a very important element when it comes to feeling attracted to someone.

According to this hypothesis, people tend to choose as partners those with whom they feel comforted, and possibly the most comforting characteristic of a potential romantic partner is that looks as much like yourself as possible at least in some fundamental factors.

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3. Theory of complementarity

Related to the previous theory, some researchers propose that people do not choose their partners based on similarity, but rather based on complementarity.

This means that potential partners are chosen because they are complementary to the person. That is, they have a series of skills or They stand out in aspects in which the person themselves does not For example, if a person describes themselves as talkative, it is very likely that they will end up focusing their attention on someone who knows how to listen.

4. Sequential filtering theory

This theory combines the previous two. According to this theoretical model, At first, the person seeks for the other to be similar to him or her on certain basic aspects such as age, education, social class, etc.

In the event that the relationship prospers, and the other begins to be seen as a potential romantic partner, similarity in personal values ​​begins to become relevant and, finally, in a third stage, complementary aspects come into play.

5. Stimulus-value-role theory

In relation to the approaches that this theory proposes, for two people to feel a mutual attraction it is necessary, first of all, that they correspond to each other at a basic level, this level is formed by age, physical appearance, economic position, first impressions, etc.

After the union, the person begins to give greater importance to the values ​​of the other the relationship having more chances of success if at a deeper level people share their personal values.

In the last stage of the attraction and falling in love process, Potential partners are discarded as long as role issues are not compatible Two people can have very close values, but over time discover that their role expectations as a couple do not match.

6. Theory of dyadic training

This last theory proposes that for a relationship to develop positively, a series of stages must be completed, otherwise, sooner or later, the relationship will break down. These stages or processes are:

All these theories come mainly from social psychology. However, there is a group of theories called Practical Theories that are the result of the professional experiences of professional psychotherapists, including Sigmund Freud, Abraham Maslow or Erich Fromm.