The researchers Peter Buston and Stephen Emlen, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said their findings strongly suggested that a person’s self-perception governed what they looked for in a mate. However, findings also suggest that people were attracted to people who were different from them – often because they wanted to learn how to be more like them. Self-expansion is believed to be a motivation for this behaviour.
There are perhaps two main theories of attraction, ‘Reinforcement theory’ and ‘Balance theory’. The former states that we like those who reward us or those who may be present when good things happen to us, that we prefer to maximise gain and that voluntary relationships depend on receiving satisfactory outcomes. A similar theory is ‘social exchange theory’. Balance theory states that to make accurate judgements about ourselves, for example, our abilities, attitudes and attractiveness we use social comparisons. Apparently, negative feelings are created when we perceive ourselves to be different from significant others. Consequently, we choose similar others to avoid negative feelings.
Evolutionary theorists argue that women look for resources and dominance in a mate whereas men look for fertility capability – youth, health and beauty. It feels important to acknowledge that different cultures and historical periods clearly influence the nature of the love relationship and that young people learn how they are supposed to feel and behave.
Can we apply a theory to that common partnership – an attractive woman and a wealthy man? Heffner claims this is about assigning “social assets” or “attraction points” to everyone we meet and that these may include physical attractiveness, wealth, sense of humour and education. Moreover, if we view a particular category as more important, then this is what we are more likely to find. Apparently, we know our score (at some level) as regards rating ourselves and therefore tend to pick partners who have a similar score.