Attraction in Close Relationships
- LAST REVIEWED: 09 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0158
- LAST REVIEWED: 09 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0158
Interpersonal attraction—liking or positive sentiment—plays a fundamental role in human life. The experiences we have and the outcomes we receive in virtually all areas of our existence—developmental, educational, occupational, social, relational, physical, and mental, to name a few—are deeply and continuously affected by the sentiments, feelings, and attitudes we evoke in others. Indeed, the answer to the question of who likes/dislikes us, who loves/hates us, or who is merely indifferent to us determines not only the personal, interpersonal, and social opportunities and outcomes we receive, but also the quality and even the quantity of our very lives. Although interpersonal attraction permeates and influences all human interactions and relationships, it plays a particularly important role in the formation and development of voluntary close relationships such as friendships and romantic relationships. Voluntary relationships typically are born within an open interaction field in which each potential partner is relatively free to initiate (or refrain from initiating) the relationship; consequently, the development and continued survival of these relationships is heavily dependent on the partners’ degree of attraction to one another. Thus, most theoretical and empirical work conducted on interpersonal attraction and relationship development—and virtually all work cited in this bibliography—is focused on voluntary relationships (and may not be applicable to nonvoluntary relationships [e.g., parent-child, coworker, arranged marriage]). The first section of this article introduces general review articles and books that summarize the scientific literature on interpersonal attraction and close relationship development. The second section focuses on theories of attraction and includes citations for the early models that focused primarily on attraction between strangers in lab settings, as well as more general process-oriented models that explain attraction in initial encounters and throughout subsequent relationship development. The third section presents research on the general factors that have been shown to generate liking and spark relationship initiation and development (e.g., familiarity, similarity, responsiveness, desirable partner attributes, physical attractiveness, proximity, receptivity). The article’s remaining sections cover research exploring the communication of attraction (i.e., flirting), and theory and research on one important and extensively investigated type of attraction—love.
Interpersonal attraction is one of the most commonly studied topics in the field of psychology. Social psychologists, particularly those specializing in attitudes, social perception and cognition, impression formation, and close relationships, have made the most sustained contributions to the topic. One of the earliest and most significant reference works is Huston 1974. This edited work contains chapters exploring multiple facets of interpersonal attraction, written by premier scholars, and provides a solid introduction to early attraction theory and research. Equally important are the early reviews—Newcomb 1956, Byrne and Griffitt 1973, and Huston and Levinger 1978. Berscheid 1985 and Berscheid and Reis 1998, as well as the entirety of the edited books Hendrick and Hendrick 2000 and Sprecher, et al. 2008, offer comprehensive and more contemporary overviews of major theories, research, and developments in the realm of interpersonal attraction and close relationships; these works are essential reading for any interested student or scholar.
Berscheid, Ellen. 1985. Interpersonal attraction. In The handbook of social psychology. 3d ed. Vol. 2. Edited by Gardner Lindzey and Elliot Aronson, 413–484. New York: Random House.
Written by one of the premier scholars in the area, this article provides a comprehensive overview of theory and research on interpersonal attraction through the mid-1980s.
Berscheid, Ellen, and Harry T. Reis. 1998. Attraction and close relationships. In The handbook of social psychology. 4th ed. Vol. 2. Edited by Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, 193–281. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
This update to Berscheid 1985 reviews two decades of additional theoretical and empirical developments pertaining to interpersonal attraction and close relationships, and is an especially useful primer for undergraduate and graduate students interested in the area.
Byrne, Donn, and William Griffitt. 1973. Interpersonal attraction. Annual Review of Psychology 24:317–336.
Written by two pioneering researchers in the area of attraction, this early review article provides an excellent overview of the measurement of attraction, existing theories of attraction, and empirical research on factors (such as similarity) that influence attraction.
Hendrick, Clyde, and Susan S. Hendrick, eds. 2000. Close relationships: A sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
This edited book is a valuable reference for readers interested in attraction and close relationships. Chapters explore the factors that influence attraction and relationship development in diverse partnerships and populations (among children, adolescents, the elderly, homosexual and heterosexual adults, etc.).
Huston, Ted L., ed. 1974. Foundations of interpersonal attraction. New York: Academic Press.
Containing chapters written by premier scholars in the area, this now-classic edited book continues to serve as a useful guide to the early theories and research that form the basis for contemporary work on interpersonal attraction.
Huston, Ted L., and George Levinger. 1978. Interpersonal attraction and relationships. Annual Review of Psychology 29:115–156.
This review article represents one of the first summaries of the interpersonal attraction literature. Of particular interest is the authors’ discussion of social and cultural influences on attraction and the need to investigate those external influences more systematically (a state of affairs that, unfortunately, continues to characterize contemporary attraction research).
Newcomb, Theodore M. 1956. The prediction of interpersonal attraction. American Psychologist 11.11: 575–586.
In this, his entertaining and thoughtful presidential address to the American Psychological Association, Newcomb summarizes the state of attraction theory and research as it existed in the 1950s. Knowledgeable readers will appreciate Newcomb’s prescience with respect to many issues that subsequently became central to scholarship in the area.
Sprecher, Susan, Amy Wenzel, and John Harvey, eds. 2008. Handbook of relationship initiation. New York: Psychology Press.
The chapters in this multidisciplinary book cover research and theory on interpersonal attraction and relationship initiation. Each chapter focuses on a distinct aspect of the process or context of initial attraction and relationship beginnings, and the book as a whole provides a comprehensive introduction to this area.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Abnormal Psychology
- Action Research
- Addictive Behavior
- Affective Forecasting
- Allport, Gordon
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Animal Behavior
- Animal Learning
- Anxiety Disorders
- Art and Aesthetics, Psychology of
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Adults
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Childre...
- Attraction in Close Relationships
- Attribution Theory
- Authoritarian Personality
- Behavior Therapy, Rational Emotive
- Behavioral Economics
- Behavioral Genetics
- Bereavement and Grief
- Biological Psychology
- Birth Order
- Body Image in Men and Women
- Bystander Effect
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Consistency Theories
- Cognitive Dissonance Theory
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Communication, Nonverbal Cues and
- Comparative Psychology
- Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
- Coping Processes
- Counseling Psychology
- Critical Thinking
- Cross-Cultural Psychology
- Cultural Psychology
- Death and Dying
- Deceiving and Detecting Deceit
- Defensive Processes
- Depressive Disorders
- Development, Prenatal
- Developmental Psychology (Cognitive)
- Developmental Psychology (Social)
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM...
- Dissociative Disorders
- Drugs and Behavior
- Eating Disorders
- Ecological Psychology
- Educational Settings, Assessment of Thinking in
- Embodiment and Embodied Cognition
- Emerging Adulthood
- Emotional Intelligence
- Environmental Neuroscience and Environmental Psychology
- Ethics in Psychological Practice
- Evolutionary Psychology
- Eyewitness Testimony
- Factor Analysis
- Festinger, Leon
- Five-Factor Model of Personality
- Flynn Effect, The
- Friendships, Children's
- Fundamental Attribution Error/Correspondence Bias
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Game Theory and Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Heuristics and Biases
- History of Psychology
- Human Factors
- Implicit Association Test (IAT)
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Intercultural Psychology
- Intergroup Conflict
- International Classification of Diseases and Related Healt...
- International Psychology
- Interviewing in Forensic Settings
- Intimate Partner Violence, Psychological Perspectives on
- Item Response Theory
- Law, Psychology and
- Learned Helplessness
- Learning versus Performance
- LGBTQ+ Romantic Relationships
- Lie Detection in a Forensic Context
- Life-Span Development
- Locus of Control
- Meaning in Life
- Mechanisms and Processes of Peer Contagion
- Memories, Autobiographical
- Memories, Flashbulb
- Memories, Repressed and Recovered
- Memory, Human
- Memory, Implicit versus Explicit
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
- Moral Development
- Moral Psychology
- Moral Reasoning
- Neuroscience of Associative Learning
- Obsessive-Complusive Disorder (OCD)
- Operant Conditioning
- Optimism and Pessimism
- Organizational Justice
- Parenting Stress
- Path Models
- Peace Psychology
- Perception, Person
- Personality Disorders
- Personality Psychology
- Placebo Effects in Psychology
- Positive Psychology
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Prejudice and Stereotyping
- Prisoner's Dilemma
- Prosocial Behavior
- Prosocial Spending and Well-Being
- Psychology, Political
- Psychophysics, Visual
- Psychotic Disorders
- Reasoning, Counterfactual
- Rehabilitation Psychology
- Religion, Psychology and
- Research Methods
- Risk Taking
- Schizophrenic Disorders
- School Psychology
- Self, Gender and
- Self, Psychology of the
- Self-Regulation in Educational Settings
- Sensation Seeking
- Sex and Gender
- Sexual Minority Parenting
- Sexual Orientation
- Single People
- Skinner, B.F.
- Sleep and Dreaming
- Small Groups
- Social Class and Social Status
- Social Cognition
- Social Neuroscience
- Social Touch and Massage Therapy Research
- Somatoform Disorders
- Sports Psychology
- Stereotype Threat
- Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis
- Teaching of Psychology
- Terror Management Theory
- Testing and Assessment
- Theory of Mind
- Therapies, Person-Centered
- Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral
- Thinking Skills in Educational Settings
- Time Perception
- Trait Perspective
- Twin Studies
- Type A Behavior Pattern (Coronary Prone Personality)
- Women and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM...
- Women, Psychology of