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Psychologists have, for a long time, been interested in attempting to define what people consider to be attractive and to discovering why this is so.

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Introduction

Psychologists have, for a long time, been interested in attempting to define what people consider to be attractive and to discovering why this is so. This branch of social psychology investigates the way in which we form and modify our impressions and feelings towards others. Four main factors are consistently identified as playing a major role in interpersonal attraction: proximity, physical attractiveness, similarity, and reciprocity. Proximity refers to the degree of geographic, residential, and other forms of spatial closeness. Proximity plays a very large part in who develop relationships with who, for the simple reason that it increases the chance of coming into contact with a person. It is hard to be attracted to someone with whom you never come into contact - though not impossible with the technologically advanced communication tools of today. Additionally, proximity makes it easier to interact with another person. Even with today's new communication tools, it is more difficult to interact with someone from another country than with your neighbour, and likewise, it is more difficult to interact with someone on the other side of the room than it is with the person seated next to you. Indeed, one study on friendships in a police academy found that seating had a greater effect on who became friends than all other factors (Wadsworth Publishing Co., 2000.) ...read more.

Middle

In an experiment by Michael Efran (1974) he surveyed University of Toronto students about the relationship between presumption of guilt and attractiveness; they emphatically exclaimed physical attraction should not affect the assumption of guilt. Nonetheless, after Efran interrogated different students with photographs of both an attractive and an unattractive party, they determined the most attractive defendant was least guilty. Correspondingly, they advocated the lowest levels of punishment for that person, as shown in the graph below. Although this seems to point towards life being overwhelming lop-sided in favour of the beautiful, it is only on average over a large group that these advantages arise and even then, the observed advantage is slight. Plus, in some occasions, physical appeal works against a person. For example, the movie star effect is when a person is so good looking that they are approached less, because people are intimidated, in a sense. This relates to the matching hypothesis, which proposes that people of approximately the same attractiveness match up with each other. Though the saying goes "opposites attract," research has shown that people are generally more attracted by similarity. Friendships and intimate relationships are more likely to form between people of similar age, race, religion, and socio-economic class. This is mostly due to social norms, which are behaviour patterns that people are expected to follow. ...read more.

Conclusion

The amount of effort we put into a relationship is in this case viewed as a loss, whereas the benefits we obtain are viewed as a profit. Thus if the benefits derived outweigh the efforts inputted then the relationship would be viewed as being in overall profit and therefore be deemed an attractive proposition. The more 'profitable' a relationship was, the more attractive it would seem. However both these theories view human nature as being essentially selfish, wanting the most out of a relationship for the least effort. This does not take into account the feelings of pleasure some people enjoy when giving as opposed to receiving - the giving in this situation would be viewed as a reward as opposed to the view of the two theories that any form of input is a cost. The study of interpersonal attraction is one that could foreseeably continue well into the next few centuries or even the next millennium. It is an area of psychology that is extremely intricate and complex in its nature. Attraction is not an area that can be evaluated using standard tests - any form of intervention or lab settings would not produce realistic or truthful results. Even through observing people in their natural environment, it would remain difficult to pinpoint exactly when or why something occurred. Everyone is unique and everybody's perception of what is attractive is also unique to him or her, which compounds the complexity of this area of research. ...read more.

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