In social psychology, the definition of interpersonal attraction is a connection between people which can lead to a platonic or romantic relationship. It is a process of relationship development which is separate from factors such as physical attractiveness.
There are many reasons why interpersonal attraction may occur. People who are familiar with one another are naturally attracted to each other. Certain similarities, such as working at the same job, can promote interpersonal attraction.
Even something simple, like mutually liking each other’s posts on social media, can promote this attraction.
What Is Propinquity and Why Does It Matter?
Propinquity is taken from the Latin word that translates into “nearness” in modern language. When we are near other people, either physically or psychologically, then we naturally form a kinship with that person.
The more we see someone, or the more we interact with them, then the more likely we are to think of that person in relationship terms. That relationship may be a simple friendship. It may also lead toward a sexual partnership over time.
Although there are exceptions to propinquity, in general terms, the more someone is exposed to a specific stimulus, then the more the person will like it. When that stimulus is a person, deeper connections begin to form over time.
What We See Provides Validity for How We Feel
In 2009, a study at Oklahoma State University interviewed women about the possibility of pursuing a relationship with a man. When that man was known to not be in a romantic relationship, 59% of the women in the study expressed an interest in pursuing a relationship.
When the women in the study believed that the ideal man was in a relationship already, then 90% of the study group was interested in a romantic relationship.
People are attracted to items of visual evidence. When we see someone in a relationship already, then that is evidence which tells us that person is capable of forming relationships. If we are interested in that person, then we feel closer to that person because we have confidence in that person’s abilities.
Interpersonal attraction can take on many forms. Although it doesn’t explain relationships, it can show people how some relationships can be formed. With that knowledge, we can then make smarter decisions about how close we get to some people.