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Examine the Biological, Psychological and Social Origins of Attraction

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1 Examine the Biological, Psychological and Social Origins of Attraction
By: Annalise Miner

2 Biological Origins of Attraction
Attraction can be thought of as an evolutionarily designed behavior, geared towards ensuring the survival of the species through reproduction (passing the advantageous genetic information from the parent to the offspring) There are multiple ways in which this behavior is characterized through the BLOA. One of these ways is through the sense of smell. Something as simple as our immune systems could influence mate selection, shown in the next slide.

3 BLOA – Wedekind (1995) Investigated the role of Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in female mate selection. MHC are the genes characterizing the immune system. They vary between individuals. The more diverse the genes, the better immune system. It would be beneficial for offspring to have parents with two different sets of MHC. Sample: 49 women and 44 men recruited by Wedekind, with a wide range of MHC genes, determined by a blood test prior to the experiment. It was noted if the women were taking contraceptives.

4 Wedekind (1995) cont. Wedekind gave each man a t-shirt and asked him to wear it for two nights. During this time, the participants were asked to refrain from eating spicy foods, sexual activity, consuming alcohol and using odorous deodorants/soaps (they were given special soap to use). Wedekind put each shirt into a plastic-lined cardboard box with a “sniffing hole” on top. Female participants, during their second week of their menstrual cycle (when sense of smell is strongest), were each presented with 7 boxes. 3 of the 7 boxes contained t-shirts worn by men with similar MHC genes, 3 were dissimilar men and one contained an unworn shirt as a control. The women were asked to rate the t-shirts on a Likert scale, based on unpleasantness. Results: Women were most likely to prefer scent of men with dissimilar MHC levels. This was the opposite in women taking contraceptives.

5 BLOA cont. The Wedekind (1995) study demonstrated that there are biological correlates, such as MHC genes, to certain behaviors, like attraction. Reductionist to say that attraction is solely based on MHC genes/biology. Interesting to discover what subconscious cues are potentially picked up on when interacting with those of the opposite sex. Biology therefore definitely plays a role in attraction, as we are evolutionarily programmed in certain ways to “sniff out” the best potential mate.

6 Psychological (Cognitive) Origins of Attraction
This level of analysis has to do with perception and social cognition. Researchers within the CLOA look at the effect of the perception of similarity on attraction and bonding. Couples tend to be generally similar (age, religion, class, personality, culture, attractiveness, etc…)There are many theories as to why this is, including: Shared interests attracts people to each other People naturally congregate to others of their ethnicity/culture (has historical roots) Other’s support for one’s own views/attitudes is rewarding, validates opinion and increases individual's self-esteem. (Byrne, 1971)

7 CLOA – Morry (2007) Attraction-Similarity Model
Believed to underpin individual’s perceptions of their relationships in that people see friends/partners/other positive relationships as similar to themselves, even though it the reality may not completely align with their perception. Attraction potentially predicts these perceptions of similarity. Leads to psychological benefits (higher self-esteem, satisfaction in a relationship).

8 CLOA – Markey et al. (2007) Aim: to investigate the extent to which similarity is a factor in how people choose partners. Procedure: The researchers used questionnaires, and asked a large sample of young adults to describe their ideal romantic partner without describing a specific individual. Asked for psychological characteristics, values and attitudes The same participants were then asked to describe themselves. Results: The way that people described themselves was similar to what they described as their ideal partner.

9 CLOA cont. The Byrne (1971), Morry (2007) and Markey et al. (2007) studies demonstrate that perceptions of similarities does, in fact, have an affect on levels of attraction. When individuals perceive a potential partner as similar to themselves, there is a greater chance of bonding due to these similarities, along with a higher self- esteem because of the validation of one’s own values and attitudes.

10 Social (Sociocultural) Origins of Attraction
The SCLOA relates to the CLOA. Building off of the idea of the attraction-similarity model (Morry, 2007), it is also apparent that people prefer partners with the same social and cultural norms. People are attracted to those with which they have a positive interaction. You are more likely to have more positive interactions with those closest in proximity to you. Additionally, these people will also most likely share many of the same beliefs, attitudes, and social/cultural norms.

11 SCLOA cont. Studies have shown that mere proximity and sharing the same culture can have an affect on levels of attraction. This idea is supported by the following studies: Festinger et al. (1950): friendships in a dormitory tended to form among those living closest to one another. Nahemow and Lawton (1975): in homes for the elderly/college campuses, the distances between individiual’s rooms predicted friendship and attraction. This demonstrates that there are cultural and societal influences that impact attraction and bonding in individuals.

12 Conclusion There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different factors which influence attraction in human beings. More important than comparing the numerable small ways in which attraction is influenced, however, it is important to be able to take a step back and look at the big picture. Attraction, much like any other behavior, is extremely complex and hard to study. It calls for examination through a biopsychosocial lens; this holistic view gives a better scope as to what attraction actually is, and how it is influenced by different aspects of our person and daily lives.

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