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Attraction - Situational Factors In Attraction, Target Factors In Attraction, Perceiver Factors In Attraction

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationships

Attraction is an interactive process that involves one person who transmits verbal, visual, or other stimuli, and another who responds more or less positively to those stimuli. Early research viewed the attraction response as an attitude toward the target person that included favorable evaluations and the expectation that approach behaviors, such as a willingness to work with or date the person, were likely to be rewarding. Later, attraction was seen as having emotional components, which included the possibility of ambivalent feelings of simultaneous liking and disliking (Berscheid and Reis 1998). Recently, it was recognized that attraction also involves motivational qualities, such as a yearning or desire for connection with a person, based on the perception that he or she is fit to satisfy one or more of the perceiver's needs. The motivational analysis of attraction suggests that satisfaction is produced if a relationship with an attractive person is established, disappointment occurs if the other person rejects the relationship, and sadness or anger follows if a relationship is first formed, then broken (Baumeister and Leary 1995).

The motivational analysis also notes that the perceiver's motives determine the criteria used for judging the attractiveness of the other person, and such criteria may vary depending on whether the perceiver needs a long-term romantic partner, friend, mentor, employee, or a child to adopt (Cunningham et al. 1995). Thus, the motivational analysis suggests that attraction is influenced by characteristics of the target person being evaluated as attractive; by the perceiver's needs, feelings and traits; and by the situation in which the perceiver is exposed to the target, which may influence both the perception of the stimulus and the positivity of the response. Much of the research on interpersonal attraction focused on evaluations of potential romantic partners, but many of the variables are relevant to other forms of relationships as well.


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