Interpersonal Attraction in Social Psychology (Determinants of interpersonal attraction)

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Sayani Banerjee
Sayani Banerjee

Interpersonal attraction is the tendency of people to have a positive attitude toward another person or simply like others. But why do we like certain people and not others? What are some of the factors that influence our attitude toward other people?

What are the determinants of interpersonal attraction?

We like people who reward us and help us to satisfy our needs. We also tend to like people when we perceive our interactions with them to be profitable. And sometimes we like people who are like us. Keeping these things in mind there are four crucial determinants of liking others which are proximity, familiarity, similarity, and personal qualities of the other individual. Let's discuss this one by one.

Proximity: Liking those who are nearby

This is the tendency of people to like individuals who are physically closer to them. People are more likely to form social relationships with others who are around them. This might happen because people who are closer are more easily available which affects the balance of rewards and cost of interacting. Another explanation is based on the cognitive dissonance theory. According to cognitive dissonance theory, people always want to maintain harmony or consistency in their beliefs and attitudes. If someone has to work side by side with another individual whom they don't like it is likely to produce psychological distress, hence there's a pressure to like those with whom we must associate. Other studies have also shown that mere anticipation of interaction increases liking.

However, there are exceptions to proximity like everything else in this world. There are many cases of people experiencing conflicts and having intense negative feelings about someone due to increased proximity.

Familiarity: Liking those whom we see often

Familiarity can increase interpersonal attraction. Indeed simply being exposed to a person can increase our liking for that person (mere exposure effect). From an evolutionary point of view, this might be due to people’s perception of unfamiliar things or strangers as a threat. In contrast, familiar things produce a feeling of comfort and security. As people become familiar they also become more predictable which again reduces the feeling of innate fear. However, familiarity has its own limitations and it might not be applicable to every person. Sometimes being too familiar to a person may also cause boredom and satiation.

Similarity: Liking people who are like us

We generally like people who are similar to us in terms of attitudes, interests, values, background, and personality. People who have a strong view about something generally choose partners who have similar views and reject dissimilar others This is called selective attraction. But there's a possibility that partners having different views initially gradually persuade each other to change their views as a result of social influence which makes them similar to each other over time. Environmental factors also have a role in leading people with similar attitudes to meet.

Desirable Personal Attributes

The personal qualities of a person are one of the most important factors for liking them. Each individual finds different things to be attractive about others based on cultural and other differences. Some of the personal attributes that generally influence people to like others are:


People are perceived to be warm when they have the capacity to praise things that they like and approve of them. In other words, people who have a positive attitude towards other people and things are considered to be warm. If someone tends to dislike most things, disparage them, say awful things about people whom they don't like, and are critical about most things they generally tend to lack warmth and hence are not liked by most people. Nonverbal behaviors like smiling, watching attentively, and expressing emotions are important cues to show warmth toward others.


In general, we like people who are socially skilled, intelligent, and competent. We are attracted to people who have good communication skills, who can help us in need, and capable of fixing things if needed. In other words, we like people whom we can depend on. Competent people are usually more rewarding to be with than inept people.


Read more on: Social Psychology


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