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Assess the extent to which psychological explanations and research have established the factors in interpersonal attraction

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Introduction

"Looks are everything" - Assess the extent to which psychological explanations and research have established the factors in interpersonal attraction There have been many differing explanations of the factors in interpersonal attraction. One such explanation is physical attraction, and it has been found that people who are more physically attractive enjoy a wide variety of benefits in a number of different societies. For example, Stewart (1980) found that in a courtroom, people who were more physically attractive got, on average, shorter sentences than those who were less attractive, supporting the assumption. Similarly, Landy & Segal (1974) found that essays were given a higher grade when a photograph of an attractive person was attached than when the same essay had a photograph of a less attractive person attached to it. The notion that attractive people are treated better than unattractive people is supported further by Stephan & Langlois (1984), who found that parents may treat attractive offspring better than others. ...read more.

Middle

Similarly, the studies attempted to rate attractiveness on a scale from "attractive" to "unattractive" with the assumption that everybody would find the "attractive" people attractive and vice versa for those who were "unattractive". It may be, however, that people are attracted to people on the same "level" as themselves in terms of attractiveness. Walster et al. (1966) proposed a "matching hypothesis" which describes this idea. In their study, college students were assigned dates at random for a dance, but were told that the assignment of partners was based on a questionnaire that they had filled in to find their perfect match. When asked if they liked their date, physical attractiveness was found to be the biggest factor in producing an affirmative response, irrespective of the person's own attractiveness. Although this does not support the matching hypothesis, it was criticised for its lack of relevance to real life, as people are often not assigned dates and can choose them for themselves. ...read more.

Conclusion

When girls go through puberty, their body shape changes such that fat is deposited in their lower body, making the size of the hips larger than that of the waist. Singh identified the optimum WHR as being 0.7, which he also noted as indicating health and fertility. Singh's 0.7 WHR theory has been tested in different countries and found still to hold, so it has cultural validity, but it may not be ecologically valid as the experiments relied on line-drawings as opposed to real photographs or seeing people 'in the flesh'. Nonetheless, the findings still held when Henss (2000) used photographs which were edited using computer software to indicate different ratios, supporting further the theory. Evolutionary theory suggests that women look for men who, again, are healthy and fertile, but who are also strong and can protect them and their children. Herzog & Franzoi (1987) in a study of American college students found that the most attractive quality in men is the upper body. Other studies have found broad shoulders and an 'upside-down triangle' shape is the most attractive: broad shoulders and a smaller waist. ...read more.

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