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The 6 theories of interpersonal attraction

The 6 theories of interpersonal attraction

March 1, 2021

One of the main concerns that has traditionally invaded the human being as a social animal is the search for a person to occupy the role of a partner or sexual partner.

However, what mechanisms underlie the fact of focusing more on some people than others? Why are we attracted to some people and not others?

Some theorists of social psychology have defined a series of theories of attraction They try to explain what mechanisms or steps a person follows, unconsciously, when feeling any type of attraction for another.

  • Related article: "The power of looking at each other's eyes: playing with the laws of attraction"

What is the attraction?

The physical or sexual attraction that people experience it is defined as the faculty of generating and attracting interest on a physical, sexual or emotional level of other people. Also, according to some authors, the attraction would refer exclusively to sexual or erotic interest.


However it is found that people can also feel a romantic attraction towards someone, It is not necessary that sexual attraction and emotional attraction occur simultaneously, that is, the existence of one does not necessarily imply the existence of the other.

Research in the field of psychology has revealed that there are a number of variables that influence the time a person may feel attracted to another or not. The variables that influence the attraction are:

1. Physical attractiveness

Regardless of the conceptions that each individual has about who is attractive and who is not, this point has a very important weight when it comes to feel attraction to a person.


2. Excitation

According to a series of investigations, Contexts or situations that generate high emotional excitement They create a perfect environment to generate passionate stimuli.

In this way, people who are involved, together, in situations or states of tension, are more likely to be attracted to each other.

3. Proximity

This is one of the simplest and at the same time most important variables. The spatial proximity factor is what determines how many people we can meet , and therefore with how many you can have the possibility of intimacy.

However, in the age of internet, the so-called "virtual proximity" element that increasingly gains more weight, enabling people to get to know each other without the need to be geographically close.

4. Reciprocity

Demonstrations or displays of intimacy almost always produce more expressions of intimacy. This means that it is usually the people they are attracted to other people that they like or, at least, those who think they like it.


In addition, reciprocity is usually important insofar as it allows knowing the other. That is, people tend to be attracted to those who show themselves as they are. Likewise, when one person opens up to another, feelings of attraction are usually generated as long as they occur reciprocally.

5. Similarity

This factor can occur in different ways, such as similarities in terms of age, education, economic status, hobbies , self-esteem, etc. The more similarities there are between two people, the more likely they are to be attracted to each other.

6. Obstacles

According to this factor, as in the case of Romeo and Juliet, love increases with obstacles. In many occasions, the interferences that may arise end up intensifying the feelings for the other person even more, or making two people feel even more united when having a "common enemy" to fight.

This factor can occur to such an extent that couples believe supposed external enemies against whom fight together However, it is necessary that these "enemies" are rather weak. In addition, this constant search for interference to enhance feelings of love may end up turning against the couple.

Theories of attraction

Although they do not have to occur simultaneously, all these factors and previous variables are necessary to be present to a greater or lesser extent so that they can trigger the attraction or even the infatuation.

Following them, a series of interpersonal attraction theories have been developed that explain how different feelings of attraction arise in people.

1. Theory of "hard to get"

This theory is related to the factor of the obstacles in the relationship. His main idea is that People are attracted to what they can not get or that, at a minimum, there are a large number of difficulties for this.

This observation can also be attributed to interpersonal relationships, in which both men and women are attracted to those people they perceive as "hard to come by". However, this theory specifies that the attraction is not towards people who are perceived to be hard to get for others, but relatively affordable for oneself.

In psychology this fact is explained by the theory of the reactance , according to which many people want that is impossible or complicated to achieve. These individuals feel that their freedom to choose or are opposed to restricting their freedom is being undermined.

On the other hand, this assumption also explains that a person who has never felt any interest in a third party that has always perceived as achievable or available, begins to desire it at the moment when it ceases to be.

  • Related article: "Psychological reactance: what is it and what are its effects?"

2. Theory of similarity

As described above, the similarity factor is a very important element when it comes to feeling attracted to someone.

According to this hypothesis, people tend to choose as a couple those with whom they feel comforted, and possibly the most comforting characteristic of a potential loving partner is that looks as much as possible to oneself , at least in some fundamental factors.

3. Theory of complementarity

Related to the previous theory, some researchers propose that people do not choose their partners by similarity, but by complementarity.

This means that potential couples are chosen because they are complementary to the person. That is, they have a series of skills or they stand out in aspects in which the person does not do it . For example, if a person describes himself or herself as a talker, it is very likely that he will turn his attention to someone who can listen.

  • Related article: "Are polar opposites really attracted?"

4. Theory of sequential filtering

This theory combines the two previous ones. According to this theoretical model, At first the person seeks that the other is similar to her in certain basic aspects such as age, education, social class, etc.

In the event that the relationship prospers, and you begin to see the other as a potential romantic partner, the similarity of personal values ​​begins to become relevant and, finally, in a third stage the complementary aspects come into play.

5. Theory of role-stimulus-value

In relation to the approaches that this theory proposes, for two people to feel a mutual attraction it is necessary, first of all, that these correspond to each other at a basic level, this level is formed by age, physical appearance, economic position, first impressions, etc.

After the union, the person begins to give greater importance to the values ​​of the other Having the relationship more chances of success if at a deeper level people share their personal values.

In the last stage of the attraction and falling in love process, Potential partners are discarded as long as the issues of role are not compatible . Two people may have very close values, but over time discover that their expectations of role as a couple do not match.

6. Theory of the dyadic formation

This last theory proposes that in order for a relationship to develop positively a series of stages must be completed, otherwise, sooner or later, the relationship will be broken. These stages or processes are:

  • Perception of similarities
  • Good relationship
  • Fluid communication through mutual opening
  • Affable roles for each one separately
  • Affable roles within the couple
  • Dyadic crystallization: it consists in the creation of an identity as a couple and in the determination of the level of commitment.

All these theories come mainly from social psychology. However, there is a group of theories called Practical Theories that are the result of the professional experiences of professional psychotherapists, including Sigmund Freud, Abraham Maslow or Erich Fromm.


Interpersonal Attraction (March 2021).


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