Describe and Evaluate Theories Into the Formation of Romantic Relationships.

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One theory to explain the formation of romantic relationships is the reward theory. The theory that we are attracted to people whose presence is rewarding to us, and that the more rewards that someone provides for us the more we should be attracted to them. Proximity, similarity, physical attractiveness and exposure & familiarity are the key factors which influence initial attraction through their reward value. In a study by Festinger et al. he studied university students and found that students were generally closer to those people living next door and were more distant to those living further away, it was also the same with those living in flats; people living more than 4 doors away were not friends. This suggests that you must be physically close with someone to form a relationship; on this basis this study does have high face validity. However this research is slightly outdated as Festinger’s research was on many married students and this is a big contrast to current student life, this makes it difficult to generalise to today’s students. Also given the circumstances of current technologies and social networking it is not impossible to form relationships without physical closeness. Proximity also gives the chance for exposure which increases familiarity. Zanjonc’s (mere exposure effect) study on university students found that the more they saw a photo of a man’s face the more the liked them which implies that that the more you see someone the more you are inclined to like/be attracted to them. However this research can be criticised as familiarity does not always breed likeness, for instance if you already disliked someone to begin with knowing more about them is likely to make you like them even less. The study also lacked mundane realism and ecological validity as it is done in an extremely artificial environment so may not be able to generalise this to real

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