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Describe and evaluate one or more theories relating to the formation and/or maintenance of relationships

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Psychology Assignment 1 Describe and evaluate one or more theories relating to the formation and/or maintenance of relationships. The scientific study of how relationships form has shown that, at least in the initial stages, this process may have little to do with deep feelings and shard emotions, and more to do with self-interest. There are two main theories of relationship formation: The Reinforcement Affect Model and The Social Exchange Theory. The Reinforcement Affect Model The Reinforcement Affect Model was suggested by Byrne and Clore (1970). It proposes that we enter into a relationship because the individual concerned creates positive feelings in us, which makes them more attractive to us. The 'reinforcement' aspect of this model concerns operant conditioning; we like some individuals because they provide us with direct reinforcement (I.e. ...read more.


Furthermore, this model does not account for any cultural or gender differences there might be. Lott (1994) suggests that, in many cultures, woman focus more on the needs of others than on receiving reinforcement. Finally, a limitation is that The Reinforcement Affect Model is probably only relevant to certain kinds of relationship as, for example, family relationships are rarely based on rewards. The Social Exchange Theory The Social Exchange Theory, suggested by Thiabault and Kelley (1959) puts forward that the formation of a relationships is a two-way process, involving an interaction between two partners, each with their own needs and expectations. Thiabault and Kelley believed there were four stages in the development of a relationship; Sampling: in which people consider the potential costs and rewards of a new relationship and compare it with other relationships available at that time. ...read more.


Our comparison levels are products of experience in other relationships together with what I might expect from this one. This is supported by Simpson et al (1990) who found that participants who were involved in a relationship gave lower attractiveness ratings of possible opposite sex alternatives (presumably to protect their own relationships). Overall, the Social Exchange Theory has many strengths. For example, this theory is relevant to many different kinds of relationship, unlike the Reinforcement Affect Model. It can also explain individual differences between and within individuals, again unlike the Reinforcement Affect Model. Yet, in contrast, this theory has many limitations. One limitation is that this theory ignores the social aspects of a relationship. This theory also ignores 'fairness of exchange' rather than simply seeking a profit. Finally, the main criticism, however, focuses on the selfish nature of the theory: are people motivated to maintain relationships only out of hedonistic concerns? ...read more.

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This essay debates relevant points about formation and maintenance of relationships. Remember to consider ethical aspects and applications of theories and research. What about the evolutionary explanation? 4*

Marked by teacher Stephanie Duckworth 03/05/2013

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