Close Relationships

By Pamela Regan. I’ve started reading it on account of it being ‘the type of book I should read.’

Although the ‘how-does-all-that-social-stuff-work-anyway’-field is full of self-help books, this isn’t one of them. It’s basically a systematic take on many relevant topics within the field of relationship science (apparently there’s a field called relationship science). From what I’ve been able to tell so far it’s the type of book I’ve been looking for for a long time.

The problem with reading a book like this is that it’ll probably include a lot of stuff most people already ‘sort of know’. When you read stuff where it’s easy to convince yourself that you already know this stuff to some extent, it gets easy to just read the words, nod along a bit, and then forget the stuff two days later. One way for me to try to counteract this tendency will be to stop reading for at least a bit of time everytime I reach a new chapter instead of just reading one page after the other until I get tired/hungry/whatever, which is how I most often tend to read stuff I enjoy reading.

Although it’s natural for a book like this to contain stuff you may already know there’s a difference between ‘rediscovering’ relevant information pertaining to the problem at hand, and then rereading stuff you already know and have no need to ‘rediscover’. I feel fairly certain that people reading along here have no need of reading chapter 2 and will be quite okay if they only skim chapters 1 and 3. I only briefly skimmed the first 3 chapters and my ‘stopping rule’ did not apply to those – I immediately realized that this was not where the interesting stuff’s at; to me the book proper doesn’t really start until chapter 4. That chapter is certainly a big part of what’s currently making me think the book is promising, and that’s even though it also covers some stuff I already knew (I’ve blogged some of these topics here before and I’m familiar with stuff like e.g. the mere-exposure effect).

If the book’s great I’ll probably just tell you it’s great. I’m not sure I’ll blog it in detail in that case because it’s quite likely that there’ll simply be too much great stuff in there to blog for me to want to go into a lot of details here.

Anyway, a little bit of stuff from chapter 4:

“The association between familiarity and interpersonal attraction has been extensively documented and is now one of the most robust findings in the literature (for reviews, see Bornstein, 1989; Zajonc, 2001). However, there is an important caveat: if our initial reaction to someone is negative, repeated exposure to that person is unlikely to produce attraction. In general, familiarity appears to strengthen first responses, such that a person who is initially disliked comes to be disliked even more, and a person who is initially liked comes to be liked even more, with increased exposure (e.g., Perlman & Oskamp, 1971). […]

Not only do people prefer potential partners who possess similar demographic characteristics, personality traits and dispositional tendencies, values and attitudes, and interests and hobbies (Markey & Markey, 2007; Regan et al., 2000; Sprecher & Regan, 2002), but similarity repeatedly has been shown to produce liking in laboratory experiments as well as in “real-life” contexts (e.g., Newcomb, 1961; for reviews, see Fehr, 2008; Montoya, Horton, & Kirchner, 2008). […] The results, across multiple studies with multiple participant samples (and age groups), are uniform and robust—attitude similarity generates attraction. […] responsiveness is another variable that is strongly associated with interpersonal attraction. Research consistently reveals that men and women report greater liking for individuals who are responsive than for those who are not […] Doreen Baringer and James McCroskey (2000) found a strong, positive correlation between student responsiveness and attraction among a sample of teachers. Specifically, teachers expressed higher amounts of positive affect for students who engaged in interpersonal behaviors indicative of responsiveness (such as sitting closer, establishing eye contact, smiling, leaning forward, engaging in positive head nods) than they did for less-responsive students. Similar results were reported more recently by psychologists Edward Lemay and Margaret Clark (2008). […] One of the reasons we pay particular attention to another person’s responsiveness may be because it imparts important information about the likelihood of a future relationship with him or her. People who are unresponsive—who avoid eye contact, refuse to respond (or respond inappropriately) when addressed by others, or remove themselves from social situations—are signaling a clear lack of interest in establishing a connection with us, and it makes sense that we would find them unappealing.
In sum, people tend to be attracted to individuals who possess desirable (and socially or culturally appropriate) characteristics, who resemble them along a number of dimensions, who are familiar, and who appear responsive. […]

In addition to physical or virtual proximity, social proximity — how close potential partners are to each other in the social environment or the extent to which their social networks overlap—also influences affiliation. Relationship scholars Malcolm Parks and Leona Eggert (1991) propose that communicative distance, or the number of people in each individual’s communication network that two persons must “go through” to reach each other for the first time, plays an important role in relationship beginnings. […] It seems that we meet many of our future partners through our current ones. […] our opportunities for interacting with someone are strongly influenced not only by the nature of the physical environment, but also by the closeness of our social connection to that person and the extent to which others in our social network approve of and directly facilitate the initial encounter. […]

fear of rejection is one of the primary reasons people give for their failure to initiate a potential relationship. […] In sum, in open field settings, people tend to approach those who are accessible for interaction and who they believe will be responsive to their initiation attempts.”


January 23, 2013 - Posted by | Books, Psychology

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