9.7 Interpersonal Attraction

3 min readdecember 27, 2022

Sumi Vora

Sumi Vora

Dalia Savy

Dalia Savy

AP Psychology 🧠

334 resources
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Did you ever wonder why you like someone or how attraction really forms? This key topic's for you!
There are three ingredients🍲 of attraction:


We are more likely to be attracted to those who live or work in close proximity to us. This is purely because of the mere-exposure effect, which says that increased exposure to something or someone makes us like them more.  Due to the mere exposure effect, we also like people whose facial features and name are similar to us, since we’ve been exposed to our own face and name forever! The mere exposure effect developed because of evolution: our ancestors only approached those that they felt comfortable with and truly knew 🤗

😍 Physical Attractiveness—impression

Conventional attractiveness is actually not unique at all—we prefer average-sized and symmetrical features. In women, men prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio and in men, women prefer masculine or dominant-looking features (like big muscles 💪). This is because when we evolved, we needed to be attracted to people who were able to produce healthy offspring 👶 
We base our first impressions on the person’s physical attractiveness, because we assume that attractive people are healthier, happier, more successful, and more sensitive.
However, we don’t necessarily believe that attractive people are more compassionate. Even though this is unfair, studies show that attractive people have higher paychecks, go on dates more often, and feel more popular. However, others are more likely to accept praise for their work as sincere. 


We also prefer people who are similar to us—if someone is similar to us, we like being around them and we want to stay in a relationship for longer.
The reward theory of attraction says that we like those whose behavior is rewarding to us 🏆 Here are some general examples:
  • If you talk to me, I like you more.
  • If we share the same beliefs, I like you more! I can talk about them with you and you validate my own.
  • If you are attractive, I enjoy working with you.
Similarity initiates a cycle of attraction: we like those who like us back, especially if we have low self esteem. We are also more likely to view kind and compassionate people as attractive.

❤️ Love 

At the beginning of a relationship, we experience passionate love: an aroused state during which we are intensely attracted to one another. Passionate love requires two ingredients: physical arousal and cognitive appraisal (interpreting our arousal as attraction to that person).
  • Arousal from an outside source can enhance these emotions—that’s why you may have heard that it’s beneficial to take your date to a scary movie or a roller coaster park to increase their attraction to you 🎢👻 
Companionate love comes after the passionate love phase, and it involves deep affectionate attachment for someone else. While passionate love involves a surge of dopamine and adrenaline, companionate love levels off those hormones and introduces oxytocin 🤗 If you feel like you’ve lost the “spark” of your earlier relationship, it doesn’t mean you’re falling out of love, it just means that you’ve entered the companionate love phase. 

Loving Relationships

Successful marriages still experience sexual attraction, but it is not an obsession. Successful marriages or long-term relationships also require equity, self-disclosure, and comfort.
  1. ⚖️ Equity is fairly splitting the workload, things, emotional support, etc. If one person is always needy while the other person doesn’t receive affection, for example, the relationship will fail. The effort should be about 50-50.
  2. 💖Self-disclosure makes sure that the relationship is intimate, but it has to go both ways (otherwise it’s not equitable). As one partner begins to reveal themselves, the other does too and they open up together. Intimacy is power in a relationship!
  3. 🥰Comfort and support are self-explanatory, but essential. There are more positive interactions within a healthy relationship than negative interactions. It's all about acceptance and care.

Image Courtesy of Luvze.

Closing Thoughts

This is the last key topic of the whole course! I hope you've found it really interesting and I wish you luck on your exam; you got this!
As always, if you have any questions you can visit the Fiveable community and we'll be there to help you.
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