We’ve all been attracted to someone, whether it was as a “puppy love” crush or a best friend from college. We don’t really know why we like these people, sometimes it just happens. More often, there are reasons why we select these “special” people over everyone else we come to meet. These people play a great role in our lives as social beings. So why do we choose them and why are they so important to us?
The truth is, most relationships begin and thrive on being physically close to one another. This explains why high school students in the same classes begin to date or co-workers become close friends. They spend so much of their time in close proximity to one another, and are able to pick up details about one another- such as style, humor, and interests. The proximity effect explains that this “tendency for physical and psychological nearness increases interpersonal liking.” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012) The people we are around the most tend to be the people we find ourselves gravitating towards.
However, physical attractiveness is also an important component. This is where the primacy effect comes in. This is “the tendency to be especially influenced by information that is presented first.” In this case, before any other contact is made, a person judges another on their physical appearance. A person’s appearance serves as the first information given to those around them. And looks matter! According to research by Dion, Berscheid, and Walster, attractive people are deemed to have positive qualities such as sociableness and sexually responsiveness. (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012) Our appearance gives a great first impression on who we are, and this can affect our relationships with new people.
These people that we so carefully select to be apart of our lives by attraction are important. Humans are social by nature, and it can give us both happiness and pain. Relationships with people have been used against people as punishment- prisoners being shipped away to new lands, social isolation, etc. This leaves a person feeling lonely and vulnerable without others to rely on. (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012) But, this also shows our incredible need for relationships to survive. Social belongingness is essential to human life just as food, water, and shelter.
This article discusses how our survival is affected by social ties- https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/relationships-boost-survival/
We choose certain people to be apart of our lives, whether as a friend or as a romantic partner based on our attraction. We become attracted by their close proximity and their physical appearance.. and from there a relationship can blossom. The relationships in our lives allow us to feel safe, have resources to live, and give us the physical contact that we crave as human beings.
Without attraction and companionship, we would live our lives as empty shells of human beings.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications