- Condition 1: The person was entirely positive on all occasions.
- Condition 2: The person was entirely negative on all occasions.
- Condition 3: The person went from negative at first to positive.
- Condition 4: The person went from positive at first to negative.
- Results showed that participants found the other person most attractive in condition 3.
- The idea that someone grew to like them during a conversation increased attraction.
Griffith and Veitch (1971) - Comfort and liking
- Participants were seated in comfortable or uncomfortable surroundings with a `stranger`.
- Ratings of how much the participants `liked` the stranger were higher in comfortable surroundings.
- The strangers had become associated with participants feelings at the time, as predicted by the theory.
Criticisms of reinforcement/affect theory:
- Supporting evidence lacks ecological validity - a good deal of it is lab-based using very unrealistic tasks.
- The theory may be culturally biased. Lott (1994) suggests that different behaviours are rewarding to different cultures.
- The theory could be regarded as reductionist. Some would say that the complex behaviours involved in relationships cannot be reduced to simple associations and rewards.
- It could be argued that the theory is too deterministic in that it suggests that we have little or no actual control over our relationships.
Social exchange theory (Homans, 1974):
- We consider the actual and potential past, present and future rewards and costs before deciding whether or not a relationship is likely to be profitable (i.e. worth the effort).
- We are attracted to those who provide us with economic rewards, so relationships are therefore based on rational economic decisions.
- `Satiation` means that when something is in short supply you appreciate it more, e.g. if you get attention from a partner that you do not get elsewhere it is valued more.
Thibaut and Kelly's `minimax` theory
- We attempt to minimise relationship costs whilst maximising benefits.
- People's feelings in a relationship depend on a number of factors:
- Perception of rewards and costs
- Perceptions of the relationship they feel they deserve (the `comparison level` or cl)
- Perceptions of chances of getting something better (the `comparison level for alternatives` or cla).
- The formula used to calculate relationship outcome is:
OUTCOME = REWARDS - COSTS
Relationships progress through a number of stages:
1. Sampling - People consider the potential costs and rewards of a relationship and compare it with others.
2. Bargaining - There is a giving and receiving of rewards at the beginning of the relationship which tests whether the relationship should continue.
3. Commitment - Focus is on the relationship and the costs and rewards are stabilised.
4. Institutionalisation - Norms of rewards and costs are established by the partners as they `settle down`.
Formation - Relationships are formed on the basis of costs and rewards. If perceived or expected rewards are more than costs we may begin to form the relationship.
Maintenance - Maintenance requires the rewards to remain beneficial for both parties. If we invest more in a relationship then we get out of it we may think again about staying in that relationship.
Breakdown - When costs are greater than rewards the relationship is more likely to break down.
Research into social exchange theory:
Rusbult (1983) - Satisfaction and alternatives
- College students were given questionnaires every few weeks for seven months.
- Satisfaction, alternatives and investment all predicted commitment to a relationship.
- This finding is supported by other research with married couples and homosexual relationships
Simpson et al (1990) - Role of available alternatives
- Available alternatives are viewed differently according to the current relationship.
- People who were dating viewed members of the opposite sex as less attractive than did those who were single.
Rusbult and Martz (1995) - Relationship investment and abusive relationships
- Women seeking refuge from abusive relationships were interviewed.
- It was found that those most likely to return to an abusive partner were those who:
- had poorer alternatives to the relationship
- were more heavily invested (e.g. married with children)
- were less dissatisfied (e.g. reported less severe abuse).
Criticisms of social exchange theory:
- It accounts well for individual differences - why some may stay in a relationship that others would not.
- Costs may not be as important in some stages of a relationship as in others: e.g. at the beginning of a relationship costs are less important than when maintaining a longer term relationship.
- Most research has been done with students and has been based on relatively short term heterosexual relationships, and so the theory may not be applicable to other types of romantic relationships in different groups of people, e.g. gay and lesbian.
- The model lacks the ability to predict at what point the cost/reward balance in a relationship alters to the point that the relationship fails.
- Clark and Mills (1979) point out that in addition to exchange relationships there are also communal ones (where the principal concern is with the needs and welfare of a partner). It appears that social exchange theory applies only to certain types of relationships.
Further explanations for relationship breakdown:
There are some theories that deal specifically with the breakdown of relationships.
Duck's model of relationship dissolution:
Duck says that there are three categories of relationship breakup:
1. Pre-existing doom: The couple are incompatible. For instance 85-year-old man marries 17-year-old woman.
2. Mechanical failure: The couple just can't live together.
3. Sudden death: Something such as infidelity or betrayal is discovered, ending a relationship
Duck says that breakdown is a process rather than a single event, going through a number of stages.
Stage 1: Intrapsychic phase - Dissatisfaction is experienced by one or both. This phase begins with the `I can't stand it anymore` level if dissatisfaction is reached, either in private or in conversation with others.
Stage 2: Dyadic phase - Reached when the `I'd be justified in pulling out` level is expressed. Faults are aired and the commitment of one or both may be questioned. A less formal relationship may end here with a `See you then`
Stage 3: Social phase - Reached when the `I mean it` level is expressed. Unhappiness, dissatisfaction and the possibility of breakup are openly discussed.
Stage 4: Grave-dressing phase - Reached when the `It's now inevitable` level is expressed. Acceptable versions are constructed of the life and death of the relationship.
Lee's model of relationship dissolution:
Surveying the breakdown of 112 premartial romantic relationships, Lee argued that breakdown goes through a series of distinct stages.
Stages 2 and 3 are the most exhausting, and not all relationships pass through all stages, with some skipping stages entirely and going directly from stage 1 to stage 5.
Stage 1 Dissatisfaction - One partner becomes dissatisfied.
Stage 2 Exposure - The partner reveals their dissatisfaction openly.
Stage 3 Negotiation - Discussions take place about the dissatisfaction.
Stage 4: Resolution - Attempts to resolve the problem made.
Stage 5: Termination - The relationship breaks down.
Evaluating Duck's and Lee's models:
The emphasis is slightly different in each case. Duck focuses on the beginning and end of the relationship. Lee focuses on the earlier stages where the relationship may be saved.
- Relationships are individual and dynamic and these theories cannot be applied to all of them.
- The models are culturally specific and therefore biased, as they only truly apply to western individualist cultures.
- Breakdowns are usually investigated after they have happened, and such retrospective data is prone to inaccuracies.
- The theories are basically descriptive, i.e. they explain the process of break-up rather than its reasons.
- Female's fatal attraction hypothesis offers an alternative:
- The qualities that attract two people also contribute to breakdown.
- People are `blinded` to undesirable qualities early in a relationship, and over time it becomes more difficult to overlook these things.
- Argyle and Henderson's rule violation theory offers another alternative:
- Some relationship rules are perspective (i.e. they say what is expected) and some are restrictive (i.e. say what is permissible).
- Breaking restrictive rules could be interpreted as betrayal and lead to relationship breakdown.