Interpersonal Attraction: What Matters First?

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            If you are dating someone or if you are married, think of reasons as to why you are with that person. What first made you attracted to that individual? Is it because they have a friendly personality, a positive attitude or even good looks? If you are single, think of your good friends. How did you become good friends with these people? In the branch of social psychology, there are many theories and principles that illustrate why certain people "fall in love" with each other or why certain people interact and become friends.

            According to the interpersonal attraction principle, social psychologists have identified several major factors that influence interpersonal attraction which is anything that draws two or more people together characterized by affection, respect, liking, or love ("Interpersonal attraction," 2010). In the initial attraction of two people, what matters first? Many factors leading to interpersonal attraction have been studied. The most frequently studied are: physical attractiveness, propinquity, responsiveness, similarity and reciprocal liking ("Interpersonal attraction," 2010). According to these five factors, we like those who live or work near us (propinquity), we like those who are physically attractive (physical attractiveness) and similar to us (similarity), we like those who are responsive to us (responsiveness) and we like those who like us (reciprocal liking).

            Now think back to your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. How did you first meet them? According to the factors listed above, you probably associated yourself with him or her because they constantly near you. You might've also associated yourself with him or her because they were attractive. If you are single, think of your good friends. Did you become close friends because you live or work near each other? Did you like your friends because they were similar to you? Propinquity, physical attractiveness, similarity, responsiveness and/or reciprocal liking are factors that--more than likely--played role to the interpersonal attraction of your friends, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, etc.




Interpersonal attraction. (2010, June). Retrieved from


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My husband and I have are a little different than most couples. We didn’t associate with each other because we were in close proximity to each other. In fact, the opposite was true. We met at my sister’s wedding. I was the maid of honor and he was the best man. We had never met before that day. My husband didn’t live near me until we moved in together. We didn’t fulfill the need of proximity until we were already in an established relationship.

My husband and I do model many similarities, which was something you mentioned as playing a role in interpersonal attraction. The similar-to-me effect explains that individuals enjoy the company of others who think and look like they do (Pennsylvania State University, 2011, p. 2).


Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2011). Applied Social Psychology (PSYCH 424) Lesson 14: Relationships/Everyday Life. Retrieved from online lecture notes

My husband and I attended high school together but never dated. I moved to Virginia in high school and he was one of the first people I met...I could not stand him. I thought he was arrogant. He was a jock and very confident. We had several classes together and he was a class clown. I kept my distance from him. When my parent began looking for a church when happen to join the same church the he and his family attended. It was important to both of our parents that we were active in church. Thus began the Proximity Effect. The Proximity Effect states that individuals tend to like persons more when they are closer to them. Proximity increases the opportunity for interactions and the likelihood that a connection will form. (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005, p 80) After sing on the youth choir and attending different church event my husband and I became friends. We both graduated class of 1999 and went our separate ways. As distance grew between us our relationship faded. In January 2007 we met back up when I asked him to attend a church banquet with me. He was not attending church at that time. We began to rekindle our friendship and in on September 9, 2008 we were married.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2005). Applied Social Psychology:
Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412915397

The interpersonal attraction principle is especially interesting in today’s society of matches made online. According to a study released by in April 2010, one in five couples met online. “Twice as many couples met through online dating sites than at social events, bars, and clubs combined” (Gleason, 2010). Supposedly the similarity part of the equation is handled for you by the company doing the matching (such as,, etc). Assuming the other person is posting accurate pictures of themselves, you can decide on a person’s physical attractiveness even before responding to their wink, email or other form of communication. Responsiveness and reciprocal liking is now judged by how quickly the other person Instant messages, texts, emails or Skypes us. The basic concept of the interpersonal attraction principle hasn’t changed even though the way in which it is implemented may have and love is still love.
Gleason, A. (2010, April 21). New Studies: one in five couples meet online. Retrieved December 9, 2011, from Examiner:

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