In this paper, I will argue that similarity is a primary basis of attraction and subsequent friendship. My main reason is that like attracts like, that is, we are often attracted to those who are somewhat similar to us and tend to maintain closeness with such people as predicted by the adage birds of a feather, flock together.
In social psychology, the concept of similarity refers to one's closeness in terms of attitudes, personality, values, and interests between people. A larger body of research has consistently suggested that similarity is the primary source of interpersonal attraction and friendship formation as well as the predictor of happy marriages (Larkey and Arthur 1061-1076). The similarity in opinions, communication skills, values, demographics and interpersonal styles have been shown to increase the level of liking. The research works have articulated the well-known fact that people with similar interests tend to isolate themselves into particular settings. The propinquity effect predicts that people sharing similar on a certain aspect are likely to form collusion and have long-lasting friendly relations based on the particular aspect that they share (Klohnen and Luo 709-722). It is also projected that human beings tend to like those who oppose and disagree with their perspectives and opinions on important matters. Correspondingly, we tend to like those who share our values and opinions. Friendship is highly likely to result out of such situations (Urmson).
The importance of similarity in friendships is well examined through the evaluation of the similarity-attraction effect. Sing and Ho (2000 pp. 197-211) assert that the similarity-attraction effect connotes the common hypothesis that people tend to be attracted to those who are similar to them in various aspects. In this case, attraction is not only described in the physical sense, but also the liking for a person or wanting to be around the particular person. The duo studied different dimensions and aspects of similarity both in the contexts of romantic relationships and normal friendships. As a primary finding, it was observed that the similarity-attraction effect was particularly strongest and consistent for aspects such as values, attractiveness, attitudes and activity preferences. Contextually, similarity regarding personality showed weaker, but still fundamental impacts on the attraction. The effect of the similarity-attraction effect draws from the adage birds of a feather flock together (Urmson). It has drawn studies from various fields, including psychology. Larkey and Arthur (1061-1076) posit that most of these studies have been done in two major ways. The first is through the laboratory experiments. In this case, participants are always given descriptions of a person they are expected to meet. The explanations are normally manipulated to vary in their level of similarity, ranging from their most to the least similarity to the respondents personal comprehension on the particular dimensions that the researcher wishes to study. Another method featured correlation studies with the aim of assessing the interest properties in the relationship partners, especially using a questionnaire. Subsequently, the level of correspondence between the participating partners is then compared with that of other pairs of people who are randomly selected or people who share a tepid interaction. The research on the importance of similarity on interaction and friendship has been extensive and robust to the extent of being described as law by other researchers. In this regard, it is noteworthy to point out that some studies have attempted to champion for the concept of complementarity over similarity. However, Tidwell, Paul and Eli (199-215) elucidate that several attempts to link complementarity with attraction and friendship have failed to identify more than a highly selective effect in a limited number of cases. Such a conclusion is a reflection of the criticality and strength of the similarity-attraction effect on the initiation and maintenance of friendship.
In connection with the presumed high importance, it is worth establishing why similarity attracts. Singh and Soo (197-211) explain that four credible explanations have been forwarded to this effect. The explanations draw their premises from the research works that have been conducted on this subject. Firstly, similarity attracts because similar individuals are highly likely to possess worldviews and standpoints that validate their interpersonal interactions compared to dissimilar individuals (Singh and Soo 197-211). As a result, it is hypothesized that interaction with similar partners is the primary source of a strong social reinforcement. The assertion is particularly important in the sense that a strong social reinforcement is characteristic of a strong friendship. The second reason is that with all factors held constant, most people tend to wholesomely accept rejection by their dissimilar counterparts compared to rejection from those they share similarities. A body of research exhibited that rejection that was anticipated exacerbates the strength of an attraction and the probable subsequent friendship. On another note, it is anticipated that interaction with our similar counterparts is more enjoyable compared to that with people we share insignificant levels of similarity (Berscheid and Reis 193-281). Similarly, others are likely to share our personal interests, activity preferences and values, making interaction with them more satisfying and enjoyable. The last justification postulates that fortune has a part in the claim that similarity attracts. The theory is supported by the fact that most of the behaviors of a person point towards people with the same values and attitudes. For instance, people who like football are likely to meet others who also like football and establish a prolonged friendship based on such kind of activity preference. Attraction cannot develop between people who are oblivious to the existence of each other even if they are entirely similar (Urmson).
In a separate study, De Klepper (82-90) examined the relative importance of two aspects of similarity, that is, social selection and social influence in friendship networks. The analysis revealed that the similarity in discipline among the respondent students was due to influence rather than selection. As the author notes, selection is physical while influence is passive. Selection due to similarity was relatively low in the social circles as compared to the similarity due to influence. Most of the students were found to be similar regarding their disciplines because of the choices of their friends rather than the selection. Thus, it follows that the befriended students exhibit a similarity in the discipline not because they chose their similar friends vis-a-vis the discipline. Therefore, discipline similarity and the accompanying friendship is largely attributed to social influence rather than selection. Similarly, the study also noted that physical similarity, drawn from expressive aspects, has more influence on friendship. Thus, individuals choose their friends based on the visible attributes. In conclusion, the study established the preference of friendship based on the same area of specialty and activity preference (Urmson).
The previous section highlighted the research and the theoretical framework surrounding the concept of similarity and its importance on attraction and friendship. The particular importance can be evaluated better by comparing it with the determinants of friendship, lacking in the body of research already presented. The four factors that determine the probability of friendship initiation include proximity, reciprocity, similarity and complementarity (Berscheid and Reis 193-281). Proximity prescribes that people are more likely to be acquainted with somebody with whom they have a regular contact while reciprocity dictates that we like people who like us. Complementarity stipulates that people are attracted to their counterparts whose abilities and skills complement their own, for instance, people with different gifts who work together for a common goal. Arguably, regarding friendship formation, proximity requires the least effort and intelligence. Coming into frequent contact with a person can make one like and befriend that particular person. However, the process of attraction, friendship formation and retention is complex that it does not only depend on the simplicity that comes with proximity. Being able to see someone frequently does not automatically guarantee that one will like him or her. In any case, there are cases where members of staff working on the same floor and sit adjacent to each other just remain workmates and not friends. Thus, while proximity is a factor in friendship formation and retention, it does the least to initiate a friendly relationship between two people. This leads to the claim that reciprocity may be a pivotal determinant of attraction and friendship. In the case of reciprocity, one only likes someone who likes them. Liking somebody is one thing, befriending him or her is another. It is not automatic that one will be a friend to every person that likes him or her. Besides, the fact that somebody likes you does not mean that their other qualities and personality will make you like them back. Thus, while you can like someone because they like you, they may be having a repulsive personality that will hinder your chances of becoming friends with them. Unlike the other two factors, researchers have never found entirely implicating evidence linking complementarity with friendship. In fact, if people were to become friends because they complement each other, such kind of friendship would not last as a result of the divide in both opinion and personality between the subjects. For example, a couple whose attraction was based on complementarity will face unending conflicts that eventually reduce the quality of their relationship. It suffices to say that relationships built on complementarity are likely to end prematurely. Therefore, it follows that complementarity has insignificant power in friendship. Conversely, in ranking these four factors, researchers establish that similarity is important in all the dimensions of attraction and friendship. This evaluation is supportive of the premises of the theory of similarity-attraction effect.
The tenets of similarity theory can also be evaluated based on the theories of classical conditioning, specifically, the notion of positive reinforcement. Consider a relationship comprising of two like-minded individuals. In such a case, sharing the same standpoints and perspectives makes the two feel that their points are valid. This ameliorates their levels of confidence resulting in a stronger relationship and likeability for one another. Even so, it is important to note that there are two types of similarity with varied contributions to friendship. It has already been stated that actual similarity is less important than perceived similarity. An individual may experience a positive reinforcement despite their belief that there is a similarity even in cases where the similarity is inexistent (Klohnen and Luo 709-722). The premise calls for an argument that if only one of the individuals experiences the feeling of similarity while the other does not, it is high likely that there will be no attraction. A look at romantic relationships also reveals that similarity played a pivotal role in the initial attraction and the subsequent friendship. In such relationships, similarity occurs in areas such as family background, appearance, interests, ways of thinking and goals. As a case study, it is a common claim that people of different social classes rarely sustain a friendshi...
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