There are many different kinds of relationships, such as romantic, sexual, family and professional. This essay will focus on the forming and maintaining of relationships and the multiple factors involved. Relationships are also affected by other factors, such as social practices, so we need to take into account how different cultures and social groups conduct them, for instance, the western and non-western cultures. The reward/need satisfaction theory, (Byrne and Clore, 1970, cited in Cardwell et al., 2009) suggests that relationships are formed with those who satisfy our social and or psychological needs. This could be through operant conditioning, where we come to like people who give us reinforcements, or through classical conditioning, where we simply come to like those who happen to be around when we are feeling good. .
In a study by Griffit and Guay (1969, in Bernstein et al., 2000) participants were asked to rate how much they liked an experimenter who had previously evaluated them on a task they had been given. It was found that the more the participants had been reinforced praised, the higher they rated the experimenter, therefore, supporting the operant conditioning theory.
May and Hamilton (1980, in Haralambos and Rice, 2002) found that female participants who were shown photographs while listening to pleasant music, rated their men higher than the groups listening to unpleasant or no music. This study seems to support the theory of classical conditioning because the pleasant music appears to be influencing the photograph ratings. It can, however, be criticised on its ecological validity because, on the one hand it is just rating photographs and relationships are normally formed face to face, but on the other hand, in some situations like discos or online dating, first impressions are all we have to go on, and judging looks is exactly what is done.
Although both of these studies support the reward/need satisfaction theory, it can be criticised due to it being ethnocentric, in that it does not take into account cultural differences where romantic relationships are already pre-arranged.