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Reciprocal liking is a psychological term to describe an effect where a person who is liked by another will tend to return that liking. It reflects the notion that people enjoy the company of those who give them positive feelings. It is one of the qualities used to explain interpersonal attraction.

In one experiment, just the act of expressing interest in the males she was working with caused them to like her better, despite differences of opinion on major issues. Reciprocal liking works because of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Possibly the most important factor to the extent someone will like us depends on how much we believe the person does. Another experiment tested this by pairing college students together. Both groups received different types of special information. One group was told their partner liked them and the other group was told their partner disliked them. The "liked" group was much friendlier to each other and argued less (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005). The person's self-esteem also plays a role. Those with positive self-esteem respond to reciprocal liking while those with negative self-esteem have a surprising reaction. They preferred to work with someone that has criticized them in the past rather than someone who treats them well. They feel as though they do not deserve it and will continue this cycle.


  • Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D., & Akert, A.M. (2005). Social Psychology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.