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what is sexual selection?

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AQA A-Level Psychology - Relationships

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what is sexual selection?

the selection of characteristics that aid successful reproduction

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what is anisogamy?

the differences between male and female sex cells (gametes)

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what is a consequence of anisogamy?

there is no shortage of fertile males but a fertile female is a much rarer 'resource'

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why is anisogamy important?

it gives rise to two types of sexual selection

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what is inter-sexual selection?

selection of mates between the sexes - strategies that males use to select females, or that females use to select males (preferred strategy of females)

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why is inter-sexual selection the preferred selection for females?

females make a greater investment of time, commitment and energy, so they prefer to select genetically fit males who can provide resources

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what is the impact of inter-sexual selection?

preferences of both sexes determine the attributes that are passed on e.g. if height is considered attractive in males, it will increase in the male population as the tallest males are being selected, so the trait becomes exaggerated

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what is a runaway process?

an evolutionary process in which a trait is favoured in selection, so more males with a certain trait become selected by females

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what is intra-sexual selection?

selection of mates within the sexes - males compete with other males for a mate

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why is intra-sexual selection preferred by males?

males compete for a female as sperm is plentiful but a fertile female is limited and choosier. the males who win pass their genes onto the next generation, so the traits that helped them win are perpetuated

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what is the impact of intra-sexual selection?

males who are bigger win competitions for mates, so size is selected in males. in females, signs of fertility are selected

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what is a strength of inter-sexual selection? (research support)

  • research support from Clark + Hatfield

  • uni students asked other students if they would 'go to bed with [them]'

  • no female students said yes, but 75% of males agreed immediately

  • this supports the view that females are choosier than males in partner preference

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what is a counterpoint of research support for inter-sexual selection? (oversimplified)

  • Buss and Schmidt claim sexual selection theory is simplistic because it suggests that one strategy is adaptive for all males and another is adaptive for all females

  • instead, both have similar preferences when seeking long-term relationships

  • this is a more complex evolutionary view of partner preferences as it takes account of the context of reproductive behaviour

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what is a strength of intra-sexual selection?

  • research support from Buss

  • 10,000 adults in 303 countries were surveyed asking about attributes that were important in a partner

  • females valued resource (good financial prospects) more than males did

  • males sought signs of reproductive capacity (physical attractiveness and youth) more than females

  • these findings reflect consistent sex differences in preferences, which supports predictions from sexual selection theory

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what is a limitation of sexual selection theory? (social and cultural influences)

  • social and cultural influences are underestimated

  • partner preferences have been influenced by changing social and cultural norms; the changing roles of women in the workplace mean preferences are no longer resource-oriented

  • this suggests partner preference is likely to be both due to evolutionary and cultural influences, which the theory fails to explain so is only a limited explanation

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what is self-disclosure?

the gradual process of revealing intimate information to another person

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what is social penetration theory?

social penetration theory proposes that self-disclosure must be reciprocated by the other partner. penetration then leads to development in the relationship as they become more deeply connected. breadth is narrow to begin with because if too much is revealed at the start of a relationship, it can be off-putting. as the relationship progresses, depth increases as more 'layers' are revealed and more intimate information is shared

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why is reciprocity needed in self-disclosure?

reciprocity can lead to a deeper relationship as information is received by one partner, leading the other to reveal something about themselves

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what is a strength of self-disclosure? (research)

  • support for self-disclosure from research studies

  • Sprecher and Hendrick found strong correlations between measures of satisfaction and self-disclosure in straight couples

  • men and women who used self-disclosure were more satisfied with and committed to their romantic relationship

  • this increases the validity of the view that reciprocated self-disclosure is a key part of satisfying romantic relationships

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what is a counterpoint of research into self-disclosure?

  • correlations were found but this does not mean that self-disclosure causes relationships to become more satisfying

  • it may be that satisfied partners disclose more, or both caused by time spent together

  • this suggests that self-disclosures may not cause satisfaction directly, reducing the validity of social penetration theory

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what is a strength of self-disclosure? (real-world)

  • it has real-world application to improve communication

  • Hass and Stafford found 57% of men and women reported using self-disclosure as a relationship maintenance strategy

  • couples who limit communication to 'small-talk' can be encouraged to self-disclose to deepen their relationship

  • this suggests that self-disclosure has an importance in the real-world and can be used in couples therapy

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what is a limitation of self-disclosure? (culture)

  • self-disclosure is not satisfying in all cultures

  • Tang et al. concluded that people in the US self-disclose more than people in China, however, satisfaction was the same in both countries

  • this suggests social penetration theory is a limited explanation as it is not generalisable to all cultures

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why is symmetry important in physical attractiveness?

Shackelford and Larsen found that people with symmetrical faces are rated as more attractive. this is because facial symmetry is seen as a sign of honest genetic fitness

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why are 'baby face' features seen as more attractive?

neotenous (baby face) features are thought to trigger protective and caring instincts.

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what is the halo effect?

when someone is perceived as good because they are physically attractive, so we behave more positively towards them as we think their other attributes are also positive

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what is the matching hypothesis?

when we choose people that match us in attractiveness

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what was Walster et al.'s procedure on the matching hypothesis?

  • students were invited to a dance and rated on physical attractiveness by objective observers and completed questionnaires

  • they were told the questionnaire was to pair them with a partner, but partner pairing was actually random

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what were Walster et al.'s findings on the matching hypothesis?

  • the most physically attractive partners were the most liked and more likely to be asked out on another date

  • Berscheid et al. replicated the study where students selected the partners themselves

  • they found that they chose partners of similar physical attractiveness

  • this suggests that we choose people whose physical attractiveness matches our own because we fear rejection from those more attractive than us, so we settle for those in our 'league'

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what is a strength of physical attractiveness? (halo effect)

  • research support for the halo effect

  • Palmer and Peterson found that physically attractive people were rated more politically knowledgeable than unattractive people

  • this halo effect persisted even when participants were told the 'knowledgeable' people actually had no expertise

  • this suggests dangers for democracy if politicians are elected just because they are considered attractive by voters

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what is a strength of physical attractiveness? (evolutionary processes)

  • research support for evolutionary processes

  • Cunningham et al. found large eyes and small noses in females were rated as attractive by white, hispanic, and asian males, showing that what is considered attractive is consistent across many different cultures

  • this is because attractive features are a sign of genetic fitness, so are perpetuated

  • this suggests that the importance of physical attractiveness makes sense in evolutionary terms

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what is a limitation of physical attractiveness? (matching hypothesis)

  • real-world research doesn't support the matching hypothesis

  • Taylor et al. studied online dating activity logs and found that people sought dates with partners who were more physically attractive than themselves

  • this contradicts the prediction that real couples seek to match attractiveness

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what is a counterpoint of real-world research in physical attractiveness?

  • Feingold conducted a meta-analysis and found a significant correlation in ratings of physical attractiveness between romantic partners

  • this suggests there is support for the matching hypothesis from real-world studies

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what are the field of availables in terms of filter theory?

the group of potential partners who are accessible to us

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what are the field of desireables in terms of filter theory?

the people whom we actually want to date, chosen via 3 filters

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what is social demography?

factors that influence our chance of meeting someone. this can be location, age, social class, religion, and education. the outcome is homogamy (the partner is similar to you, shares your background)

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what is similarity of attitudes?

it is when two partners share beliefs and values. it is important for couples who have been together for less than 18 months as it can help promote self-disclosure and better communication

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what is the law of attraction?

Byrne found that similarity in attitudes causes mutual attraction and when such similarity is absent, it is found that the relationship fades after a few dates

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what is complementarity?

when partners meet each others needs. partners compliment each other when they have a trait that the other lacks e.g. one person like to laugh, the other likes to make people laugh. this is important for people in long-term relationships as it makes partners feel like a 'whole', giving a sense of togetherness

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what is a strength of filter theory? (research support)

  • support from Kerckhoff and Davis's original study

  • dating couples completed questionnaires to measure similarity of attitudes, complementarity of needs, and relationship 'closeness'

  • closeness was linked to similarity of values only for partners who had been together under 18 months, and complementarity was more important for couples who had been together for longer

  • this suggests that similarity is important for earlier stages if a relationship, but complementarity becomes more important later

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what is a counterpoint to the research support of filter theory?

  • the original findings could not be replicated. this could be due to social changes and assumptions that partners together more than 18 months must be more committed

  • this assumption is questionable so filter theory is based on evidence lacking in validity

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what is a limitation of filter theory? (complementarity)

  • complementarity does not always predict satisfaction

  • Markey and Markey found that long-term lesbian romantic partners were most satisfied when both partners were equally dominant, something not predicted by filter theory

  • this suggests that similarity of attitudes may be better associated with long-term satisfaction for some couples

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what is a limitation of filter theory? (perceived similarity)

  • perceived similarity matters more

  • Montoya et al. found that perceived similarity was a stronger predictor of attractive in a meta-analysis

  • this is because romantic partners perceive they have more in common as they become more attracted to each other

  • this suggests that perceived similarity may be an effect of attraction and not a cause, something not predicted by filter theory

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what is social exchange theory?

Thibault and Kelly proposed that relationships could be explained in terms of economics. satisfaction is judged in terms of profits. profitable relationships continue, unprofitable ones fail

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what is the minimax principle?

in a relationship, partners try to minimise the number of costs and maximise the number of rewards they receive, so the relationship becomes profitable

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what is an opportunity cost?

an investment of time and energy in a current relationship means resources cannot be invested elsewhere

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what is comparison level (CL)?

a judgement of the reward level we believe we deserve in a relationship, determined by relationship experience and social norms. we pursue a relationship when our CL is high, which relates to self-esteem

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what is comparison level for alternatives (CLalt)?

when we consider whether we would gain more rewards and endure fewer costs in another relationship or by being alone. if the relationship is satisfying, we will not notice the alternatives

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what is the sampling stage of a relationship? (1st stage)

rewards and costs are explored by experimenting with them in our own relationships, or by observing others doing so

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what is the bargaining stage of a relationship? (2nd stage)

occurs at the start of a relationship; when romantic partners exchange various rewards and costs and start negotiating what is most profitable

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what is the commitment stage of a relationship? (3rd stage)

where relationships become more stable as rewards increase and costs lessen

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what is the institutionalisation stage of a relationship? (4th stage)

when partners become settled because the norms of the relationship are established

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what is a strength of social exchange theory (SET)? (research support)

  • research supporting some of its concepts

  • Kurdeck interviewed straight and gay couples in committed relationships and found that they perceived they had the most rewards and fewest costs, as well as viewed the alternatives to be unattractive

  • these findings confirm predictions of SET, increasing the validity of the theory in all couple types

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what is a counterpoint to research support of SET?

  • studies in SET ignore the role of equity ; what matters most in a relationship is not the balance of rewards and costs, but the partners' perception that this is fair

  • this suggests that SET is a limited explanation as it cannot account for a significant proportion of research findings that confirm the importance of equity

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what is a limitation of SET? (cause and effect)

  • the direction of cause and effect

  • SET claims we become dissatisfied after we perceive costs outweigh the rewards, or when alternatives seem more attractive

  • Argyle argues that dissatisfaction comes first, then we start to perceive costs and alternatives

  • this suggests that considering alternatives/costs is caused by dissatisfaction rather than the reverse - a direction not predicted by SET

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what is a limitation of SET? (vague concepts)

  • SET concepts are vague

  • real-world costs and rewards are hard to define as they are subjective and vary from person to person

  • this means SET is hard to test in a valid way

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what is equity in a relationship?

the fairness of the rewards and costs of a relationship. there must be a balance between profits of each person

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what is a consequence of inequity? (change in perceived equity)

over time in a relationship, one partner starts contributing more than receiving. this causes dissatisfaction to arise

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how do partners deal with inequity?

the underbenefitted partner is motivated to make the relationship more equitable if they believe the relationship is salvageable

the change can also be cognitive rather than behavioural; the dissatisfied partner may revise their perceptions of rewards and costs so the relationship feels more equitable to them, even if nothing actually changes

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what is a strength of equity theory? (research support)

  • equity theory has research support

  • Utne et al. conducted a survey with newlywed couples who had been together 2 years before marriage

  • those who thought their relationship was equitable were the most satisfied than those who saw themselves as over/underbenefititng

  • this supports the central predictions of the theory that equity is a major concern of couples and is linked with satisfaction

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what is a counterpoint to the research support of equity theory?

  • Berg and McQuinn found that equity did not distinguish between relationships that had ended and those that continued - other variables (e.g. self-disclosure) were more important

  • this suggests that the theory lacks validity because the predictions of it are not supported by research

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what is a limitation of equity theory? (culture)

  • the theory may not be valid in all cultures

  • Aumer-Ryan et al. found that couples in individualist cultures were most satisfied when their relationship was equitable, but couples from collectivist cultures were most satisfied when one partner was overbenefitting and one underbenefitting. this was true of both men and women

  • this suggests that the theory is a limited explanation as it is not generalisable to all cultures

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what is a limitation of equity theory? (individual differences)

  • there are individual differences

  • Huseman et al. suggest that not all partners are concerned with equity; benevolents are happy to contribute more than they receive and entitleds believe they deserve to overbenefit and accept it without feeling guilt or distress

  • this suggests that a desire for equity varies from one individual to another and is not a universal feature of romantic relationships

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what is Rusbult's investment model?

an extension of SET. states that a satisfying relationship is one where partners are getting more out of a relationship than they expect, given social norms and past experiences

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what are the 3 factors of Rusbult's investment model that result in commitment?

  1. satisfaction - the extent to which the partners feel the rewards of the romantic relationship exceed the costs

  2. comparison with alternatives - a judgement about whether another partner would increase rewards and reduce costs

  3. investment - the resources associated with a romantic relationship which would be lost if the relationship were to end

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what are the two types of investment?

intrinsic, extrinsic

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what is intrinsic investment?

any resources put directly into the relationship e.g. money, energy, self-disclosure

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what is extrinsic investment?

investments that previously were not a feature of the relationship but are now closely associated with it e.g. children, mutual friends, shared memories

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how is commitment determined by the three factors? (satisfaction, CLalt, and investment)

if there are high levels of satisfaction, the alternatives are less attractive, and the size of investments are increasing, partners will be committed to a relationship

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what is the difference between satisfaction and commitment?

commitment is the main factor that causes people to stay in romantic relationships whereas satisfaction contributes to commitment

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what are the 3 relationship maintenance mechanisms of Rusbult's investment theory?

  1. promoting the relationship (accommodation)

  2. putting partner's interests first (willingness to sacrifice)

  3. forgiving them for serious transgressions (forgiveness)

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what is a strength of Rusbult's investment model? (research support)

  • research support from a meta-analysis by Le and Agnew

  • they found that all 3 factors predicted commitment and commitment was linked with greater stability of a relationship

  • the outcomes were true of both men and women, across all cultures for all couple types

  • this suggests that the model has increased validity

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what is a counterpoint to research support of Rusbult's model?

  • research studies show strong correlations between factors but does not follow that these factors cause commitment

  • this suggests that it is not clear that the model has identified the causes of commitment rather than factors that are associated with it

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what is a strength of Rusbult's model? (abusive relationships)

  • it can explain why people stay in abusive relationships

  • Rusbult and Martz studied abused women and those who reported having put a greater investment into their relationship were the most likely to return to their abusive partner

  • the women were dissatisfied with their relationship but continued to stay because they were committed to their partners

  • this suggests the model shows satisfaction on its own cannot explain why people stay in relationships

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what is a limitation of Rusbult's model? (oversimplified)

  • the model has oversimplified investment

  • Goodfriend and Agnew argue there is more to investment than the resources you have put into the relationship

  • partners in the early stages of a relationship make few actual investments but make plans to invest in the future which motivates them to commit

  • this suggests that the original model is a limited explanation as it doesn't consider the complexity of investment

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what is Duck's phase model of relationship breakdown?

Duck argued that the ending of a relationship is not a one-off event but a process that takes time and goes through 4 distinct phases. each phase has a threshold which changes the perception of the relationship to one of the partners.

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what is the intra-psychic stage of Duck's phase model?

threshold: 'i can't stand it anymore' - indicates that something has to change a partner becomes dissatisfied with the relationship then worry about the reasons for this and focus on their partner's shortcomings.

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what is the dyadic stage of Duck's phase model?

threshold: 'i would be justified in withdrawing' partners discuss that they are justified with ending to relationship to each other. dissatisfactions of equity and commitment are aired. self-disclosures may be more frequent as partners are revealing their true feelings

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what is the social stage of Duck's phase model?

threshold: dissatisfied partner concludes 'i mean it' partners will seek support from friends once the relationship has ended. some friends will provide reassurance, some may intervene and try to prevent the break-up. this is usually the point of no return

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what is the grave dressing stage of Duck's phase model?

threshold: 'it's now inevitable' a story is perpetuated by one of the partners for public consumption. this is likely in attempt to restore the reputation of the storyteller and paint the other partner in a negative light. a personal story may also be created to help the partner move on

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what is a strength of Duck's phase model? (real-world)

  • application to real-world relationship breakdown

  • the model suggests that some repair strategies are more effective at one stage e.g. improving communication can be used at the dyadic phase

  • this suggests that the model can provide support for when couples are going through a rough patch

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what is a counterpoint to the real-world application of Duck's phase model? (individualist cultures)

  • Moghaddam et al. argue the model is based on breakdown in individualist cultures where many relationships voluntarily end

  • in collectivist cultures, relationships are often 'obligatory' so are less easy to end

  • this suggests the model is a limited explanation as it cannot be generalised to all cultures as the concept of romantic relationships differs between cultures

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What is a limitation of Duck's phase model? (incomplete)

  • the model is incomplete

  • Rollie and Duck added a resurrection stage in which ex-partners apply to future relationships what they had learnt from the previous one

  • partners may also return to earlier phases at any point

  • this suggests the model does not take into account the complexity of relationship breakdown, so is a limited explanation

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What is a limitation of Duck's phase model? (early phases)

  • early phases are less well explained

  • research participants recall relationship breakdown retrospectively, so report may not be accurate, especially when recalling the earlier phases as the intra-psychic phase happens long ago, so recall could be distorted

  • this suggests the model does not explain the early part of the breakdown process as well as later stages

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what is the reduced cues theory in virtual relationships?

this theory suggests that virtual relationships are less effective due to the lack of nonverbal cues (e.g. facial expression, tone of voice). in FtF relationships we rely on these cues. lack of cues an lead to deindividuation

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what is deindividuation?

when a person's sense of individual identity is reduced in virtual relationships. this can lead to disinhibition (when people feel freer from the constraints of social norms) which leads to reluctance to self-disclose

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what is the hyperpersonal model in virtual relationships?

when virtual relationships develop more quickly as a result of self-disclosure happening more quickly

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what are the 2 key features of the hyperpersonal model?

  1. the sender has control (selective self-presentation) and can disclose what they choose and may be hyperhonest or hyperdishonest

  2. the receiver's feedback may reinforce the sender's selective self-presentation

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how is anonymity important in virtual relationships?

when you're aware that other people do not know your identity, you feel less accountable for your behaviour, so may disclose more to a stranger

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what is a 'gate'?

an obstacle that prevents a relationship from forming in FtF interactions

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what are the benefits and drawbacks of absence of gates in virtual relationships?

as gates are absent in virtual relationships, they are more likely to 'get off the ground' as there is nothing prevent the relationship from forming, so self-disclosures may become deeper. however they can also create untrue identities to deceive people - they can change age, gender, and personality

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what is a strength of virtual relationships? (absence of gates support)

  • there is support for an absence of gating in virtual relationships

  • McKenna and Bargh studied online communication by shy people and found that 71% of the romantic relationships initially formed online survived more than 2 years, compared to 49% formed offline

  • this suggests that shy people can benefit from virtual relationships because the gating that obstructs FtF relationships is not present

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what is a limitation of virtual relationships? (reduced cues theory)

  • there is a lack of support for reduced cues theory

  • Walther and Tidwell point out that people in online communication use other cues, such as style and timing of messages, so there are nuances in virtual relationships that are just as subtle as in FtF relationships

  • this is hard for reduced cues theory to explain as it means virtual relationships can be just as personal as FtF ones

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what is a limitation of virtual relationships? (hyperpersonal model)

  • there is a lack of research support for the hyperpersonal model

  • Ruppel et al.'s meta-analysis compared the frequency, breadth, and depth of self-disclosures in FtF and virtual relationships and found that in self-report studies, self-disclosure was greater in FtF relationships on all 3 measures

  • this challenges the model's view that greater intimacy in virtual relationships should lead to great self-disclosure than FtF

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what is a counterpoint to the lack of support for the hyperpersonal model in virtual relationships?

  • Whitty and Joinson found that conversations in virtual relationships are direct and hyperhonest and self-presentation online can be hyperdishonest

  • this support the model's claims about how hyperhonest/dishonest self-disclosures and shows there are differences between FtF and virtual relationships

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what is the Celebrity Assessment Scale (CAS) for parasocial relationships?

a 3-level scale used to identify parasocial relationships

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what is the entertainment-social level of parasocial relationships?

least intense level where celebrities are seen as a source of entertainment and fuel for social interaction

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what is the intense-personal level of parasocial relationships?

intermediate level where someone becomes more personally involved with a celebrity, may include obsessive thoughts

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what is the borderline-pathological stage of parasocial relationships?

strongest level of celebrity worship, where fantasies are uncontrollable and behaviours are more extreme

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how are parasocial relationships explained in terms of life deficiencies?

McCutcheon suggests that parasocial relationships can make up for personal deficiencies and can provide an escape from reality

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what are the components of the absorption addiction model?

absorption - seeking fulfilment in celebrity worship motivates an individual to focus their attention on the celebrity to identify with them and become absorbed with their existence addiction - an individual needs to increase their 'dose' of involvement to gain satisfaction. this can lead to more extreme behaviour and delusional thinking

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