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Chapter 11

Attraction & Exclusion

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Today’s Outline




Physical attractiveness



Causes of rejection

Effects of rejection




Attraction & Exclusion

As social animals, humans are, at their core, truly concerned with attraction and exclusion

Indeed the point of social psychology may be to understand why some are accepted and loved, while others are rejected

Take a moment to consider times in your life where you might have been afraid of romantic rejection or perhaps were seeking social acceptance with a new group of peers

Attraction & Exclusion

The need to belong is defined as the desire to form and maintain close, lasting relationships with some other individuals

Needing to belong is considered a fundamental drive or basic need of the human psyche

Warren Jones, “In two decades of studying loneliness, I have met many people who said they had no friends. I have never met any one who didn’t want to have any friends.”

Need to belong

From an evolutionary psychology perspective:

Attraction and acceptance are necessary for reproduction

Additionally, humans likely developed a herd mentality to increase our odds of survival

Consider all the ways we know our behavior changes in groups

Monkeys can recognize that any two monkeys may have an alliance, be forming one, or might be likely to fight

One theory is that the human brain developed more to keep track of a highly complex social world

Two components to belongingness

1. Regular, positive social interactions

Regular is key here, many of us have formed friendships but moved on to new situations in our life and lost regular contact with old friends

Positive is also key, hanging out with that person you always argue with doesn’t fill that social need

2. Stable relationship/friendship in which people share mutual concern for each other

Typically research has shown people want about 1-5 close friends

People are less concerned with casual friends/acquaintances

How bad for you is not belonging?

Belonging is called a need, not a want, perhaps for these reasons

Death rates from various diseases increase among people with no social connections (Lynch, 1979)

People who are alone have more mental and physical problems (Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996)

Loneliness reduces the ability of the immune system to heal the body (Cacioppo & Hawkley, 2005)

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites

Which old saying turns out to be true, “Birds of a feather flock together” or “Opposites attract”

The research has pointed to birds of a feather being the clear winner

In any relationship ranging from acquaintance to lover, opposites are unlikely to stay connected in the long run

Typically, but not always, our friends are similar in age, race, education level, political leaning, economic status, etc.

Note this is kind of a bad thing too, as it can lead us to assume everyone shares the opinions of your social group

How often do you see people unfriend others on Facebook over political disagreements?

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites


We tend to like friends who do the same activities that we do

Some researchers have even suggested that when a romantic couple gets into a relationship, if their levels of physical attractiveness aren’t quite similar, they will be more likely to break up

Have couples who are in different physical leagues stuck out to you as unusual?

Attraction – Similarity, complementarity, & opposites

Indeed, matching

hypothesis has been

supported, couples

are more likely to break

up if there’s a difference

in physical attractiveness

(even serious couples)

Attractiveness & Attraction

Speaking of physical attractiveness, most of us would say ‘we know it when we see it,’ but how do researchers define and measure it?

For starters, which of these 3 faces is the most attractive?

Attractiveness & Attraction

I chose the middle one. According to research findings, most people would choose either the middle or the right photo

The left photo is the original

Attractiveness & Attraction

Facial symmetry

Symmetrical faces are almost always rated as more attractive

The more symmetrical, the better

The implication is that facial symmetry implies genetic fitness. Asymmetry is a sign of genetic imperfections

To demonstrate that genetics are the explanation behind this, researchers (Thornhill & Gangestad, 1999) took the t-shirts that men slept in and asked women to smell and rate their scent

Some of the men had clear genetic asymmetry, length of pinky fingers or ear lobes

Women preferred the smell of men with genetic symmetry

They especially preferred the symmetric men’s scent when

at the point in their period when reproduction was ideal


Attractiveness & Attraction

Facial symmetry continued

More research has used computer software to merge/combine faces

For example, people rate the attractiveness of two faces, and then the faces are combined, and they rate the composite of the previous two faces

People mostly like composite faces better

In fact, the more faces that one combines, the more people liked it

E.g. a 16-face facial composite is preferred over a 4-face composite

Symmetrical, or ‘averaged,’ faces are preferred

Consider how saying someone looks inbred is the opposite

Lack of genetic diversity causes issues and is unappealing

Attractiveness & Attraction




Alright, we’ve covered faces, what about bodies?


Attractiveness & Attraction

Studies by Singh (1993) measured male ratings of silhouettes of woman’s bodies

He manipulated the size of the waist (belly fat) and the size of the hips

He find found that a low waist to hip ration, like .7, was preferred. This matches the standard hourglass shape people talk about

A small effect was found for women preferring men with a .9 waist to hip ratio

Subsequent research found the male shoulder to waist ratio was much more important, e.g. a V-shape

Attractiveness & Attraction

Alright, but how does physical attractiveness stack up to other aspects of attractiveness (having things in common, warmth, career success, etc.)

It can be summed up by one of my favorite quotes from your textbook authors:

“The fancy theories about matchmaking and similarity and reciprocity couldn’t shine through the overwhelming preference for the best-looking partners”

Attractiveness & Attraction

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