The Psychology of Attraction and Likability

27.06.2016 |

Episode #7 of the course A quick introduction to social psychology by Andy Luttrell


The Psychology

Although it seems too simple to be true, research in psychology has shown time and again that we like people who like us.

Imagine you meet someone totally new, you have a brief conversation, and you both part ways. At this point, you may not have strong feelings about this person. The next day, you’re talking to a co-worker who says, “Oh, that person who came by yesterday was really impressed with you.” With that simple piece of information, your opinion of that person radically changes. You’re probably ready to call that person a friend!

The idea is as simple as that. When our liking for others becomes clear, people are prone to return the liking.


The Evidence

In the 1960s, Elliot Aronson and Phillip Worchel conducted a study in which pairs of research participants simply had a conversation with one another. After the conversation, they privately rated how much they liked their partners.

One of the participants in each pair wasn’t an actual participant, though. Instead, it was someone working with the researchers posing as a normal participant. So each conversation in the study occurred between a real participant and a trained actor.

After their conversation, the participants were told to write a brief statement about their reactions to the experiment and their conversation partner. After they had written these statements, the experimenter allowed them to read what their partners wrote.

To see whether our impressions of someone change depending on whether we think they like us or not, the researchers had the actor write one of two statements (regardless of how well the conversation actually went).

For half the conversations, the actor’s statement said, “I enjoyed working with [my partner]; he seems like a really profound and interesting person.” For the other half of conversations, the actor would write, “I did not enjoy working with him in the experiment; he seems like a really shallow and uninteresting person.”

At this point, they separated the partners and gave them a final set of survey questions. In this survey, the real participants rated how much they liked their partners.

The results were clear—when participants thought that their partners liked them, they then reported liking their partners much more than when they had read that their partners didn’t like them.

The point is that liking breeds liking. By making it known that you like someone, that person instantly becomes fonder of you! So don’t be afraid to let people know that you’re fond of them.

For more, check out this complete online video course: “Psychology of Attraction and Likability.”


Recommended book

“Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Cass R Sunstein


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