In 1965, Elliot Aronson and Darwyn Linder developed the gain-loss theory of attraction. It does not contradict other research that I have read. This theory holds that Person A will like Person B if the latter’s negative views towards the former gradually change into positives (Cramer, 2009). The liking will be more pronounced in this case as compared to a scenario where Person A has constant positive views about Person B. Similarly, Person A will dislike Person B if the latter’s positive attitudes change into negatives. However, the experiment that led to the development of this theory failed to consider some important factors.
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For instance, Aronson and Linder did not consider the participants’ personal feelings towards themselves. In other words, the participants’ level of self-esteem was not factored. People with low self-esteem are likely to think lowly about themselves are probably dislike the interviewer. Similarly, individuals with high self-esteem may not be affected by the interviewer’s negative comments, and their feelings may be unchanged. Additionally, the theory has some testing limitations. Interviewees could be biased when giving self-reports on how they feel towards the interviewer.
It could also be difficult to measure other confounding factors and determine whether they relate to the results by causation or correlation. For instance, some interviewees could be attracted to the interviewer’s physical attributes, and this aspect may affect the ultimate judgment on liking or disliking someone. In this case, it could be difficult to establish whether the liking is associated with the interviewer’s positive comments about the interviewee or physical attractiveness. In addition, some participants may like the interviewer’s positive views based on how he or she says it as opposed to what is said. These confounding factors are some of the testing limitations of this theory.
Testing of Theory
Participants will like me more if I start by pointing out what I dislike about them and finish by praising what I like about them. Additionally, my degree of likeability would decline if I start by highlighting what I like about the participants and finish by what I dislike.
I conducted my psychological experiment by acting out a phenomenon with my friends and relatives. I wanted to measure my likeability to different persons based on certain circumstances. I chose 15 participants. I divided the participants into three groups of five people each. I met the targeted participants individually and had a conversation during which I performed my experiment. In the first group, I met each participant and struck a conversation, and in the middle of it, I started pointing out what I did not like about him or her.
I then progressed to highlight the good things that I liked about them. I ended by praising them for being good friends. Finally, I asked each participant to rate how he or she liked at the start of the conversation and at the end of it, on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the “dislike” and 10 “highly like”.
For the second group, I met each participant and talked about what I liked about them. I did not point out any negative issue concerning their behavior or physical appearance. At the end of the conversation, I asked each person to rate how he or she liked me at the start and end of the conversation. For the third group, I met the participants and as our conversation continued, I started pointing out things that I liked about them. However, at some point, I started talking about things that I disliked about them. I then asked them to rate my likeability at the start and the end of the conversation. Finally, I informed all the participants that I was only conducting a psychological experiment for study purposes.
My likeability increased among participants in group one, it did not change with group two participants, but it declined among members of group three.
The results obtained from this experiment are in line with the gain-loss theory. As expected, the participants in group one changed their views concerning my likeability as I moved from talking about what I disliked about them to what I liked. I also praised them for being good friends. From these results, it could be deduced that a person’s likeability increases as he or she starts with negatives and finishes with positives about the test group. In the second group, the participants did not have any noticeable changes in their likeability towards me. According to Aronson and Linder (1965), people may have an unchanged opinion on how they like you if you keep on feeding them positive messages.
In the last group, participants indicated that they disliked me. Three out of the five members of the group gave me a1 out of 10 on the likeability scale. The other two gave me a rating of less than 3. These results confirm the gain-loss theory provisions. While people love to hear good things about themselves, they are likely to change that opinion immediately someone starts pointing out negatives. In other words, people like affirmative messages stressing their good physical appearance, behavioral, or character attributes.
The results obtained from this experiment supported my hypothesis. The gain-loss theory is a straightforward concept, and it majors on how people are attracted to each other. People are emotional beings, and they have an inherent need for recognition and appreciation (Aronson, 2012). Therefore, when person A starts by highlighting negative attributes concerning person B, the latter would frown and dislike the former.
However, as person A shifts the conversation to focus on the positives, person B’s attitude changes noticeably as affirmative messages fulfill the emotional void caused by the need for recognition, praise, and appreciation. However, when person A starts and ends by highlighting positive attributes concerning person B, the latter’s opinion may not change significantly.
When people continuously hear the same information, they internalize and normalize the message, and thus their emotions are likely to remain steady and unchanged. This argument explains why my likeability among group two members remained almost the same at the start and end of our conversation. When individuals first hear positive messages about themselves, they feel good or their opinions and feelings may remain the same due to the internalization talked about earlier. However, when the messages move from positives to negatives, the recipients start feeling devalued as such information damages their egos and pride (Siegman, 1974). This aspect explains why group three members rated my likeability poorly because they did not love what they heard towards our conversation.
Future research should focus on repeating the same experiment, but devise a way of reducing bias among the participants. When self-reporting, people are likely to be biased due to several factors, such as being loyal to friendships or the respect accorded to family members. Additionally, future studies should focus on randomization to allow the generalization of the results. The sample population should also be large and diverse to allow the extrapolation of the results in different set-ups.
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Aronson, E., & Linder, D. (1965). Gain and loss of esteem as determinants of interpersonal attractiveness. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1(2), 156-171.
Aronson, E. (2012). The social animal (11th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
Cramer, D. (2009). Gain-loss theory of attraction. In H. T. Reis & S. Spreacher (Eds.), Encyclopedia of human relations: Vol. 1 (pp. 745-746). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Siegman, A. W. (1974). The gain-loss principle and interpersonal attraction in the interview. Proceedings of the Division of Personality and Society Psychology, 1(1), 83-85.