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  • Mere Exposure Effect > the more exposure we have to a stimulus, the more apt we are to like it. The more familiar someone becomes, the more friendship blooms. However, this does not work if two people dislike each other ... then proximity obviously amplifies disgust for one another.

Experimental Basis
  • Westgate Housing (Festinger, Schachter, and Back 1950) >
    After WWII, waves of G.I.s went to college on government money. Many of these soldiers already had families, making regular student housing inappropriate. MIT resolved this issue by renting nearby Westgate apartment complexes. In 1950, friendship formation was tracked among the new couples at Westgate. Couples would name their three closest friends. 65% of the friends mentioned were in the same building. 41% of the next-door neighbors (19' apart) were close friends. 22% of those who were two doors away (38' apart) said so. Only 10% of those who lived on opposite ends of the hall (89' apart) said they were close friends. Attraction also depended on functional distance: people whose rooms were next to the building's mailboxes were more likely to have friends, since others would pass by them each day on the way to the mailbox.

Real-world Basis
  • Your friends > Most of your friends live in the same city, or state, or country.

  • There are 5 billion people in the world, and you'll only be able to interact with a tiny fraction of them. It's unreasonable to believe that you could someday find a perfect match for you in the far reaches of the world.

  • To get a friend to like you more, spend lots of time with him or her.

  • Evolutionary Argument > handsomer creatures tend to get more sexual partners and thus breed more. The selfish gene prefers handsomer specimens so it can increase its chances of propagating itself to future generations. In a modern-day context, attractive people earn more money and thus are more likely to survive. Attractive people are also less likely to have diseases and other physical failures.

Experimental Basis
  • Photograph & Phone Conversation (Snyder 1961) > Unacquainted males and females are put into separate phone booths. Neither can see each other. The males are given a picture of what their partner supposedly looks like. Half the males are given a picture of an attractive female. The other half are given a picture of an unattractive female. A conversation then ensues between the male and female, via headphones. Unbeknownst to the couple, judges are listening in and rating the quality of the conversation.

    picture given to male openness of male openness of female
    attractive female high high
    unattractive female low low

    The results can be explained by a self-fulfilling prophecy of attractiveness. Males see a picture of an attractive woman and assume that she is open and outgoing. Thus the males talk about extrovertive behaviors during the conversation, such as outdoors hobbies and clubbing. Naturally the females respond by discussing such things. Alternatively, males given an unattractive picture assume their conversation partner is introvertive, and thus the males become less open during the conversation. The female conversation partner naturally responds by being less open.

Real-world Basis
  • Archival analysis > Beauty is a tremendous advantage in life. Proven correlations:

    • more attractive --> lower bail for crimes
    • more attractive --> higher yearly income
    • more attractive --> more likely to be a celebrity
    • more attractive --> more likely to be helped in emergencies
    • more attractive --> more likely to get others to fill out annoying questionnaires

  • What-is-beautiful-is-good stereotype >
    Beautiful people are assumed to be more sociable, extroverted, popular, sexual, well adjusted, and friendly. These assumptions are universal. After that, more assumptions are made based on the culture of the beholder, as shown in studies by Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman in 1996. Individualistic societies (U.S. and Canada) further assume that beautiful people are indepedent, assertive, and self-reliant. Collectivist societies (Korea) did not make such assumptions, but rather, assumed that beautiful people had integrity, generosity, sensitivity, and concern for others.
  • Aristotle > "Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction."

  • People really do care about how you look. (So you should probably care too.)

  • Why are we attracted to similar people? Here are three possible explanations:

    • We assume that people who are similar to us will also like us.
    • Similar people provide social validation for our characteristics and beliefs, thereby boosting self-esteem.
    • We are repulsed by people who disagree with us on important issues.

Experimental Basis
  • Roommate Friendships (Theodore Newcomb 1961) > University of Michigan male college students randomly assigned to be roommates in a dormitory at the start of a school year. Similarity predicts friendship formation. Men became friends with those from the same demographic (e.g. race and economic background), as well as those with the same political attitudes and majors.

  • Communication Skill Matching (Burleson and Samter 1996) > People with high communication skills like people with high communication skills. People with low communication skills like people with low communication skills. A mismatch leads to frustrating conversations and eventual breakup.

Real-world Basis
  • Your friends > Just look at your friends and you'll notice that most have a lot in common with you. My friends tend to be intellectually curious people. Many of them are asian computer engineering majors like myself. They're also handsome and funny. I'm so great.

  • Contrary to the old saying, opposites usually don't attract.

  • Why is there agreement on standards of beauty?

    • Humaneness Recognition > Beauty may be a mechanism for recognizing that someone is human, and the aforementioned qualities may be ones that make a person most easily recognizable as human. When we see someone "soft on the eyes", we can relax a little, because the humaneness of the image is so clear.

    • Geometric Beauty > Standards of beauty may be related to natural mathematical proportions which have captivated humans across cultures since the beginning of time, such as the golden ratio (approximately 1.618:1). Some beautiful faces do seem to exhibit such geometric proportions.

Experimental Basis
  • Cross-cultural Attractiveness Ratings (Langlois 1990, 1994, 2000) > Participants were gathered from various countries, ethnicities and racial groups to rate the physical attractiveness of photographs of equally diverse people. Surprisingly, the perception of beauty is uniform across cultures. To support the hypothesis that there is an evolutionary basis for attraction, infants across cultures were also tested, and they prefer the same photographs that adults prefer.

  • Japan & UK Attraction Ratings (D.I. Perrett 1994) > Researchers took photographs of Japanese and Caucasian men and women. Participants in Japan and Great Britain were then asked to rate the physical attractiveness of these photographs. They agreed. The attractive faces had certain features in common. For instance, attractive females had higher cheekbones, a thinner jaw, and larger eyes relative to the size of the face.

  • If you're going to have plastic surgery, make you sure you order high cheekbones, a thin jaw, a big smile, small nose and chin, high eyebrows, large pupils, and large eyes relative to the size of your face. This information may seem facetious, but if you ever have plastic surgery, I think it's rather useful.
written by William Wu
page last modified Friday, 13-Jun-2003 11:21:41 PDT

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