Attraction, Love, Relationship Schemas and Stages

Antecedent of attraction

Social psychologists argue that there is no one antecedent of attraction but rather that it is caused by numerous factors that include but are not limited to propinquity effect, similarity, reciprocal liking, social exchange, and liking (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, & Sommers, 2016). Similarity or a match between people in terms of their hand gestures, postures, and facial expressions among others is known to fuel attraction (Montoya & Horton, 2013). Propinquity or proximity effect is another important predictor of attraction. There is a large body of evidence suggesting that proximity that results in familiarity can increase likability of individuals to a significant extent. If socially desirable non-verbal behaviors of a person are observed by another individual for a long time they are more likely to induce favorable attributions in the observer (Finkel et al., 2015). Numerous studies point to the fact that when it comes to attraction, men do not pay less attention to physical attractiveness than women (Aronson et al., 2016; Tsai, Huang, & Yu, 2012). Physical attractiveness is such a strong predictor of attraction that during job interviews applicants who score high on a scale of beauty are more likely to receive positive interviewer evaluations than their less attractive counterparts (Tsai et al., 2012).

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Companionate love and passionate love

Social psychologists recognize two types of love: companionate love and passionate love (Aronson et al., 2016). Companionate love relates to affectionate feelings that one experiences toward another person without being physiologically aroused by them. This kind of love is a characteristic attribute of relationships between friends, siblings, or couples that have been married for a long time. Unlike companionate love, passionate love is associated with physiological arousal or muscular and hormonal changes in one’s body (Diamond & Dickenson, 2012). Even though these two kinds of love are fundamentally related behaviors manifested by individuals experiencing them are fundamentally different. An example of passionate love from the media is a relationship between two main characters of the movie Titanic. A long-term relationship between Carl and Ellie, protagonists of an animation movie Up, is an example of compassionate love. There is plenty of evidence suggesting that passionate love and desire are interconnected at the neurological level (Diamond & Dickenson, 2012). While the main characters in Titanic experience sexual desire towards each other, which is a distinct feature of passionate love, the couple in Up is not associated with the feelings of passion but rather with late stages of romantic love that are not characterized by neurobiological activation of desire-specific brain areas (Diamond & Dickenson, 2012).

Relationship schemas

According to attachment theory, attachment styles developed in infancy have a bearing on relationship schemas that people have throughout their adult lives (Aronson et al., 2016). It means that those individuals who as children had trust in their caregivers are more likely to develop meaningful, long-lasting intimate relationships than those people whose parents were distant and aloof. Similarly, individuals who were characterized by ambivalent attachment style in infancy will probably be worried about the lack of reciprocity in respect to affection from their adult partners (Aronson et al., 2016).

Attachment theorists believe that couples with different attachment styles might experience challenges associated with quality of their relationships (Hollan, Fraley, & Roisman, 2012). If a female of secure attachment style is paired with a male of anxious attachment style they might experience difficulties with relating to each other. The male might be concerned with a seeming lack of reciprocity due to his increased sensitivity to the issue of rejection. The female who is low on anxiety would not be driven by the desire to use her partner as a safe haven during stressful situations and would find it difficult to understand the excessive dependence of the male. If a female, on the other hand, is also provided with a lens of attachment-related anxiety through which she can interpret the behavior of the male with anxious attachment style she would better understand his doubts and worries.

Relationship dissolution

Relationship dissolution is a multi-stage process that is usually triggered by two types of destructive behaviors: actively disrupting a relationship and passively allowing a relationship to worsen. Constructive behaviors exhibited by couples during the process of breaking up are active attempts to mend a relationship and passively waiting for a crisis to end. There are four stages of the proses of ending an intimate relationship: intrapersonal (protractive introspection), dyadic (discussion with a partner), social (announcement of a break-up to other people), and intrapersonal (rumination on a relationship dissolution) (Aronson et al., 2016). Individuals with a high level of responsibility for ending a relationship are referred to as ‘breakers,’ while those who are the least responsible for a break-up are called ‘breakees’ (Aronson et al., 2016). There is also a third group of shared responsibility who are usually labeled as ‘mutuals.’ (Aronson et al., 2016). Breakers usually feel guilty and unhappy after a break up; however, breakup experiences of breakees are far worse—they are miserable and often report being depressed and angry to the point of experiencing physical weakness. Headaches, disruption of sleep patterns, and mood swings are physical symptoms associated with 39 percent of people who were abandoned by their partners (Aronson et al., 2016). Mutuals are usually affected less than breakees but more than breakers.


Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., Akert, R. M., & Sommers, S. R. (2016). Social psychology (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Diamond, L. M., & Dickenson, J. A. (2012). The neuroimaging of love and desire: Review and future directions. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 9(1), 39-46.

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Finkel, E., Norton, M., Reis, H., Ariely, D., Caprariello, P., Eastwick, P..,…Maniaci, M. R. (2015). When does familiarity promote versus undermine interpersonal attraction? A proposed integrative model from erstwhile adversaries. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(1), 3-19.

Hollan, A., Fraley, C., & Roisman, G. (2012). Attachment styles in dating couples: Predicting relationship functioning over time. Personal Relationships, 19(1), 234-246.

Montoya, R., & Horton, R. (2013). A meta-analytic investigation of the processes underlying the similarity-attraction effect. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(1), 64-94.

Tsai, W., Huang, T., & Yu, H. (2012). Investigating the unique predictability and boundary conditions of applicant physical attractiveness and non-verbal behaviours on interviewer evaluations in job interviews. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 85(1), 60-79.

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StudyCorgi. "Attraction, Love, Relationship Schemas and Stages." December 30, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Attraction, Love, Relationship Schemas and Stages." December 30, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Attraction, Love, Relationship Schemas and Stages'. 30 December.

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