14
Apr 14

Is Premarital Counseling Becoming a Necessity?

Is Premarital Counseling Becoming a Necessity?
With the ever increasing rate of divorce among first, second, and even third marriages, the effort to “not become another statistic” is more widely-discussed than ever.  As the honeymoon lens wears off and we see our new spouse in a new marital light, it is not uncommon for us to not find them as attractive a partner as originally thought.  Among the options to help minimize this discomfort is premarital counseling.  Premarital counseling is by no means a new phenomena, however, it is no longer only popular among those with devout religious beliefs or among those looking to get the blessing of their pastor or priest.  Does it really work?
According to one study, premarital counseling that focuses on assessing each partners’ traits and behaviors before walking down the aisle may be extremely beneficial (Larson and Thomas, 1994).  Taking the time to notice whether our intended spouse displays abnormally high anxiety or bouts of irritability that may be a precursor to further marital discontent is key to deciding whether to move forward with wedding plans (1994).  This study sheds light on the importance of discussing each partner’s attitude toward their new marital role and their overall long-term commitment to the relationship (1994).  Actually taking the time to get to know the partner in the context of marriage and not just a token toward a dream wedding is key to future marital bliss.  After the guests go home and we look at our partner, are we disappointed in what we see?
Another study further emphasizes the benefits of premarital counseling for couples intent on walking down the aisle.  Taking part in premarital counseling sees statistically significant increases in relationship satisfaction compared to couples who forego this option (Carlson, Daire, Munyon, and Young, 2012).  This important counseling may not just benefit the couple, but each partner independently.  Premarital counseling was also found to significantly decrease individual distress after the wedding among men (2012).  These benefits along with the fact that participating in premarital counseling lowers divorce probability and relationship conflict while increasing relationship quality makes it a no-brainer (2012).
In a world that is more selfish than ever, it is important to make sure we are making life-altering decisions for the right reasons, not just because it will look great in a Facebook status update.  A big, impressive wedding may be a terrific experience to plan and show off to friends and loved ones, but it is also necessary to do our due diligence to make sure the person we come home from the honeymoon with is someone we want to spend the rest of our vacations with.  Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming “just another statistic”.
References:
Carlson, R., Daire, A., Munyon, M., and Young, M.  (2012).  A comparison of cohabiting and noncohabiting couples who participated in premarital counseling using the prepare model The Family Journal April 2012 20: 123-130, doi:10.1177/1066480712441588
Larson, J. H., & Holman, T. B. (1994). Premarital predictors of marital quality and stability. Family Relations, 43(2), 228.  Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/213936389?accountid=13158

14
Apr 14

Do looks matter?

No matter where you go in life, you will find people that are attractive. Although everyone has their own likes and dislikes, there are people that are seen as beautiful to almost everyone. When we are first introduced to people, physical appearance is one of the first impressions that we get. With that being said, our looks do matter in a certain way.

The primacy effect is when we tend to be influenced by information that is presented first, such as physical appearance. (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012) With physical appearance being important, some would wonder where this would matter. The truth is, it matters in almost every situation that humans are faced with.

One example of this would be an interview. This is because when you go to an interview, you are normally going to be meeting people for the first time. Although our hopes would be that those who interview us would only remember the knowledge that we have and what we can bring to the company, our physical appearance is also remembered. Studies have shown that first impressions dominate the views in an interview. (Shaheen, 2010) This is why good looking people are often remembered. When people are good looking they have good first impressions, but they are seen to be better people in general. (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012) This could cause unfairness in the interview because although a person may be beautiful, that does not mean they are qualified to work at a job.

Unfortunately, not everyone is thought of as being attractive. This causes a disadvantage to them because they may not have opportunities in life that others will have. In some cases, these people will not even try to complete goals (such as working at a certain job) because they are afraid of what others will think of them.

In society, many people who are in a relationship may also be affected by the primacy effect because they could be stereotyped by their significant other. I know many people that have failed relationships because their significant other comments on their attractive friends. This is unfair to them because although someone may be attractive, they could also have a conceded personality which is not always seen as attractive. To get through this, they need to realize that first impressions do matter to an extent. With that being said, you may not be the most attractive person but other qualities matter in the long run.

 

References

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Shaheen, J. (2010) The Recency and Primacy Effects in the Talent Acquisition Process. Retrieved from http://www.ere.net/2010/02/25/the-recency-and-primacy-effe cts-in-the-talent-acquisition-process/


14
Apr 14

Infancy and Adult Attachment

John Bowlby developed the theory of attachment. The theory addressed a child’s tie to their parent that examined biological function and their behavioral response when the infant is separated from their primary caretaker(s) (Ainsworth, 1979). Infants develop an attachment with their primary caretaker(s). Secure, insecure (anxious/avoidant), and insecure (avoidant) are the attachment styles developed at infancy attachments style developed during infancy progresses dismissing (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Overtime, I have been able to observe children’s attachment with their parent(s). When I first met my friend’s child, he was about a year old at the time, every time his mother left the room; he began to cry and looked at the door, waiting for her to appear. He had developed a secure attachment with his mother.

When an infant has a secure attachment with a parent or caretaker, the infant tends to become unhappy, but immediately after their return, they became calm. Additionally, the infant associated gratification and satisfaction with one or two specific individuals (e.g. mother and father) (Schneider, Gruman, &Coutts, 2012). Also, I was able to observe a secure attachment between my nephew when he was an infant and his mother. Aside from becoming unhappy while his mother was away, he had difficulties in being around unfamiliar people. It’s important to mention attachment styles develop from biological and social learning. Inherited trait is an example of biological factor. Considering my siblings and I had secure attachments to our parents, I believe biological traits play a major factor within my nephew. Social learning included the responsiveness of the attachment figure plays a role in attachment style. For example, a calm child with an unstressed parent would receive adequate attention (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts). The infant attachment styles appear in adulthood. An infant that developed a secure attachment develop into secure adults. Therefore, my friend’s child and nephew will have a great likelihood of developing into a secure adult.

There are four adult classifications of attachment style and differ from infancy. Secure attachment can be defined as trusting of, comfortable with close less and interdependent A preoccupied adult yearns for closeness and tends to worry about abandonment. An individual that fears rejection, feels shy in social situations, and has difficulty trusting others is a fearful adult. Lastly, a dismissing adult does not want or need close relationships and relies on their self (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). As a secure adult, individuals have the potential of experiencing separation distress. Since secure adults develop intimate relationships and gain trust in others, if the relationship ends, distress can occur. This is a normal tendency because of the relationship develop. Separation distress can be applied to death; individuals focus on the loss and feel extreme anxiety (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012).

It’s important to develop a secure attachment with the primary caretaker(s) and I believe it is important for parents to develop this particular relationship with their child. As an adult now, it is easy to confide and talk to my parents about situation I may have. This is due to the secure attachment I have developed with them during infancy. I have recognize infant attachment styles can greatly affect an infant and ultimately in adulthood.

References:

Ainsworth, M. S. (1979). Infant–mother attachment. American psychologist,34(10), 932.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381


14
Apr 14

Attachment and Separation

As life begins, there is a bond between a mother and child. After being in the womb for so long, it is often hard to detach a child from its mother. Not only does this happen for infants, this goes on throughout life with other relationships. For example, a husband and wife often have a bond with each other. They become a support system and an attachment is formed between them.

While looking into the relationships that are formed throughout life, attachment is often found. When humans become close with one another, they develop a need to be around those that they have become close with. This is seen as an attachment.

As an attachment gets stronger, the fear of losing someone can be unbearable. The problem with this is that it is natural for relationships and attachments to be broken. Often when this happens, separation distress begins. This is attention focused on the lost other and extreme discomfort at that person’s inaccessibility. (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012)

If we think about a husband and wife, most of the time they are going to be with each other while they are sleeping. While spending time apart, many couples will report not being able to sleep without the other around. Often times, partners will feel more emotionally distressed as well. (Eastwick,P. 2008) This could revert back to the fact that mothers are often around their children. As an infant is tired and cranky, a mother will hold them and rock them to sleep. This attachment being formed also makes it more comforting to be comforted by those that you are attached to.

In reality, mothers and their children will have a bond. Most mothers also have an attachment with their children and are comforted when they are soothing their children. With that being said, attachment is not a bad quality. It shows that we care about those around us. What could make attachment not leading to separation distress is by being practical. As we get older, we need to realize that we can not always be around those that we love all of the time. By understanding this, we also need to allow ourselves and others alone time. It is normal to spend time apart from loved ones and this time apart could bring you closer together.

 

References

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381

Eastwick,P. (2008) Separation Distress Among Romantic Partners and its Lessons for Human Mating. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-attractionologists/200808/separation-distress-among-romantic-partners-and-its-lessons-human


14
Apr 14

Close Proximity and Relationships

Think about most the people you have dated in the past. They probably lived near you, went to your school or there was some activity that brought you together. It is common for relationships to begin due to physical proximity, which refers to being near or accessible to each other (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Maybe they sat next to you during class or were on the same team. Being in close proximity to someone allows individuals to get to know one another. They may start to realize that they have a lot in common and then a crush develops, next thing you know they are dating.

Looking back at my friendships, physical proximity definitely had an impact on who I was friends with or who I had a crush on. I became friends with people who I lived near or sat next to in class. As I became involved in swimming, I became friends with the people on the team who I saw for several hours a day. What do all these relationships have in common? That is right, physical proximity.

Some might begin to wonder why it is common for close proximity to stem relationships. The proximity effect refers to the idea that physical and psychological nearness to others tends to increase interpersonal liking (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). It is common for people to interact with people that they are close mostly because it is convenient. When people are near one another regularly, they tend to start interacting with each other. When these interactions are positive and fun relationships are likely to form.

Take my husband and I for example. I didn’t really like my husband when I only knew who he was. It wasn’t until we were on the high school swim team with each other that I started liking him. I saw and interacted with him every day at practice for several hours. My friends hung out with his friends, so we started interacting with each other outside of swimming as well. There more time I spend with him, the more I liked him. We eventually started dating, and now we are happily married. If it wasn’t for being in close proximity, there is a good chance we would have never started dating.

After reading this, one might start to think about their own relationships and how they started. There is a good chance it was because of physical proximity. Sure, you may not be in close proximity now, but it might be safe to assume it all started because at one point in time you were.

 

Reference

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


13
Apr 14

Honesty and relationships

Schneider et al., (2012) point out that when it comes to relationships, it is recommended to start with honesty. Honesty means to hold to one’s integrity, principles, beliefs, actions, and intentions. Honesty includes clearly communicating needs and goals to your partner (Schneider et al., 2012). Honesty is something most people will agree they look for in a romantic partner. Most people will also admit that they lie. How honest people are with their partners appears to impact the longevity of the relationship. Lackenbauer, Campbell, Rubin, Fletcher, G. J. O., and Troister (2010) demonstrated how important both accuracy and positive bias are to the survival of a romantic relationship. Participants were asked to describe their partner and then this feedback was shown to their partner. The feedback was manipulated by the researcher to either be accurate or inaccurate and positively biased or not positively biased. If the feedback was rated as accurate by the receiving partner, the receiving partner also rated the survival of the relationship more positively than participants who received inaccurate feedback. The highest rating of survival of the relationship was given by participants that received both accurate and positive bias feedback. The lowest rating of survival of the relationship was given by participants that received both inaccurate and non-positively biased feedback. This research suggests the need for accuracy in relationships longevity. There must be a certain level of honesty in a relationship in order to be known accurately, which means that honesty is also an important factor in optimism toward relationship survival. Furthermore, Kaplar and Gordon (2004) also demonstrate support for the impact of honesty in romantic relationships. The results from Kaplar and Gordon’s study showed that the perception of motive for telling lies is much more negative for the receiver than for the lie teller, which consequently lead to a negative impact on the relationship. Participants were instructed to write a narrative from a time that they lied in a relationship and to explain their perspective on the motives for telling the lie. The same participant was also asked to write a narrative from a time they were lied to in a relationship and to explain their perception of the motives of the lie teller. Participants justified their actions when in position of lie teller and felt more resolved about the situation. Participants interpreted the lie teller’s motives as more selfishly motivated and provided less justification when in position of lie receiver. There also tended to be unresolved feelings for the receiver. These results indicate that honesty is an important element in relationship survival. When honesty is absent, the relationship is likely to be disjointed as perspectives will be different for lie teller and receiver, making total resolution difficult.

Security, loyalty, friendship, and family are all byproducts of a long-term, lasting romantic relationship. According to divorcestatistics.org, the divorce rate in America is 45-50% for first marriages, 60-67% for second marriages, and 70-73% for third marriages. With almost half of first time marriages not surviving in the U.S., and marriage being the basic unit of family, it is important to the social and emotional health of our country that we take a look at what building blocks are vital to a lasting relationship. Of course there are circumstances that validate divorce, but with such a high turnover rate, it is obvious there has been a breakdown in important steps that sustain long-term relationships. Lack of commitment, fear, selfishness, anger, bitterness, and broken families are some of the byproducts of divorce. With almost one in every two marriages experiencing these byproducts, the impact on our social fabric is phenomenal. Honesty builds trust, security, acceptance, and change. As a society we would be well advised to beging relationships with honesty.

 

References

Divorce Statistics ( n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.divorcestatistics.org/

Kaplar, M. E., & Gordon, A. K. (2004). The enigma of altruistic lying: Perspective differences in what motivates and justifies lie telling within romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 11(4), 489-507.

Lackenbauer, S. D., Campbell, L., Rubin, H., Fletcher, G. J. O., & Troister, T. (2010). The unique and combined benefits of accuracy and positive bias in relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(3), 475-493. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2010.01282.x

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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13
Apr 14

Our Need to Belong

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One of the most well-researched human motives is our need to belong. (Lavigne, Vallerand, Crevier-Braud, 2011) Belongingness can be defined as “a universal need to form and maintain positive, stable interpersonal relationships” (Lavigne et al., 2011) Support for this hypothesis can be found in the 2006 Canadian census where it was reported that 90% of the population had at least two people per household.  Self determination theory states that in order to function optimally at the core of our very existence is a basic psychological need to relate to and care for another person. (Lavigne et al., 2011) This need to belongs is so deeply rooted in our psyche that any threat of rejection conjures reactions that are similar to those of physical pain. (Laslocky, 2013)

According to researchers Baumeister & Leary (1995) this need to belong has its roots in evolution. In order for our ancestors to reproduce and survive it was essential that they establish social bonds. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 499, 1995) Thus, from an evolutionary selection perspective we now possess internal mechanisms that direct humans beings into lasting relationships and social bonds. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 499, 1995) Our need to be connected and establish healthy bonds is as essential to our emotional and physical well beings as food and safety. (Barnes, Carvallo, Brown & Osterman, p. 1149, 2010)

When we experience interpersonal strife we often contemplate walking away rather than sticking it out, however, finding a relationship with similar depth is not an easy task. (Barnes, et al., p. 1148, 2010) If we always ended every relationship thinking that we can  swop-out the old for a more positive one, we would find ourselves in a constant state of seeking and never experiencing and this would conflict with our fundamental need to belong. (Barnes, et al., p. 1148, 2010)

This explains why so many individuals are apt to hold on to destructive relationships. The fact that some people display an unwillingness to leave an abusive partner conveys the strength and power of our need to belong. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 503, 1995) Any threat to social attachments can often lead to anxiety, depression, jealousy and loneliness. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 506, 1995) Individuals will feel anxious at the thought of losing an important relationship, they may feel depressed when the connection ends and then feel lonely because they no longer have the important relationship. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 506, 1995) One such example of this is the death of a loved one. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 506, 1995) Some researchers have conceptualized grief not as a reaction to the death, but as breaking the connection with another individual. (Baumeister & Leary, p. 507, 1995) An explanation for this can be found in research that described the feelings of heartbreak similar to that of physical pain. This pain is caused by the hormonal triggering of the sympathetic activation activation system (region where flight-or-flight stress takes place) and the parasympathetic nervous system. (Laslocky, 2013)

Although this need to belong exists within us all, it’s imperative that we never lose our sense of individuality and well-being. If we find ourselves in relationships whether it be with a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse that seems toxic and destructive we should move on. It may feel literally painful, but we’ll be stronger and wiser as a result.

Barnes, C. D., Carvallo, M., Brown, R. P., & Osterman, L. (2010). Forgiveness And The Need To Belong. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(9), 1148-1160.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The Need To Belong: Desire For Interpersonal Attachments As A Fundamental Human Motivation..Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

Laslocky, M. (n.d.). Greater Good. This Is Your Brain on Heartbreak. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/ite

Lavigne, G. L., Vallerand, R. J., & Crevier-Braud, L. (2011). The Fundamental Need to Belong: On the Distinction Between Growth and Deficit-Reduction Orientations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(9), 1185-1201.

 


13
Apr 14

Dating is not always what meets the eye.

Dating is no longer limited to familiar people and those you interact with or see frequently. The proximity effect is the tendency for physical and psychological nearness to increase interpersonal liking. (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, p.355) People tend to start dating those that live close by, they work with, or they went to school with. This was due to how easy it was to meet someone at one of those places, become friends, notice an attraction, and as a result start dating. An old saying I heard growing up and that fits the above scenario was, familiarity breed’s attraction.

However, as technology advances, the world appears smaller due to new avenues being opened to meet people. There are online gaming sites where one can play video games with people on the other side of the world. There are chat rooms where people can meet and talk about like interests. There are social meet-up groups and it allows people to meet together to participate in a common interest. While the above situations aren’t designed for people to meet and start dating, it has happened in numerous situations. Lastly, there has been an explosion of dating websites that have infiltrated the web.

While the proximity effect has been popular and lasted for many years, the online dating scene is taking over. There are the popular eharmony and match.com. These two websites connect people based on your answers to various questions you are asked. These sites have worked well because it takes away from the mystery of dating by connecting people looking for a more serious relationship. It also helps people be able to connect on their values and beliefs. Recently, there have been dating sites with religious affiliation like christianmingle or jdate to help connect people solely on their beliefs.

According to statistic brain, 48 percent of women and 52 percent of men are using an online dating service. Roughly 20 percent of committed relationships began online and 17 percent of marriages resulted from online dating. It seems that for some, people are able to meet and be in relationships. On the reverse side, there are also horror stories with online dating resulting in terrible first dates or relationships. People will always put their best foot forward online and try to make themselves appear better than they are. This happens a lot with people putting up pictures of themselves when they were 10 or 20 pounds lighter, less wrinkled and less grey. This is the risk one takes in meeting someone online, this is why it’s important to meet in a public place and have a way out on standby.

There is no right or wrong way to date, there are just many more avenues opening up. It is very important to try and get to know the person before meeting in order to limit any surprises. One way to do that is by using smart phone apps such as facetime or skype. This allows people to talk to one another while looking at each other. What you see is what you get.

Online dating statistics. (2014) Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/online-dating-statistics/

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-1412976381


08
Apr 14

Defensive Pessimism

Dr. Jeffery Rossman states that there are two kinds of pessimism, dispositional and defensive (Rossman, 2010). Dispositional pessimism is the tendency to believe the worst on a consistent basis, whereas defensive pessimism is being prepared for bad things. Dr. Rossman says that by using defensive pessimism, people can protect themselves by taking constructive actions (Rossman, 2010). The difference between dispositional and defensive pessimism is that defensive pessimism involves empowering yourself by being ready for any situation, not just believing and accepting that everything will turn out badly.

Although being optimistic has many positive aspects, outcomes are not always positive. An optimist may believe they will quit smoking, but factors, such as being in a room full of smokers, might cause the individual to smoke. This is an example of how defensive pessimism has an advantage. Strategies designed to meet problems head-on are thought through and carried out when needed. Therefore, a defensive pessimist that is trying to quit smoking could feel anxious being in a room full of smokers, but they would have thought about how to handle that type of social situation. This helps the defensive pessimist succeed, as opposed to an optimist with a preconceived vision of success, which can sometimes end in failure and disappointment.

Julie Norem, author of the book “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking”, reports that using defensive pessimism is an effective strategy for anxiety (Norem, 2007). Norem defines defensive pessimism as, “…the strategy of setting low expectations and then thinking through, in concrete and vivid detail, all the things that might go wrong as one prepares for an upcoming situation or task” (Norem, 2007). Focus is then applied to ways to achieve success, even in the face of obstacles. There is a similar group of people called strategic optimists, with one of the main differences being the greater amount of pre-existing anxiety of defensive pessimists (Norem, 2007). Another difference is the expectation level of each group. Defensive pessimists set low expectations, whereas strategic optimists set high expectations (Spencer & Norem, 1996)

A downfall of defensive pessimism is that other people are annoyed by it, which can cause problems with relationships (Clarke & Edmond, Jr., 2002). Sometimes the more optimistic person will try to convince the more pessimistic person to try to be more positive, but this does not work. Studies have reported that defensive pessimists have poorer outcomes when interventions are used that are designed to improve moods (Norem, 2007). Defensive pessimists may also have problems with performance when there is not time to prepare for a situation (Spencer & Norem, 1996). However, when presented with sufficient time to prepare, defensive pessimists have advantages such as being more informed about diseases and other health related topics (Spencer & Norem, 1996).

G.B. Stern said, “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane, and the pessimist the parachute.” I think individuals should do whatever works for them. I tend to be a worrier, and a defensive pessimist. I hope for the best, and prepare for anything and everything. I am happy and healthy and plan to stay that way, but just in case,…

References:

Clarke, C., & Edmond, Jr., (2002). The power of negative thinking. Black Enterprise. Volume 32, Issue 11, p. 254.

Norem, J., (2007). Defensive pessimism, anxiety, and the complexity of evaluating self-regulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. Volume 2, Issue 1, pp. 121 – 134.

Rossman, J. (2010). The surprising power of optimistic pessimism. Rodale News. Retrieved from: http://www.rodalenews.com/optimism-and-pessimism.

Spencer, S., & Norem, J., (1996). Reflection and distraction defensive pessimism, strategic optimism, and performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Volume 22, Issue 4, pp. 354 – 365.

 


07
Apr 14

The Friend Making Formula

The following conversation comes from a family favorite show in my house, The Big Bang Theory. I tried to remember the words as accurately as possible. The conversation is between two neighbors (who are also friends) as they are discussing how Leonard and his roommate Sheldon actually became friends:

Penny: How did you and Sheldon become friends?

Leonard: There was a flyer on the bulletin board at the university: “roommate wanted: whistlers need not apply.”

Penny: What about Howard and Raj, how did Sheldon become friends with them?

Leonard: I don’t know…how do carbon atoms form a benzene ring? Proximity and valence electrons.

Although the excerpt above comes from a television show, the premise to making friends is very similar – minus the valence electrons. Leonard and Sheldon are both physicists at the same university, but prior to the flyer on the bulletin board were not friends. The others listed above, Howard and Raj, also worked at this university, and were friends of Leonard, but not Sheldon. In life, as well as the television show, friends are typically made based on physical proximity, which is being close to someone in space, or conveniently located near a person (Schneider, et al, 2012). Although these two gentleman worked in the same university, their work location was not close in proximity. When they moved in together however, the level of accessibility increased and they had more opportunities to interact with one another. As their interactions became more frequent, the feasibility of a friendship developing became more likely. This too is how Leonard’s friends, Howard and Raj, became acquainted with Sheldon. Now that Leonard was living with Sheldon, and Howard and Raj were visiting Leonard, they too became better acquainted with Sheldon through a closer physical proximity.

Physical proximity alone is not sufficient to create a friendship, however. But proximity did help these men to establish a connection that bred conversation. At first, Leonard, Howard, and Raj did not like Sheldon. They found him to be narcissistic, germ phobic, and possessing annoying idiosyncrasies, but due to the proximity effect they began to like him more and more. The proximity effect is the tendency to increase the liking of another person based on physical closeness and psychological commonalities (Schneider, et al, 2012). The same is true in life; if we frequently see a person and then increase our exposure to that person by way of conversation, then we are likely to continue to engage in conversation with that person. If we begin to learn that we have things in common, then again, our liking for them increases.

The proximity effect usually only breeds increased liking between two people who like each other to begin with. For example, if I see my neighbor and we chat occasionally, and I find that we have things in common than the more time I spend with her, the more I will like her. But what happens if I chat with my neighbor a few times and ascertain that I can’t stand the sight of her. Then the likelihood of me growing to like her is minimal at best. It is actually more realistic to say that the more I have contact with her, the less I will like her; this is environmental spoiling (Schneider, et al, 2012). This has actually happened to me with my mother-in-law. I tried for years to get this woman to have a relationship with me, but as her eldest son’s wife, no one would be good enough for him in her eyes. Eventually I stopped trying and began to see her for the woman she truly is, which is not someone I like. Now, years later, with every visit, my dislike for her grows – environmental spoiling in action. Back to the television show, Sheldon is not an easy person to get along with, and Howard in particular seems to detest him greatly. As the episodes go on, Howard’s disgust with Sheldon grows and he becomes ever more vocal in sharing his discontentment with Sheldon’s behavior. But in the end, in order to maintain his relationship with Leonard, Howard bites his tongue.

Whether it is making friends, meeting neighbors, or trying to deal with someone you loathe, proximity seems to intensify a person’s original feelings toward another. Whether a person’s feelings towards another starts as positive or negative, an increase in exposure to that person will strengthen a person’s original feelings. Even though repeated exposure to someone you dislike can cause you to dislike them even more, as according to the environmental spoiling theory, the opposite is typically true: recurrent contact with someone that you dislike usually results in more positive feelings towards that person (Schneider, et al, 2012).  This is how the relationship between Sheldon and Howard grows; they begin not liking each other; then Howard begins to detest Sheldon (which lasts for a long time); over time, as Howard becomes familiar with Sheldon’s sense of humor and idiosyncrasies, his fondness for Sheldon grows.

This concept of proximity and familiarity is a promising outlook in the world of friend-making. It can give hope to those that feel alone and incapable of making friends. If two people can start out as acquaintances who are accessible to one another, and gradually spend increasing amounts of time with one another, then the chance of a friendship blossoming is a promising one. Even if there are idiosyncrasies about one another that they can’t seem to overcome, with time, as they become more familiar with each another, these differences can be looked at quirks rather than roadblocks, and a friendship may very well develop.

References:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.


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