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Interpersonal attraction is the attraction between people which contributes to interpersonal relationships in general and friendships, romantic love and other intimate relationships in particular. The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of study in social psychology.


Many factors leading to interpersonal attraction have been studied. The most frequently studied are:

  1. Familiarity
  2. Physical attractiveness
  3. Propinquity
  4. Reciprocal liking
  5. Reward/Reinforcement
  6. Similarity

Matching hypothesis

The matching hypothesis states that interpersonal attraction is more likely when the other person's physical attractiveness is similar to our perception of our own physical attractiveness.

Equity theory

The equity theory suggests that physical attractiveness is one reward in a relationship, but there are many different rewards and costs that appear over time. According to the equity theory, a relationship continues if the rewards are greater than the costs, however many people argue that this is not the case mainly due to the emotions involved.

Evolutionary theories

The evolutionary explanation of interpersonal attraction is that it more likely occurs when someone has physical features which indicate that they are very fertile. According to this theory, the only purpose of relationships is reproduction and so we "invest" in someone who appears very fertile to increase the chance of our genes being passed down to the next generation. This theory has been criticized because it does not explain relationships between people who do not want children or homosexual couples.

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts


  • Huston,T.L.(1974) (ed.)Foundations of Interpersonal Attraction, New York: Academic Press.


  • Berscheid, E (1976) Theories of interpersonal attraction. In: B.B. Wolman and L.R. Pomeroy (eds) International Encyclopaedia of Neurology, Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis and Psychology, New York: van Nostrand Reinhold.
  • Berscheid, E. (1985) Interpersonal attraction. In: G. Lindzey and E. Aronson (eds) The Handbook of Social Psychology, 3rd edn, New York: Random House.
  • Byrne, D. (1961) Interpersonal attraction and attitude similarity, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 62:713-15.
  • Byrne, D. (1971) The Attraction Paradigm, New York: Academic Press.
  • Byrne, D. and Nelson, D. (1965) Attraction as a linear function of proportion of positive reinforcements, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1: 659-63.
  • Clore, G. and Byrne, D. (1974) A reinforcement-affect model of attraction. In: T.L. Huston (ed.)Foundations of Interpersonal Attraction, New York: Academic Press.
  • Clore, G.L., Wiggins, N.H. and Irkin, S. (1975) Gain and loss in attraction: attributions from non-verbal behaviour, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 31: 706-12.
  • Helmreich, R., Aronson, E. and Lefan, J. (1970) To err is humanising - sometimes! Effects of self-esteem, competence and a pratfall on interpersonal attraction, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 16: 259-64
  • Huston, T.L. (1973) Ambiguity of acceptance, social desirability and dating choice, Journal of Experimental Psychology 9: 32-42.
  • Huston, T.L. and Levinger, G. (1978) Interpersonal attraction and relationships, Annual Review of Psychology 29: 115-56.
  • Saegert, S., Swap, W. and Zajonc, R.B. (1973) Exposure, contact and interpersonal attraction, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 25: 234-42.

Additional material



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