Research has uncovered a number of factors that promote interpersonal attraction; although none of these factors will surprise, each contain at least one unexpected twist.
Physical appearance: To most of us there is something mildly undemocratic about possibility that a person’s physical appearance is a determiner of how others respond to him/her. Unlike character, niceness, and other personal attributes, physical appearance is a factor over which we have little control. Hence it seems ‘unfair’ to use it as criteria for liking someone. And in fact, Surveys have shown that people do not rank physical attractiveness as very important in their liking of other people.
However, in actual pairing off, people tend to end up with partners who closely match them in physical attractiveness. In one study, judges rated photographs of each partner of 99 couples for physical attractiveness without knowing who was paired with whom. The physical attractiveness rating of the couples matched each other significantly more closely than did the rating of photographs that were randomly paired into ‘couples’. The importance of physical appearance is not confined just to the heterosexual dating and mating partners. For example, physically attractive boys and girls (age 5 to 6 yrs) are more popular with their peers than less attractive children. Even adults are affected by a child’s physical attractiveness.
Competence: If we cannot all be beautiful, some of us might be able to get by our own competence. The evidence, however is mixed. It may be that some people are just ‘too perfect’ and that when they commit blunders they become more human in our eyes and hence more likeable.
A blunder makes the superior person more human more like us, and thus more attractive. But if we think of ourselves as very superior, the blunder may not endear the superior person to us because it makes him/her less like ourselves (or our image of our selves) and hence less likeable. Or consider the opposite personality we have very low self-esteem and are attracted to those who can serve as an ideal hero for us. Under this condition, blunder gives our potential idols feet of clay and hence they again become less likeable.
Similarity: The blunder study raises another question about attraction: do we like people who are similar to ourselves or do opposites attract? It appears to depend on the dimensions of similarity being compared. There is a great deal of evidence that we prefer people who share our beliefs, attitudes and values. We tend to forget that some of our friends whom we consider very different from our selves are often quite similar to us in terms of such variable as age, religion, education and socioeconomic class. Hundreds of statistical studies dating all the way back to 1870s shows that husbands and wives are significantly similar to each other not only on their Sociological characteristics like also with respect to physical characteristics like height and eye color and psychological characteristics like intelligence. Thus most evidence indicates that liking is positively correlated with similarity on most dimensions.
Reciprocal liking: One of the more compelling reasons for liking people is their liking for us. We tend to like people who like us and to reject those who reject us. This is especially true when we need to be appreciated. Women who had been led to feel negatively about themselves liked their male admirers significantly more than those women who had received favorable information about themselves.
Familiarity: If all else fails in our quest to get someone to like us, then simple persistence might be our only resource. There is good evidence that sheer familiarity is a pervasive determinant of liking.
Therefore, interpersonal attraction with the comforting thought that if you aren’t beautiful, competent or similar to the one attract be persistent.
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