Theories of Attraction   


Why are we attracted to some people and not to others?  In theory we have the freedom of choice as to who we choose as our partner.  In reality, our choices are limited by

Ø     Where we live

Ø     The people we know

Ø     Our socio-economic background

Ø     And other influences that may not be as obvious.


Sociologists explain many relationships based on theories.  We will examine 5 theories of why individuals are attracted to other people.


Social Homogamy:  theory based on the idea that “like attracts like.”

Ø     People tend to choose a partner who is more alike than different from themselves.

Ø     Often from the same race, religion, or culture

Ø     Often around the same age, similar education levels, socio-economic backgrounds and family types.

Ø     They will often enjoy doing the same kinds of things which is often how they meet.

Ø     They often have similar role expectations.


Complimentary Needs Theory; this theory states that people choose a partner who compliments (or completes) and meets their own personal needs. 

Ø     Each person’s strength’s help balance the traits of the other.

Ø     For example, a shy person may be attracted to an outgoing person.

Ø     Considered to be a “Balancing motive”.



Ideal Mate theory: most people have a preconceived image of what their ideal partner should be like. 

Ø     This image is based on physical appearance, personality characteristics or other traits.

Ø     It may also be based on characteristics of one’s own parents ( a woman may look for a man who is like her father).

Ø     This image may also develop over dating experiences, “I know what I don’t want!”



Social Exchange Theory: People may consider the qualities they want in a partner and what they have to offer in return. 

Ø     These qualities may be personal, material, appearance, intelligence, or services.

Ø     A partner is selected as someone who brings the best of these qualities at the smallest cost.

Ø     For example, a successful business man may look fro a wife who will be attractive and keep a successful home and meet social requirements as he progresses through his career.



Propinquity theory: people are more likely to meet and know people who are physically nearby.

Ø     Same city or same college provides an opportunity to meet.

Ø     Long-distance relationships are costly and difficult to keep going, although with global travel and the Internet more accessible now, these relationships are becoming easier to establish and sustain.