This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

Summary: Different Sorts of Relationships

Classic work on friendship by Theodore Newcomb proposed four factors that might lead to a friendship. The most powerful is proximity, also called propinquity. For example, students who live near each other in a dorm are likely to become friends. Reciprocity (liking someone who likes you) is also an effect well documented in research.

When Norman had students select which of 555 adjectives would describe a good friend, a collection of characteristics emerged which might be called reliability or authenticity. Good friends are dependable and honest. Good-looking people also have an advantage; people rate them as more likable even when they are strangers. The matching hypothesis suggests that people are attracted to those who are as attractive as themselves.

Infatuation or limerence is a powerful chemical reaction that occurs early in relationships. Reports of love at first sight are probably biased, with only the successful outcomes usually reported. Research on college romances suggests that intensity of initial feelings is actually negatively correlated with length of the resulting relationship. Dorothy Tennov coined the term limerence. She found it to be a distinct syndrome, very familiar to some people, unknown to others.

Sex and aggression are tied together by the effects of hormones. Steroids increase both sexual and aggressive impulses. A monkey that wins a fight for dominance secretes more testosterone, adds muscle mass, and mates more often. Erections are a common threat display among primates. Eibl-Eibesfeldt found the same symbolism in religious figurines on the island of Bali.

Dating violence is common on college campuses. Some psychologists argue that a masochistic or teasing role is natural for human females; others find that idea an appalling example of sexism in our culture. The jealous male, often a violent type, is typically a person with low self-esteem and a troubled family background who combats insecurity with a domineering attitude.


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