I recently watched the Twilight series for the first time and actually found the movie quite entertaining. The storyline involves a high school girl named Bella who falls in love with a vampire named Edward. Jacob, a local werewolf, befriends Bella and also falls madly in love with her. Bella is forced to pick between Edward and Jacob which led me to a question applied social psychology may be able to answer: Why did Bella choose Edward over Jacob? Both are very physically attractive and appealing men, yet Bella is able to choose Edward with confidence. According to the field of applied social psychology, Bella might have chosen Edward simply because of proximity which led to familiarity. Many relationships begin with physical proximity or nearness/accessibility to another person (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). In other words, the more time one spends with another person, the more likely liking and love will result (Shpancer, 2014). Another reason Bella may have chosen Edward is because of the similarities between one another. Finally, the fact that Bella views Edward as a better parent figure and provider than Jacob may have swayed her decision. Bella chose Edward over Jacob because Edward associates more with Bella, is more similar to her, and appears to Bella as a better parent and provider.
Edward and Bella are in closer proximity than Jacob and Bella because Edward and Bella go to school together. Edward and Bella formally meet when they become lab partners in biology class and continue to run into each other regularly at school. Because Bella associates with Edward more frequently than Jacob, this proximity breeds familiarity and likability (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). The interactions that come about as a result of Bella and Edward’s proximity leads to a greater chance of a relationship. The proximity effect, the tendency for increased interpersonal liking as a result of physiological or psychological nearness, may have caused Bella to like Edward first and thus more than Jacob (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). At the beginning of the movie before Bella meets Edward, she asks Jacob if he wants a ride to school; he declines because Jacob attends school at an Indian Reservation. Perhaps if Jacob had accepted, then Bella may have chosen him over Edward. Because Edward had more exposure to Bella sooner than Jacob, Bella may have perceived Edward as more familiar and thus more reassuring and pleasant (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Had Jacob gone to the same school as Bella and been in closer proximity with her, perhaps she would have chosen him over Edward.
In addition to proximity, Edward and Bella share many similarities which may have led Bella to be attracted to him more than Jacob. People are drawn to other people who are similar to themselves (Shpancer, 2014). Bella and Edward are actually very similar in that they are both intelligent and even enjoy the same musical taste. Jacob and Bella are not as similar because Jacob enjoys things like riding motorcycles and fixing cars in which Bella I not particularly adept. Even physically Bella and Edward are both thin and pale-skinned while Jacob is muscular and tan. Although this may not seem to indicate much of anything, research has shown that most people seek long-term relationships with people who match their own level of attractiveness and who look similar to themselves (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). The key reason I think that Bella chose Edward over Jacob is because with Edward, Bella has the potential to become a vampire. They can be completely similar to each other and dissimilar to most everyone else. This unique chance of similarity between the two may have caused Bella to overlook Jacob since she can never become a werewolf. Bella could never reach the complete similarity of nature with Jacob as she could with Edward. The similarities between Edward and Bella are far more than Jacob and Bella.
Viewing Edward as a better provider and guardian than Jacob may have influenced Bella’s mate choice. Women tend to seek men with good earning capacity who can boost their own social standing and provide for them (Denisiuk, 2004). Edward is part of a wealthy family who will provide him with all of the means to survive comfortably. I am sure Bella recognizes this and unconsciously seeks Edward over Jacob, as a result. In addition, Edward is much older than Bella. He has experienced much of the world and life. This might indicate to Bella that Edward is mature enough to provide for her and a family. Jacob is younger than Bella and she seems to view him as a little brother figure more than a provider or romantic companion. Researchers have also identified that women seek good parenting skills in a partner (Nauert, 2008). Edward’s and Jacob’s temperaments are vastly different and Bella is aware of this fact. Edward is kind-hearted, protective, and self-controlled. He saves Bella from various evils, is constantly reassuring her, and even gives her the option of leaving him for the sake of her happiness. Contrarily, Jacob is hot-headed, cocky, and naïve. He is not exactly representative of a father-like figure for Bella’s children. In addition, the werewolves are prone to angry outbursts. The leader of Jacob’s pack even physically abused his wife, leaving her a facial scar. Being exposed to Jacob’s aggressive and immature tendencies may be enough for Bella to desire Edward over Jacob. In general, Edward is simply easier to view as a provider and father-figure than Jacob.
Using the logic of applied social psychology, one can conclude that Bella chose Edward over Jacob because she was able to bond more with Edward, they had more in common, and she viewed Edward as an adequate provider and father to their future children. The fact that Bella and Edward see each other every day gives Edward an advantage over Jacob. Bella and Edward are much more similar in appearance and personality compared to Jacob and Bella. Just the idea of Edward as a better provider and parent could have affected Bella’s decision. I am not sure who I would choose, Edward or Jacob, if I was in Bella’s position!
Denisiuk, J., (2004). Evolutionary Versus Social Structural Explanations for Sex Differences in Mate Preferences, Jealousy, and Aggression. In Personalityresearch.org. Retrieved from http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/denisiuk.html
Nauert, R., (2008). How Women Choose Partners. In Psychcentral.com. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/03/24/how-women-choose-partners/2071.html
Schneider, F., Gruman, J., & Coutts, L. (Eds.). (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Shpancer, N., (2014). Laws of Attraction: How Do We Select a Life Partner? In Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201412/laws-attraction-how-do-we-select-life-partner