Video explaining social influence research (episode 38)

Episode 38 (scroll if you need to) to find a video explaining social influence research.


Outline and evaluate two explanations for the maintenance of relationships (8+ 16 marks)

Love 2


There are many explanations of why relationships are maintained. One explanation is the social exchange theory, proposed by Thibaut and Kelley in 1959. This theory says that the expectation that people get from relationships is that you will earn a ‘profit’ from it – so the rewards will outweigh the costs. For example, a husband brings effort and financial investment to the relationship, his wife may reward him by caring for him and sex. Alternatively if the wife brings care by cooking and cleaning for her husband in a relationship, then he may reward her by buying her clothes and .


Another explanation is the equity theory, proposed by Walster in 1978. This theory says that people attempt to achieve fairness in their relationships and feel distressed if they think the relationship is unfair; it is seen that the more perceived inequity in a relationship, the more dissatisfaction of the partners. For example if the woman feels she is doing a lot of work around the house and her husband is doing very little, she will be dissatisfied as she will feel that it is an unfair balance. This theory also says that if someone perceives inequity in a relationship, they are motivated to restore it. For example, if a woman feels she is doing a lot of work around the house and her husband is doing very little, she will try to encourage him to do more if she feels like the relationship is worth saving.


One piece of research that can be used to support the social exchange theory was done by Rusbult and Martz in 1995; who argue that the idea of exchange in relationships can be used to explain why some partners might stay in abusive relationships. When there are high investments, such as children and financial security and low alternatives, such as having no money and nowhere to live; this could be considered a profit situation, making the partners stay in the relationship.

Another piece of research that can be used to support the social exchange theory was done by Simpson in 1990. They asked participants in a study to rate members of the opposite sex in terms of how attractive they were, and found that the participants who were already in a relationship gave lower ratings. This suggests that people may rate others lower (significantly lower than they would rate their partner) to make their partner seem more attractive and to protect their current relationship so that it can be maintained.

However, a problem with the social exchange theory is that it does not explain why some people leave relationships even when they have no alternative, also it doesn’t suggest how great the difference in comparison levels needs to be unsatisfactory, as individual differences need to be taken into account because some people will find people more/less attractive than others depending on what they like in a person. Also this theory does not explain why some people don’t maintain relationships in spite of profit and why some people would stay even when they’re in a loss. It holds a very simplistic and mechanistic view of relationships.


A piece of research that can be used to challenge the social exchange theory was done by Duck and Sants in 1983. Who argue that social exchange theory has too much of a focus on the individuals perspective, and ignores the social viewpoint of relationships, such as how partners communicate and understand shared events. Even if two people find each other attractive, they may not have enough in common that they have things to talk about, or their personalities may clash if they have different views on things, such as politics or religion. The main criticism of the social exchange theory is that it endorses a selfish nature, as it implies that people are only motivated to maintain relationships through hedonistic concerns. This explanation does not explain relationships that are maintained even when one partner is selfless (such as when one partner cares for the other who is elderly or unwell). This therefore challenges the reliability of the explanation.


A piece of research that can be used to challenge the equity theory was completed by Clark and Mills in 1979, who disagreed with the idea that all relationships are based on economics. They distinguished between exchange relationships (for example between colleagues) and communal relationships (for example between lovers). They argue that communal relationships are more driven by a desire to respond to the needs of their partner, and the equity theory of maintenance doesn’t explain this.

Another piece of research that can be used to challenge the equity theory was carried out by DeMaris in 2007, who investigated whether marriage equity is linked to marital disruption. He used 1500 couples as part of the US National Survey of Families and Households, and found that the only subjective index of inequity linked with the disruption, is how the women feels under-benefitted, with more under-benefit increasing the risk of divorce.

Ragsdale and Brandau-Brown in 2007 conducted another piece of research that can be used to challenge the equity theory. They reject the idea that equity is an important part of relationship satisfaction, as they say that this represents ‘an incomplete rendering of the way that married people behave with respect to each other’. Therefore, the equity theory is an insufficient theory to explain why people maintain relationships.


There are issues with the social exchange theory, such as cultural bias. Moghaddam in 1998 suggests that ‘economic’ theories can only apply to Western relationships, and even then only to certain short-term relationships of individuals with high mobility. A group who fits this are students in Western societies. However long term relationships in less mobile groups of people, especially in non-traditional culture, are more likely to value the security of their relationships than their personal profit. So there needs to be more research to explain how relationships are maintained in other non-Western cultures, as there is currently not enough research to account for them too.


There are also issues with the equity theory, such as gender bias. Research suggests that men and women might not have the same judgement of equity of a relationship. Steil and Weltman in 1991, found that among married working couples, husbands who earned more than their wives rated their own careers as more important than their wives’ careers. Also in these couples, the women generally also rated their husbands’ careers as more important than their own. This therefore suggests that neither the social exchange or equity theory are able to explain why women maintain relationships, as they appear to have different views of why they should stay.

Word count: 1105

Describe and evaluate two or more theories of the formation of romantic relationships. (8 +16 marks)



One theory that outlines the formation of relationships is the reward/ need satisfaction theory that was developed by Byrne and Clore (70). The theory suggests that we form a relationship because the presence of a particular individual is associated with reinforcement. This is because rewarding stimuli creates positive feelings and these stimuli may be people. These people therefore make us happy, so, due to operant conditioning, we seek to adopt behaviours that lead to a desirable outcome and avoid those that lead to an undesirable outcome. Therefore, the presence of an individual produces positive reinforcement as they have a more attractive appeal. This theory also suggests that we are attracted to people if we meet them whilst we’re in a good mood, an example being at a party. As a result, previously neutral stimuli become positively valued as they are associated with the pleasant event. Therefore we learn to like people through classical conditioning.

Support of this theory comes from the research of Griffit and Guay (69). Participants (ps) were evaluated on a creative task by an experimenter and were then asked to rate how much they liked the experimenter; the experimenter got a higher rating from ps who were given a positive evaluation. This supports the theory as the experimenter has rewarded the p by giving them a positive evaluation so the p seeks to adopt the positive feelings that the experimenter displays; operant conditioning. This suggests they have been reinforced into liking the experimenter.
Griffit and Guay also found that onlookers were rated more positively when the p had received a positive evaluation from the experimenter. This supports classical conditioning as, after a positive event – being positively evaluated – the p adopts a happy mood which makes the p more likely to show a liking towards an onlooker and rate them more positively.
Aron’s (05) research also supports the reward/need satisfaction theory as he found that ps who measured highly on a self-report questionnaire of romantic love showed high activity in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. Dopamine is very rich in the brain during relationship formation which suggests a neurochemical element to the formation of romantic relationships. This indicates that the brain has its own reward system by providing rich dopamine during the formation of relationships.

Another supporter of the theory is Cate (82). After asking 337 individuals to assess current relationships, reward levels were found to be superior over all other factors considered during relationship formation. This shows that reward is the most important factor to consider during relationship formation, supporting the reward/need satisfaction theory.
Though, the theory has been refuted by psychologists such as Hays (85). Hays argued that the theory is flawed as people gain satisfaction when they give rewards as well as when receiving them; the theory doesn’t account for this.
An issue with the reward/need satisfaction theory is the fact that it doesn’t account for gender or cultural differences. Lott (94) said that women in some cultures are more focussed on the needs of others rather than receiving reinforcement. This refutes the theory as some people do not need reinforcement to form a relationship but require their partners’ needs to be fulfilled.


Aron (05) suggested an evolutionary approach as the brain reward system was most likely evolved to drive our ancestors to focus on certain individuals. ‘Love at 1st sight’ is a response that has been inherited to speed up the mating process. This supports the theory as a reward system is needed to make mating a faster process and therefore makes people more able to form romantic relationships at a faster rate.

Another theory of the formation of romantic relationships is the similarity theory. According to this theory similarity between individuals stimulates liking and this leads to the formation of a romantic relationship. People first sort potential partners for dissimilarity so individuals are able to avoid those who appear to be too different from them. This makes us attracted to those of similar personalities and attitudes rather than those with dissimilar features. For example, two people who love dogs are more likely to become romantically attracted to each other compared to a person who loves dogs and a person who loves cats. It has been suggested that the main rule in relationships, especially long-term relationships, is similarity. This was found by Capsi and Herbener (90) who found that married couples with similar traits tend to be happier than those with dissimilar traits. Research has found that individuals seek to modify their attitudes so they become more similar; attitude alignment. This enables a romantic relationship to develop.


Condon and Crano (88) argued that similarity is important in the formation of romantic relationships because we assume that people similar to us are more likely to like us. This leads to romantic relationships as ruling out dissimilar people reduces the chances of being rejected as a partner. This supports the similarity theory as it states that people are more likely to form a relationship with others that have similarities; a necessity in forming a romantic relationship.
It has been argued by Yoshida (72) that the similarity theory only looks at attitudes and personalities, ignoring traits such as economic level and physical condition. Yoshida points out that these factors are equally as important to similarities in personalities. This is backed up by Speakman (07) who found that similar body fat is looked for in a partner, which supports Yoshida as it also suggests that other factors are considered during the formation of a relationship. This refutes the theory as it only looks at a small range of factors, whereas Yoshida indicates that others need to be considered when looking at the formation of a romantic relationship.
Rosenbaum (86) said that dissimilarity, not similarity, is the most important feature in the formation of a romantic relationship. This dissimilarity repulsion hypothesis has been tested in several different cultures. Singh and Tan (92) tested it in Singapore and Drigotas (93) tested it in the USA. Both these studies found that ps first became romantically attracted to each other because of similar attitudes, though, as they got to know each other better, those who discovered more dissimilarities became less attracted to each other. This refutes the theory as it states that dissimilarities, rather than similarities, are more important to look at when forming a relationship.

A positive issue brought up with the similarity theory is culture. The dissimilarity repulsion hypothesis has been found to apply to many cultures, indicating that looking for dissimilarities could be a universal characteristic that individuals share. This supports the dissimilarity repulsion hypothesis as it has been found in several different cultures which provides evidence for its validity and reliability.
Most of the studies that have been carried out to investigate the formation of romantic relationship were done in laboratories. This means the results lack mundane realism as they were done under artificial settings. Though, the similarity theory and the dissimilarity repulsion hypothesis have been supported by Caspi and Herbener (90) whose study had high mundane realism as they conducted it on real-life .

Word count: 1169

Outline and evaluate two or more explanations of sleep walking (4 + 8 marks)



One biological explanation of sleepwalking is a genetic explanation suggested byakwin (70). He proposed that there is a greater likelihood of sleepwalking in an individual if close relatives are sleepwalkers, stating a clear link between genetics and sleepwalking. After finding a sleepwalking concordance rate of 47% in MZ twins and 7% in DZ twins, a genetic influence on sleepwalking is clearly demonstrated.

A second biological explanation of sleepwalking was suggested by Bassetti (2000) as a neural explanation. Sleepwalking is the result of the activation of some areas of the brain, for example the thalamocorticol arousal system. This increases blood flow and regulates emotional behaviours. Therefore, Bassetti demonstrates a neural explanation of sleepwalking which outlines an increase in emotional behaviour as an influence on sleepwalking. Another neural explanation of sleep walking has been put forward by researchers as a result of stress onset, consequently indicating a second neural explanation of sleepwalking.


Support for genetics as an explanation of sleepwalking comes from Hublin (97). They found a substantial influence of genetics on sleepwalking as sleepwalking continued to occur from childhood to adulthood. Findings showed that 88.9% of male adult and 84.5% of female adult sleepwalkers has a history of sleepwalking as a child. This therefore lends support to genetics as an explanation of sleepwalking due to the genetic influence continuing to have an effect on participants (ps) during adulthood. Research findings such as Hublin’s provide face validity for the genetic explanation of sleepwalking; it makes sense for sleep walking to continue from childhood into adulthood. Some children’s brain systems may not develop adequately as they continue into adulthood, meaning that children only know to sleepwalk; they have not learnt any other way.

Further support for genetics as an explanation of sleepwalking comes from Bassetti (02). After 16 sleepwalking adult patients went through genetic testing, Bassetti found that only 50% of them had the specific gene (HLA DQB1*05) that is associated with sleepwalking. As a result, support for genetics as an explanation of sleepwalking is created due to 50% of ps having the ‘sleepwalking specific gene.’ However, it only serves as a partial explanation of sleepwalking due to only 8 of the 16 ps having the specific gene. This therefore indicates that, for the 50% of ps that did not have the specific gene, there must be an alternative explanation. Zadra et al’s (08) research suggests that sleep deprivation leads to an increased chance of sleepwalking, consequently refuting genetics as a full explanation of sleep walking.

Support for neurochemicals as an explanation of sleepwalking comes from Oliviero (08). They speculated activity prevention in the brain’s motor system as a result of the neurotransmitter GABA; this influences the onset of sleepwalking. This therefore supports Bassetti’s idea of sleepwalking in children as children’s brain motor systems are underdeveloped; therefore children are more likely to sleepwalk. As a result, the influence of GABA on the brain supports neural explanations of sleepwalking. However, Oliviero’s opinion is based on speculation; there is no accompanying research therefore his speculations cannot be deemed as truly valid.

Word count: 492

‘Outline and evaluate at least two explanations of narcolepsy.’  (4 marks + 8 marks)



Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder which results in sudden and uncontrollable attacks of sleep, and loss of muscular control. It usually begins in adolescence, and is thought to have a biological basis. One explanation of narcolepsy can be attributed to a deficiency in hypocretin, which is involved in regulating arousal levels. Narcolepsy may be due to the body’s immune system attacking the cells that produce hypocretin, which in low levels reduce the ability to sleep. A second explanation of narcolepsy is associated with a genetic abnormality, linked to a mutation in the immune system. The increased frequency of HLA on chromosome 6 is present in narcoleptic sufferers, and thought to affect the sleep-wake cycle (Honda, 1983). The Stanford Medical Centre published research in 2012 which showed that more than 90% of people suffering from narcolepsy have been found to have this HLA variant.


Support for hypocretin deficiency as an explanation of narcolepsy comes from Dement (1999), who found that mice that could not make hypocretin in their brains developed symptoms of narcolepsy (including cataplexy). Similar findings are also present in studies conducted with narcoleptic dogs (which had been specially bred in laboratory conditions for research purposes) whereby those with narcolepsy had a faulty receptor for hypocretin. However, there are issues of extrapolation as findings from animal studies cannot be applied to humans due to the difference in brain structure between species, and the fact that humans are much more complex creatures  and cannot be treated the same. There are also ethical concerns due to how the animals were treated during the experiment (i.e: being specially bred just to be experimented on) to find a cure for the disorder. If a treatment was found it cannot be guaranteed to work on humans due to these physiological differences; meaning the treatment of these animals can be considered unjust. Thus, low levels of hypocretin in humans may not contribute to narcolepsy. In animals it appears that narcolepsy is related to a faulty receptor for hypocretin, whereas in humans it seems to be a deficiency in hypocretin.

Further research that challenges the genetic explanation of narcolepsy comes from Dement (99). It was discovered that in humans, if one twin has narcolepsy then there is only a 30% chance of the other twin developing the disorder, meaning that if narcolepsy is present it may be due to another factor in 70% of cases. This means that generally narcolepsy is not inherited, despite the evidence that in dogs it was found that one gene could easily pass on the trait. Furthermore, the HLA variant found in narcoleptics is not found in all individuals with the disorder, and the same HLA variant is common in the general population (Mignot et al, 1997). Therefore, genetics cannot be the only cause of narcolepsy. Both the hypocretin deficiency and genetic explanation can only offer partial accounts of narcolepsy.

Word count: 475