Relationships (Psychology A-Level)

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Relationship Formation[edit]

You will learn the 4 Explanations of Formation of Relationships (Proximity, Reciprocal Liking, Similarity and Physical Attractiveness).
You will also learn about the Socio-Biological Explanation and the Reinforcement and Needs Satisfaction Theory

Explanation of Formation[edit]


Proximity (or the Meer Exposure Effect) tells us that when you see someone more often, you find yourself more attracted to them. This mainly revolves around the distance that you live from the person, so the further you live from someone, the less likely you are to meet and form a relationship.

Reciprocal Liking[edit]

Reciprocal Liking shows that the other person must like you, and you must like them in order to form the relationship. This can act as a Self Fulfilling Prophecy because if you believe the other person likes you, you will feel more confident in yourself and they will be more likely to like you.


Similarity shows that we are more likely to form relationships with people that we have things in common with. This will increase the likelihood of the two people meeting, and also getting along together. Elaine Hatfield (1961) proposed the Matching Hypothesis, which shows that people will usually form relationships with those of a similar attractiveness level, and that these are the people that we will have long standing relationships with.

Physical Attractiveness[edit]

Physical Attractiveness shows that we have to find the person attractive before we can form a relationship with them. This is the most immediate factor that you will notice about the other person.

Research and Evaluation[edit]


Festinger (1950) found that those who live closest to each other have more friendly relationships than those who live further away from each other. This shows that proximity is included in the formation of relationships, and therefore is supporting evidence for the Proximity Explanation.
Although, a criticism of this is that the experiment was done in 1950. This was before the internet and mobile phones were invented, and cars were not as popular as they are now. This shows that we have other means of communication with people so we do not have to be in close proximity to someone to be able to contact them. This does not support proximity as it shows that it is outdated and subject to an age bias.
Bossard carried out a study on 5000 married couples and found that before they got married, they lived near each other. This supports the view that Proximity affects relationship formation.


Newcombe (1961) carried out an experiment where he paired participants with someone similar to them and let them meet and interact with each other. The results show that the people in the study continued to be friends after the study. This supports the view that Similarity affects the formation of relationships.


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