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Why people are attracted to each other

This is the story of a time when the two characters called John and Jenny met with each other. They met with each other and developed a close friendship. Gradually their friendship turned into love and they also decided to marry each other. After getting married they had beautiful children and lived happily ever after. The story of John and Jenny would show people that why people fall for each other and how they gradually fall into love with one another. However, there is one question that might always crop up in our mind that why and how people fall for each other. This really is a very interesting question. It might be because of the fact that people find some similarities among each other.

As per the research works of eminent authors like Byrne, there is a common tendency among people to get attracted to each other who they find similar to them and this similarity often leads to marriage. However, there also have been several counter-arguments that talk about the fact that opposites do attract each other. In other words, they talk about the complementarity of marriage. Such views are further reinforced by research like that of Shiota and Levenson (2007). They are of the opinion that complimentary marriages are the ones that are more successful in the long run. This easy will mainly try to deal with the concepts of the similarity and the complementarity that comes into play in the act of marriage, with reference to the romantic heterosexual relationship.

There have been many theories that are given by scholars on the aspect of mate selection. However, the most commonly given theory in this modern day scenario is that opposites attract each other. At the same time, this concept is really open for interpretation. This is because it is expected that the couples who do not find any similarity among their interests will soon end their relationship and they will also end their marriage. However, Pieternel & Dick, 2008). Felmlee (2001) has shown that relationships which usually develop from the attraction rising out of the complementarity usually reach its consummation point quickly.

The complementary need theory (Winch, 1954), shows that for a marriage to be really working and successful there has to be enough gratification of the need for both. For an instance for the marriage of John and Jenny to be successful, there must have been some gratification of their needs so that they can understand and also support each other. A good example of the need gratification is the fact that the younger women are usually attracted towards elder men who are economically more stable(Eagly & Wood, 1999, as cited in Pieternel & Dick, 2008). This easy will also discuss the recent findings for Winch's hypothesis and the reasons for the same will also be discussed.

The importance of similarity and complementarity in successful marriages

There is the sharp and direct contrast to the complementarity theory, which might be defined by the phrase called birds of a feather flock together'. According to Hill, Rubin, and Peplau (1976), there is a probability that people who find each other similar in terms of education, religion, ethnicity, are and other such factors usually tend to get attracted to one another. This is because they feel that it will help them stay together in the long run. However, it has also been said that this procedure may not be valid enough as there is a lack of a kind of insufficiency in these testing methods.

This outlook  is mainly suggested by research showing only a very small amount of similarities between spouses' personality in marriage actually matters or has actually been seen to be effective (Eysenck, 1990), and in some reported studies (Antill, 1983; Peterson et al., 1989) no degree of similarity was observed, because couples are usually brought together on a random basis. The theory of similarity's influence on one's attraction, therefore, needs examination in its methodological aspects and will be treated accordingly in this essay.

The theory of similarity says that individuals have a high chance of falling in a romantic love affair when they find certain similarities within them. These similarities are usually seen in aspects like socio economic backgrounds, religious and cultural beliefs, level of intelligence, physical features. In a nutshell, the similarity has to be present in the overall attitude or viewpoint that people have over life. . In other words, a girl and a boy will get involved in some romantic affairs only if they find some similarity among themselves. This similarity is usually in the form of socioeconomic status or religious backgrounds. According to Byrne (1971), this concept can be explained through the theories like that of classical conditioning and also the idea of positive reinforcement. If the relationship is between two individuals who are like mimed then they will have a kind of similarity in their thought process as well. This, in turn, will make them feel confident about one another and at the same time, they will also be able to keep their relationship valid and working in the long run. This will naturally help them in enhancing their relationship.

There is, however, a difference in the concept of perceived and actual similarity. Many people are of the opinion that the actual similarity is not really as important as that of the perceived similarity. There is a fact that the couples might experience or go through the positive reinforcement, regardless of them believing that the similarity is existing. However, the similarity might not exist on both sides. In other words, this can be the scenario that one of the partners feels that there is a similarity between them while the other does not. In such case, the attraction will not be existing between them. However, it can also be argued that there are couples who have a very low actual similarity but their level of attraction is still very high. This is also because of the idea of ‘complementarity' (Winch et al., 1954). This idea is helpful as it helps in reminding us that the similarity is only a positive correlate in the entire process of attraction. This is however not the absolute factor that might determine the whole of a relationship.

Methodological concerns in measuring attraction

It is noteworthy to say that in various recent researches – post-dating Byrne's studies on attraction – that though the concept of similarity exists between the couples in the formation of the attraction. However at the same time, it is also true that couples are selected on a random basis (Antill, 1983; Peterson et al., 1989); or at most, according to Eysenck (1990), the presence of similarity is only slightly significant. This can mainly be attributed to the various methodologies and procedures that are used to measure the level of attraction. This is the claim that is put forward by the meta-analysis that has been done by Montoya, Horton, and Kirchner (2008), where they have finally reached to this conclusion that similarity has a direct connection with attraction. The concept of similarity does in some way or the other help in developing a kind of attraction among the couples. This might take place within the laboratory settings and not within the relationships that already exist.

The criticism has been made by the product called the bogus stranger. This mainly resulted in the outcomes that are devoid of the ecological validity and mainly resulting in artificial responses. The method originates from Byrne's studies, where the characters or the participants are given some sets of characteristics that are similar to their own and are asked if they will be getting attracted to some persona or some individuals who are actually unknown to them. The person in question is actually an imaginary character and does not exist in reality. However, there is no direct conversation or interaction between the stranger and the participants. The entire process takes place through an interviewer who is also known as the confederate. Though this process has been criticized a lot at the same time this has also proved to be very useful. This is because it removes all the external factors that would otherwise interfere with how much the participants can actually get attracted to the imaginary stranger. The other advantages are that this method is affordable and also less time-consuming.

In this given scenario, it is also very interesting to see that study of Shiota and Levenson (2007) proposes the alternative for the concept of similarity in the context of marital satisfaction as opposed to attraction. It is basically a kind of longitudinal study that mainly helps in understanding the effects of the higher similarity level of the Big Five personality test on the satisfaction of the married life. Authors have discussed the effects of this test on the different stages of the married life that brings about a different set of roles and responsibilities. These varying roles and responsibilities will surely have different kinds of effects on the level of satisfaction in married life. For an instance, in the first stage of life, the newly wedded people usually try to please and satisfy one another. So at this stage, the level of their interaction will naturally be higher.

However, in the later stages, it can be seen that the passion will wear out as there will be many more important reasons and duties like that of child rearing. There can be many conflicts and issues like that of child rearing rather any agreement "spouses competing with each other in similar performance domains and clashing when attempting to complete the same task" (Shiota & Levenson, 2007, p. 672).

The authors have also given the reviews of the past studies. In other words, there were several weaknesses in the previous works as well. One of the major faults was the lack of distinction or the preciseness in the measuring of the similarity between the couples. The other weakness is that in all the past studies the scholars have only focused on finding the similarity between the couples who are already in an existing relationship. The study mainly has been done in a cross-sectional view. The author improved the study's method by conducting a long-term study but at the same time, also provide a linear trajectory that can be used to predict further development from the given twelve years of study. Some of the other weaknesses that have been self-identified are the inclusion of the cultural and the generational effects that were resulted from the nature of the selected sample and the convenience of the research.

Shiota and Levenson (2007), in their discussion, have also said that complementary couples might also have a happy and successful marriage in terms of the Big Five personality. The research also has been conducted on the old and experienced couples who are married for about 35 years or so. They have also given the same opinion that slowly and gradually there is a decline in the satisfaction of the married life. However, as stated by the authors, this may not be true in all the cases. For an instance, this may not be valid for other social domains of personality such as the dominant/deferent trait that was tested in Winch's studies on complementarity.

In this essay, ‘complementarity’, it had been seen that people who are actually different from one another can end up making a successful relationship. This is because they will feel that as they are different from one another they will be able to fill the gaps between themselves. The formal definition for this term is borrowed from Winch's definition of ‘need-complementarity', which says that an individual will be attracted to another individual who will promise to give the maximum or the greatest amount of need gratification. (Winch et al., 1954, p. 242). Other terms used are ‘complementary', which is a form of an adjective that mainly talks about the similarity between the two partners. It talks about their differences and their similarities.

Winch, Ktsanes, and Ktsanes (1954) made a proposition, the "theory of complementary needs in mate-selection" that supports the idea of ‘opposites attract'. This proposition  has been made after Winch has used participants like twenty-five, 19 to 26 years old, white, middle-class, childless married couples who had been married for less than two years, and in which at least one member of each couple was an undergraduate student (Winch et al., p. 245) for his experimentation purpose. He has been using the method of triangulation in this experiment to see if people actually marry based on their complimentary requirements. He has been using various kinds of methods like examining a case history interview of participants, TAT, "need-interview", which is to find out the type of need pairs present; a case history interview of participants. He has also used the process called eight cards thematic approach test (Winch et al., p. 244).

Winch, in his theory, proposes that either of the two conditions exists. In his arguments, a complementary relation between partners is essential for their existence. As a matter of specification, the two conditions are Type 1 and 2. Type 1 difference involves a difference in intensity. Here, one of the partners is aggressive in their approach, which contradicts the submissive nature of the other partner. One of the striking features here is the difference in the need pattern. A person, who needs to be aggressive, possesses a complementary relationship with someone, who requires a small portion of this expression.

On the other hand, in Type 2 difference mainly revolves around the interactions between the two persons. Expressiveness in the approach and contrary needs are the two components of this difference. For example, a person, who needs to be dominant in this approach, indulges in a relationship with a person, who has deferring needs. Complimentary needs are crucial in both these differences due to abasement. In one of the need pairs, the existence of abasement-autonomy and abasement-hostility gives rise to a different continuum, which is devoid of sufficient explanation through type 1 difference.

Lack of sufficient evidence and proofs is one of the main weakness in Winch's theory. This weakness nullifies the desperate attempts to prove the differences within the relationships. On the other hand, provides justification for the discrepancies through the proposition of different needs in different relationship levels. Countering Winch proposes that the needs of a married couple differ from that of two friends. In his theories, use of Edwards Personal Preference is evident in terms of exploring the dynamics of peer relations. This theoretical consideration helps in testing the validity of Winchs' inclusive complementary needs within a relationship.

Insufficient explanations for types of complementary needs compelled Winch to encounter criticisms. In case of a hypothetical person, fulfilling the complementary needs is impossible. This is because he is average in his intensity and kindness. The major drive behind this is conditions needed in case of type 1 and type 2 difference are complementary to the spectrum, compelling the persons to be on either end of the spectrum. This is in terms of the intensity within the personality traits.

A possible solution for this is that if the two persons expose similarity in their expression and have moderate needs, they can have a complementary relation between them. This proposition adds a hypothetical parameter to the aspect of relation. This is because of the use of another hypothetical expression for proving the assumptions. Based on the propositions, it can be said that similarity in the needs and expression of two persons, gives rise to complementarity. Here, "loosing" is taken care of, which needs tests and evidence for deducing relevant results.

The absence of clarity in the guidelines in complimentary needs is one of the other weaknesses in Winch's theory. Propositions, only in case of dominance-deference and nurturance-succorance, add an interrogative parameter to the validity of the theory. Replacement of the study, through practicability and impracticability, can be useful in terms of establishing the pairs. Complexities in deciding the criteria of characteristic compliments can be solved through Schultz's theory of need compatibility. This is through the means of inference. Here, limitations exist to type 1 difference; however, it acts as a foundation for a complementary relationship. Conditions are evident in the form of similarity, which is needed within the expressions of the two persons.  

Critics point out the difficulty in the application of Schultz' theory to married couples. This is because of the limitation of the theory to friendship only. However, the usage of different circumflex models can be beneficial in terms of testing the dynamics of peer relations. This usage would enrich the perspectives regarding the differing interpersonal behaviors and the complementary need pairs. The aim of these theories is to excavate the unexplored realms of friendship and familial relations. Here, there are possibilities regarding the need for a different kind of structuring, as per the propositions of Kiesler's Interpersonal Circle.

Lack of clarity in supporting evidence aggravates the complexities towards establishing complimentary hypothesis in the case of married couples. This lacuna deprives the researcher to gain an insight into the specificity of the theoretical assumptions. Along with this, the weakness increases the difficulty in terms of assessing the conditions needed for forming the complementary need pairs. However, this assessment is needed, as complementarity is often simplified for providing a better understanding of the relationships to the common people. Simplification sometimes leads to negatives results, as the people fail to understand the deeper meanings of the phrases. Not using proper and exact terminology might lead to ambiguous results in terms of relationships. Misleading results add a hypothetical parameter to the studies established by the psychology experts. Moreover, it creates confusion within the common people about the intensity within the relations and their expressions in terms of the needs.

One of the recent studies projected complementarity as one of the main agents for mate selection. The survey was conducted on 28 couples, who have been married for an average of 20 years. The responses of the samples are inadequate in terms of supporting the complementary hypothesis. This is in spite of the diversity, which existed in selecting the options. Many weaknesses are responsible for this. Door-to-door solicitation resulted in the collection of data from local participants. This is a limitation, as the researchers were negligent towards traveling long distances for gathering the responses from the samples. While describing the field sites, phrases like "suburbs of Oxford" and "nearby village" was used. These descriptions depicted cultural biases in case of considering the western views. Moreover, geographical limitation in the data collection, adds a hypothetical parameter to the use of results and conclusions for explaining the related concepts to the public.

Critics are of the view that door to door solicitation is indeed productive in terms of assessing complementary marriage relationship. This is because of the meager impact of western culture on the local responses. Although it is a strength, consciousness needs to be exposed within the consideration of the advancement of the modern society in terms of the integration of Western and Eastern views. Therefore, the study is not an influential one for explaining the influence of complementarity on the selection of partners for marriage. This is irrespective of the inclusion of eastern or western views. An enlivening example is an interracial marriage, which could not be thought of 50 years ago, however, it is a common aspect in modern society.  

Design of the questionnaire can one of the causes for weak support in the complementary hypothesis. Forced responses contradict the liberty in the form of varying range of options within the Likert scale. This assumption can be fully agreed upon, as the samples did not feel restricted. In this sense, the propositions regarding the design of the questionnaire maintain consistency in weaknesses. Contradictions can be established between the small size of the respondents and the wide range of options within the responses. Scarcity in the responses ascertains the reliability and derives insignificant conclusions. Even the statistics does not help in deducing the conclusions, as they are hypothetical.

In the process of summarization, three statements come up. These statements produce a negative correlation, projecting the presence of complementarity. These statements are a high level of eye contact while socializing; stressful experience on the use of public transport and raising the voice while socializing. Critics like Saint aimed to limit his investigations around social dominance, social confidence, and communication initiation. Each of the statements possesses these aspects, however, there are no restrictions in completing the questionnaire. The absence of restriction nullifies the substantiality, which exists within the relationship of the married couples. However, there are probable chances of developing a negative correlation, which reflects the invalidity towards testing. Therefore, it is proved that complementarity has less impact on the selection of partners for marriage.  

Individual labors need to be remembered in case of completing the survey questionnaire. This approach increases the self-confidence and is one of the biggest strengths of Saints' assumptions. This is because of the presence of fewer comparisons and modifications. Along with this, the individual efforts improve honesty and reliability in case of the responses from the participants. Economical nature of the questions makes it like an interview, which is easy to approach. Replacement of the findings acts assistance in confirming the findings. Altering nature of the statements and number of responses produces reliability within the responses. This is also helpful for increasing the support for the respondents in case of certain trends.

Synthesizing the opinions of Winch and Saint, it can be said that there is the existence of complementarity within marital relationships. Further investigations are needed for confirming the claims regarding the increase of satisfaction in marriage.  


Throughout the essay, links have been established between attraction and similarity. Correlation has also been established within couples having high marital satisfaction in terms of the needs. Critics and researchers have failed to come to a definite conclusion. Uncertainty and lack of clarification are demonstrated in Winchs' theoretical assumptions. A typical example of this is the pair, dominance/deference, which adversely affected Saint's propositions. In the evaluation of Winch and other critics like Levinger, conclusive replication of the studies have gained prominence This is in terms of exploring the unexplored realms of non-romantic relationships. The obvious relation has been established between similarity and attraction. Typical evidence of this lies in the numerous studies, which have been conducted for supporting the hypothesis. In most of the assumptions, the use of a bogus stranger is found for determining the causes and effects of attraction. Limitations existed within time and other resources. For this reason, partners were used for gaining an insight into the existing relationships. This led to the conclusion regarding the validity of similarity leading to attraction. This was limited only in the boundaries of the laboratory rather than the real-life situations.

After reviewing the cases, it can be inferred that the main problem lies in the investigation related to the methodology. Along with this, hypothetical nature of the theoretical assumptions is also the biggest challenge. One of the possible recommendations is deeper research on relationships instead of cross-sectional studies, which only involves married couples. However, this is the biggest problem for the researchers in terms of financial and time constraints. One of the other means can be to increase the sample size. This can be done theoretically through the adoption of meta-analysis.

Consideration of the precious research would be effective in enriching the knowledge about the expressions and needs within the relationships. Accurate and fitting instruments need to be used for deducing relevant results. This can be done by developing a certain degree of similarity within the relations. Mention can be made of Edwards preference schedule, which would help in authentic sample selection. A revised edition would develop reliability and validity within the anticipated findings. Moreover, it would help in studying non-romantic relationships like friendship. However, considering marital relationships would be effective in terms of enhancing the preconceived knowledge, skills, and expertise about the subject matter.   


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