CHAPTER 18: SOCIAL COGNITION
LIKING AND ATTRACTION
Cynical people may tell you that guys like girls with slender waists, while girls like guys with fat wallets. But there’s more to interpersonal attraction than that. Read on to learn more about the determinants of liking and attraction. Then maybe — just maybe — you’d snag that somebody you’ve been hankering after and stalking vigilantly for like forever.
- PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS
A lot of people say that they don’t much care about a person’s looks when on the lookout for a potential partner. DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT! Remember that boy who professed long-suffering love for you in high school? Didn’t you two play “truth or dare” with classmates? Didn’t he get asked which girl he liked? Didn’t he hesitate and say that he didn’t want to tell because the girl wasn’t pretty? And, when pushed, didn’t he then give your stunning best friend’s name? So much for not being taken in by appearances. But not-so-beautiful people, despair not! The importance of looks tends to diminish as people get to know each other better. So, even if the guy isn’t oh-darling-gift-from-heaven-gorgeous, if he’s fun to be with, if he’s intelligent and even a little insane, if you two can spend hours together just talking and laughing, then he’ll grow on you. You’ll start professing how handsome he is, and how there is no HELL way he’s gay, to the amusement or derision of your friends.
Lesson: Find yourself a guy you can delude yourself into thinking handsome. Alternatively, hook up with someone who’s about as attractive as you are. You don’t want to hear comments like “Of all people, why did he choose her? She looks like a pig.”
The nearer you live to a person, the greater the chances are that you’ll end up together. Yes, now you understand why it never really worked out between you and that boy who transferred to a school in the mountains. It’s not you, it’s the distance. So if the person you’ve been in love with for the longest time, the only person you can imagine marrying, is a Japanese actor who’d probably never even think of setting foot in your Third World, crazy-weathered, mosquito-infested country, then it’s probably time to accept that the chances of you ever hooking up are nil. Then again, no geographical gap is too large for dreams to bridge.
Lesson: If you have a crush on someone, stalk him, find out where he lives, and move right next door. Pop by his place every chance you get, claiming it’s in the spirit of neighborly love. Try to avoid restraining orders.
Of course you know the saying that goes “familiarity breeds contempt,” but that’s for familiarity in the sense of undue intimacy. Familiarity, in the sense of knowing somebody well, actually fosters liking. This is partly why proximity contributes to liking — it also contributes to familiarity. The more you know a person, the more you get used to his preferences, habits, and quirks, the easier you’ll accept him for what he is. True, it is rather difficult to get over his penchant for ignoring you, but give it time — you’ll get used to it.
Lesson: If you’re in love with somebody who doesn’t give a shit about you, just stick around! Sit next to him in class, ask him questions ranging from the trivial to the beauty pageant-worthy, borrow his stuff, add him on twitter/facebook/livejournal and make sure to read and comment on all his posts, text him org/college announcements, and make it a point to bump into him “incidentally” at least once a day.
However, you may regret being all chummy with him once he starts asking for advice about getting back together with his ex, or what gift he should get for this girl he’s dating.
Opposites attract? Largely not true, the enlightened ones say. We tend to like people who are like us, not only when it comes to personality, intelligence, attractiveness, and favorite depressing poetry, but also socio-economic status, religion, age group, and so on. Relationships between people who are alike also tend to last longer. Birds of the same feather couple together.
Lesson: If you’re an English major, don’t go hunting for beaus in places like the College of Science or Engineering — unless you want this to happen to you:
Him: Do you know that my love for you is like the limit of a constant variable as the variable approaches zero?
You: *nosebleed* Did you hear that swishing noise? That was the sound of my brain cells committing hara-kiri!
Him: I dreamed of you. We were physicists and lab partners *wink wink* at CERN working out the string theory.
There probably are practically no straight guys in your college, but hey, the social science majors are just a building away.
This simply means that when a new acquaintance reminds you of someone important to you, your memories of that significant somebody tend to affect your perception of the new person. You find yourself reconciling your idea of this new guy to your idea of the significant other.
For example, you find his intellectual and impersonal linguistic register endearing because your previous crush spoke in algorithms. Or, because he was late for a meeting with you once, you assumed that he’s just like that douchebag who always stood you up.
Lesson: If you want to start afresh and not merely recycle a past relationship, question why you like somebody. Do you like him for who he really is, or do you only like him because he looks like Harry Potter?
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTIONS:
1. If a guy tells you that he feels shy about courting you because you’re smarter than he is, which determinant of liking and attraction is he considering?
2. To dump or not to dump: He can’t explain why he likes you, only that he does. He also tells your friend that you remind him of his ex-girlfriend.
3. You’ve stuck around for years, always lending him a helping hand, a listening ear, and your notes for Psych101. He still likes somebody else. What now?
this exercise for a creative nonfiction class is a rewriting of this essay.