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Social Psychology Chapter 14
Terms in this set (36)
A mechanism for regulating behavior to acquire the tangible or intangible resources necessarily for survival and well-being.
People do not need hundreds of relationships, just a few that are lasting and caring, and when they have them they are less motivated to form additional relationships
People have different levels of this need and so differ in how many social relationships they want and how intimate they want them to be. Measures of need for affiliation (McAdams, 1989), need for intimacy (McAdams, 1980), need to belong (Leary et al., 2013), and attachment style (Hazan & Shaver, 1987) have been developed to capture this variability.
When the need to belong is satisfied, people thrive
Compared with people who live more isolated lives, people who have pleasant interactions with a network of close friends, lovers, family members, and coworkers have higher self-esteem (Denissen et al., 2008; Leary & Baumeister, 2000), feel happier and more satisfied with their lives (Diener et al., 1999), and have better mental health (Kim & McKenry, 2002).
With regard to physical health, people who feel socially connected have stronger cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine systems, and they are less likely to die a premature death (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008; House et al., 1988; Uchino, 2006; Uchino et al., 1996).
The feeling that one is deprived of human social connections.
In fact, people claim to feel more fulfilled in an unhappy relationship than they do when in no relationship at all.
Over time, loneliness contributes to a range of mental health complications, including depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia
Evolution and Belonging
From an evolutionary perspective, early humans who successfully formed close social bonds were more likely to survive and reproduce than were the loners, outcasts, and misanthropes. In those environments, being embedded in a network of social relationships helped people survive and have children who would grow to maturity and also reproduce. Also, friendships were a means for non-kin to cooperate in finding food, build shelters, and explore the environment. They also helped people avoid the costs of competition and aggression.
Evidence for Evolution and Belonging
The motive to belong is universal. In every culture that has been examined, people care deeply about forming and maintaining romantic bonds, parent-offspring attachments, and close relations with siblings, friends, and group members
Innate affiliation behaviors. Soon after human infants exit the womb, they instinctively engage with other people (Murray & Trevarthen, 1986). They pay special attention to other people's faces, and they delight in mimicking others' facial expressions (Meltzoff & Moore, 1977). They also pay particular attention to human voices, especially when others use baby talk (Cooper & Aslin, 1990).
Rejection hurts—literally. Earlier we noted that the experience of social rejection causes a great deal of subjective distress. Here we add that the human nervous system responds to rejection with a stress response similar to our response to physical pain. Even minor forms of rejection—such as hearing someone spread unkind gossip about oneself—increases stress-related cardiovascular arousal and a flood of the stress hormone cortisol.
Reproductive success. Adults who form stable close relationships are more likely to reproduce than those who fail to form them.
A dispositional tendency to have an especially strong fear of being rejected or evaluated negatively by others.
The desire to form social relationships is a fundamental part of human nature.
Evidence of a fundamental need to belong
Like hunger, the need to belong can be satisfied.
Belonging promotes mental and physical health.
Loneliness takes a toll on mental and physical health.
Evidence that the need to belong has an evolutionary basis
People of all cultures share the need to belong.
Newborn infants instinctively engage other people.
Social rejection activates the same stress responses as physical pain.
Long-term relationships promote successful procreation and raising of offspring.
The increased likelihood of forming relationships with people who are physically close by.
Face-to-face social interactions are more important and beneficial to mental health and life satisfaction than cyber socializing. In the case of interpersonal interactions, the more you see a new person, the more positive you are likely to feel about that person. Because you'll see your next-door neighbor more often than the person a few doors down, the mere exposure effect works to the benefit of that nearest neighbor.
Reward model of liking
Proposes that people like other people whom they associate with positive stimuli and dislike people whom they associate with negative stimuli.
But the reward model suggests that we could come to like (or dislike) someone not because of any attribute they have or behavior they engage in, but simply because they happened to be around when we were feeling good (or bad).
A tendency to map on, or transfer, feelings for a person who is known onto someone new who resembles that person in some way.
Culturally Valued Attributes
As cultural animals, we also are drawn to people who have talents or have achieved things that our culture values.
Being connected to, or simply being near, another person with culturally valued attributes (celebrity) can enhance our own self-esteem.
When someone else is talented in a domain that you don't claim for yourself, it is easy to identify with him or her and gain self-worth from doing so.
Across a wide range of studies, people generally report preferring certain traits in their partners and friends. Not surprisingly, these include friendliness, honesty, warmth, kindness, intelligence, a good sense of humor, emotional stability, reliability, ambition, openness, and extraversion. Which traits people desire in others depends to some extent on their relationship with the other person. For example, people report that agreeableness and emotional stability are more valued in a close friend than in a study group partner, whereas intelligence is reported to be more valued for a study group partner than for a close friend.
We make this point because the cultural worldview we learn as children teaches us that kindness, intelligence, honesty, and so forth are good qualities. Thus, our self-reports are likely to mimic these teachings. In fact, when we examine what traits people in different cultures claim they like, the traits they value mirror aspects of the culture.
Similarity in Attitudes
One of the strongest determinants of attraction is perceived similarity. As the old saying goes, "Birds of a feather flock together." Similarity on several dimensions matters. People who become friends, lovers, and spouses tend to be similar in socioeconomic status, age, geographical location, ethnic identity, looks, and personality. But particularly powerful is similarity in attitudes and overall worldview.
Several studies show that what is important for attraction and relationship commitment is how much people perceive that they are similar to another, and not necessarily how similar they are from an objective point of view.
Tesser's (1988) self-evaluation maintenance model (described in chapter 6) suggests another way that dissimilarity can help a relationship. If friends or partners are both strong in the same domains of abilities and accomplishments, it can lead to threatening social comparisons and friction.
If you like me, I'll like you
One obvious explanation for the reciprocity of liking effect is based on self-esteem. Our self-esteem benefits when others like us, so we like those who enhance our self-esteem. Another plausible explanation is that we expect someone who likes us to treat us well, so the anticipation of rewards enhances our liking for that person.
Flattery doesn't always work, however. If it is clear the flatterer has an ulterior motive, the compliments are not quite so effective. Still, we generally prefer someone who says nice things about us (even if that person's motives are suspect) to someone who doesn't have anything nice to say at all.
A theory of attraction that posits that liking is highest for others when they increase their positivity toward you over time.
They noted that in some contexts, a compliment from a stranger, or someone you know but never has complimented you, is more potent than a compliment from a friend or spouse. They proposed that this is because we have a long history of being complimented by a friend or romantic partner, so one additional compliment is expected and doesn't affect us much: You already know the person likes you. But the unexpected compliment from a stranger or an acquaintance who has not expressed liking for you before is more unexpected and fresher, and thus may have a bigger impact on your self-esteem and your liking for the complimenter. On the flip side of the same coin, a criticism will have more impact if it comes from a friend or romantic partner because they usually say positive things to you.
Several factors affect how we choose others with whom we form close relationships.
Physical proximity is an important factor in developing relationships, although its importance is tempered by social media.
People like others whom they associate with positive feelings and dislike those associated with negative feelings.
Attributes of the person
People like those who remind them of others they like.
People like those with culturally desirable attributes.
Self-reports of traits that people prefer often don't predict their liking of people they meet who have those traits.
Our psychological needs
People tend to like others who fulfill their needs for meaning and self-esteem. Specifically, those who:
are perceived as similar to the self.
Why is physical attractiveness important?
Seen from the perspective of the reward model, it obviously contributes to sexual appeal.
It also simply may be more pleasant to look at attractive (rather than unattractive) babies, kids, and adults.
Physical appearance is also typically the first attribute we come to know about a person. It takes much less time to assess someone's looks than his or her honesty, intelligence, and other qualities; some evidence suggests it takes as little as 0.15 seconds.
Physical attractiveness also may be important in many cultures because the hotter the person we're with, the more we can BIRG (bask in their reflected glory).
A tendency to assume that people with one positive attribute (e.g., who are physically attractive) also have other positive traits.
For example, for each point increase on a 1 (homely) to 5 (strikingly attractive) scale of attractiveness, people are likely to earn an average of about $2,000 more a year.
For instance, attractive defendants are less likely than unattractive defendants to be found guilty when accused of a crime (Efran, 1974), and when they are found guilty, they are given lighter sentences (Stewart, 1980).
Attractive people are generally more outgoing, popular, and socially skilled , but they are not higher in self-esteem, life satisfaction, mental health, sensitivity, or intelligence. First, it turns out that people are often mistaken in their perceptions of how physically attractive other people think they are. So some people think they are less physically attractive than they really are. Second, no one wants to be valued only because of their looks or any other single characteristic. Highly attractive people may sometimes wonder if that's the only reason people compliment them or care for them.
When we see an attractive person, we assume all kinds of good things and become motivated to impress him. As a consequence, we are likely to be more pleasant and charming with him. Because we treat him in a more accepting and encouraging manner, he is likely to respond in kind.
The tendency to perceive a composite image of multiple faces that have been photographically averaged as more attractive than any individual face included in that composite.
And the more faces that are combined to create a composite face, the more attractive that face is perceived to be.
Another feature of faces that both men and women find attractive is bilateral symmetry. Symmetry occurs when the two sides of the face are mirror images of one another.
One indicator may be facial features. When people are developing in utero (in the womb) before birth, their genes are normally set up to create a symmetrical face and body, with no skeletal feature badly out of proportion. Yet if they are exposed to pathogens, parasites, or viruses during development, the result can be irregular and asymmetric features of the face and body.
Some research shows that men and women with more symmetrical faces are healthier than are people whose faces have odd proportions. For example, studies have found that symmetrical-faced individuals tend to have fewer respiratory and intestinal infections than less symmetrical individuals and have higher potential fertility.
Other research has shown: Researchers argue that the preference for averageness may be a byproduct of liking for familiarity and stimuli that are easily processed rather than the legacy of an evolved mechanism to read these cues as signals of health.
For Men, Signs of Fertility
One gender difference concerned preferred age. Across many cultures, men universally prefer their sexual partners to be younger than themselves. It is no surprise that men report a preference for female features that signal a potential mate's youth. For example, men like facial features that resemble to some extent those of a baby: large eyes, a small nose, a small chin, and full lips. But, in fact, men are most attracted to women whose "baby-faced" features are combined with features that signal maturity, such as prominent cheekbones and a broad smile.
An evolutionary perspective suggests that the challenge men face when attempting to reproduce is finding a mate who is fertile—put simply, capable of producing offspring. But how can men deduce a potential mate's fertility level? One useful clue is a woman's age. Women are not fertile until puberty, and their fertility ends after they reach menopause around age 50. As our species evolved, men who were attracted to features of women's faces and bodies that signal that they are young (but not too young) were more likely to find a fertile mate and successfully reproduce. Another physical feature linked to fertility in women is waist-to-hip ratio (0.7 is the best number).
A person's waist-to-hip ratio is largely determined by the distribution of fat on his or her body, which is determined by hormones. Women with a waist-to-hip ratio near the attractiveness norm of 0.7 have a particular mix of hormones (estradiol and progesterone) that allows them to become pregnant more easily and to enjoy better physical health than do women with fewer curves
For Women, Signs of Masculinity and Power
They might have pursued men whose physical features they associated with masculinity, virility, and social power, as well as men who could be counted on to invest resources in protecting and providing for them and their offspring. For example, women find most attractive those men who have a waist-to-hip ratio around 0.9, yielding a V shape that signals more muscle than fat (Singh, 1995). Height is also important in standards of male attractiveness. Other signs of masculinity are seen in a man's face. Preferences run to prominent cheekbones and a large chin.
Do Men Prefer Beauty? Do Women Prefer Status?
Buss's (1989) initial research suggested that these gender differences exist across the 37 countries he assessed. And when given pictures and background information of potential dating partners, men were more likely than women to base their preferences on appearance, selecting the more attractive women. In contrast, the better predictor of women's interest in a man was his income. In studies of online dating, wealthier guys get more e-mails from the ladies. Such evidence seems to support our stereotypes about what men and women want.
Because women in more egalitarian societies do not need to depend on their partners' earning capacity, they tend to report placing more value on the physical attractiveness of a potential mate.
Status and Resources
In days gone by, those lower in socioeconomic status worked outside as manual laborers. As a result, they tended to be more tanned than their financially well-off counterparts, and it seems, at least for the upper class, pale skin tones were culturally valued and considered attractive. But the Industrial Revolution and the consequent proliferation of factories changed those standards by moving many low-paying jobs indoors.
In cultures and societies in which resources such as food are scarce, men tend to prefer heavier women, but in cultures and societies with an abundance of resources, men prefer thinner women
The media's powerful effect on women's self-perceptions has spawned considerable research on the unhealthy consequences. A recent meta-analysis documented that at least 144 studies showed that media depictions of women—often falling under the rubric of the modern thin ideal we noted earlier—do indeed cause women to have problems coming to terms with their own body shapes and sizes, sometimes contributing to the development of serious eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Until young girls are no longer bombarded with extremely thin and otherwise unrealistic images of "beauty," the media will continue to contribute to body-image issues and the psychological and physical problems that result from them.
Couples + big emotions
Finally, even though some physical attributes are considered universally attractive, experience with a person can also elevate his or her beauty. Research clearly shows that people who are viewed positively or as familiar and who are liked or loved are all rated by perceivers to be more physically attractive. And the happier a couple is with their relationship, the more physically attractive they view each other as being.
Research reveals the importance of physical attractiveness, what people find physically attractive (and why), and the consequences for relationships.
The importance of physical attractiveness
Sexual and aesthetic appeal do predict liking.
Association with attractive people can bolster self-esteem.
Attractive people are stereotyped to have positive traits.
Common denominators of attractive faces
Composite and symmetrical faces are rated as more attractive, perhaps as a reflection of good health or because they seem familiar.
Gender differences in what is attractive
Men universally prefer a waist-to-hip ratio that suggests fertility.
At times of peak fertility, women seem to be more attracted to more masculine faces.
Men report an ideal preference for attractiveness and women an ideal preference for social and financial status.
In actual relationships, men and women are equally influenced by physical attractiveness and, to a lesser extent, partner status.
Women's stated preference for higher-status men might also be changing as women achieve greater equality.
Both men and women rank warmth and loyalty above all other factors.
Cultural and situational factors
Standards of beauty vary across cultures and over time.
Scarcity and status influence trends.
Mass media have been influential in creating impossible standards of beauty that may be hurtful to self-image, especially for women.
Is appearance destiny?
Attractiveness can change across time and place.
People can control their perceived attractiveness by being positive in expression and behavior.
Gender Differences in Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors
Men are much more likely than women to say that they would enjoy casual sex outside the context of a committed relationship, whereas women prefer to engage in sexual activities as part of an emotionally intimate relationship
If you ask teenagers how they feel about having sex for the first time, most of the young men cannot wait to lose their virginity, and only one third of them view the prospect with a mix of positive and negative feelings. Young women have a different view: Most are ambivalent about having sex, some are opposed, and only a third of them are looking forward to their first experience of sex
Men report regretting not pursuing a sexual opportunity much more often than women do
Once in a romantic relationship, men want to begin having sex sooner than women do, they want sex more often, and they are more likely to express dissatisfaction with the amount of sex they have
Young men experience sexual desire on average 37 times per week, whereas women experience sexual desire only about 9 times per week
Men also spend more time fantasizing about sex than women do: Sex crosses men's minds about 60 times per week; for women, only about 15 times
Men spend more money on sex. Not only do men spend a lot of money on sexual toys and pornography, men are much more likely than women to pay for sex
Men masturbate more frequently than women do
The time and effort that parents must invest in each child they produce.
Men's parental investment can be relatively low. If a man has sex with 100 different women in a year, he can, in theory, father as many as 100 children with little more time and effort than it takes to ejaculate. Women have a much higher level of parental investment
Approaches to mating that help people reproduce successfully. People prefer different mating strategies depending on whether they are thinking about a short-term pairing or a long-term commitment.
For men, there may be some benefit to a mating strategy of pursuing every available sexual opportunity and to focus more on a short-term mating strategy.
Women, in contrast, would get no reproductive benefit from being highly promiscuous. If they flitted from partner to partner, mating indiscriminately, they would not be able to produce any more children than they would by having sex with only one fertile man for a lifetime. Instead, women would benefit from a mating strategy of choosing their mates carefully, seeking out partners with good genes who would contribute resources to protect and feed their offspring. In other words, women might prefer a long-term mating strategy.
Lynne Cooper and colleagues (1998) have shown that many of these reasons for sex boil down to five core motives. Specifically, she finds that the among both college-student and community samples, the most frequently endorsed motives for sex are (in descending order) to enhance physical or emotional pleasure, to foster intimacy, to affirm one's sense of self-worth, to cope with negative emotions, and to gain partner or peer approval.
Cultural norms influence not only whether people engage in sex, but how comfortable they feel about reporting permissive sexual attitudes and behavior. But another explanation is that men tend to exaggerate the number of partners they've been with, whereas women tend to minimize that number. When men are asked about their number of partners, they tend to estimate the number rather than counting diligently, and when in doubt, they round up. Women, on the other hand, respond to researchers' inquiries into their sex lives by counting their partners more accurately and then fudging by subtracting a partner or two from their reported total.
Men exaggerate their numbers to appear like studs, and women downplay their numbers to appear chaste, then the difference between men and women would be especially pronounced if men and women were told that an experimenter would view their responses.
If men and women were put into a "bogus pipeline" condition in which they were led to believe that lying could be detected, sex differences in reported sexual behavior were almost nonexistent. So here we clearly see that cultural gender norms influence not only people's sexual behavior but also their willingness to report on it.
Reactions to Infidelity
From an evolutionary standpoint, people have a lot to lose from their partner's extrarelational affairs. The emotion of jealousy might have evolved to be an affective warning light signaling our partner's real or imagined indiscretions. Jealousy might cue us to be alert to possible rivals who could catch our partner's eye and woo him or her away.
The process of preventing others from mating with one's partner in order to avoid the costs of rearing offspring that do not help to propagate one's genes.
Thus women may have evolved to experience jealousy primarily in response to emotional infidelity, whereas men may have evolved to experience jealousy primarily in response to sexual infidelity.
Male participants imagining their partners sexually cheating on them had elevated skin conductance, indicative of an increased sympathetic response of the fight-or-flight type. Women showed higher levels of skin conductance when imagining that their partners had become emotionally attached to someone else.
Another culturally based argument is that men derive more self-esteem from their sex lives than women do, whereas women derive more self-esteem from being emotionally bonded to a partner than men do
When people are asked about each kind of infidelity independently rather than being forced to choose between one or the other, the normally observed sex difference seems to disappear.
In a study of both gay and straight men and women, straight men reported greater relative concern about sexual than about emotional infidelity, but gay men did not. In addition, every group reported greater concerns about emotional infidelity. When asked to recollect a time when a partner actually cheated on them, people were more upset about the emotional rather than the sexual aspects of the affair (Harris, 2002). In fact, most studies using the "choose your infidelity" method find that the percentage of men (typically straight) who say they would be more bothered by sexual infidelity is at or near 50%.
Men and women differ in behavior and attitudes toward sex. Explaining those differences requires a diversity of perspectives.
The evolutionary perspective
Men's attitudes reflect the reproductive advantages of mating with multiple women, while women's attitudes reflect the need to find one mate to help support child rearing.
Cultural norms also affect attitudes, as evidenced by the change in acceptance of premarital sex across generations as well as among cultures.
Men, women, and infidelity
There is some evidence that men and women view infidelity from different perspectives.
Researchers debate the relative role of evolution and culture in creating these differences.