Saturday, 3 November 2012

Similarity Breeds Connection

I believe we are most familiar with the expression how opposite attracts, but recently I have reasons to think that it is not necessarily true. There seems to be a buzz going around about how “similarity breeds connection”. Let's go check some text books for a better view on the subject matter.

Homophily Theory

Psychologically, within the balance theory people will see similarities in those people if they like each other, and vice versa, likeability will be increased if they are perceived as similar (Fiske). In relation to prediction of liking and attraction, similarity stands alone. One key component of liking someone is based on personality, interests and personal history similarities (Fiske, 2004). This is also known as the similarity-attraction hypothesis. According to Fiske, at least three models explain the similarity-attraction hypothesis. Firstly, positive reinforcement, the principle that shared attitudes confirms and validates an individual’s beliefs and attitudes (Fiske). Reinforcement theory states that people will seek out behaviours that have been rewarded more (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). 

This can be seen within friendships that confirm each others beliefs. An individual’s self esteem is boosted because they are correct, which leads to attraction because an individual will feel good around the other person (Fiske). This theory of explanation for homophily can be applied to our personal relationships with our family and friends. 


I have always maintained my strongest friendships with those similar to me as opposed to those that are vastly different. The need for similar interests and attitudes has always been an important factor as it fosters greater interaction and activities possibilities. Furthermore, when friends have similar attitudes and beliefs the interaction is more likely to be positive than friends who have different opinions and consequently clash within daily interactions.


 Aristotle once wrote within his Rhetoric and Nichomachean Ethics that people “love those who are like themselves” (Aristotle, 1934, p. 1371, cited in McPherson et al., p. 416). Furthermore, Plato stated within Phaedrus that "similarity begets friendship" (Plato, 1968, p. 837, cited in McPherson et al., p. 416). Additionally, Tarde said “social relations, I repeat, are much closer between individuals who resemble each other in occupation and education” (Tarde, 1903, cited in Rogers & Bhowmik, 1971, p. 525). Lazarsfeld and Merton also quoted the well known expression of “birds of a feather flock together,” which is still used to illustrate the concept of homophily, which they attributed to Robert Burton (McPherson et al., p. 417).


I find these theories as amusing findings because now it seems to me that it is safe to say about how familiarity may not breed contempt.  At times, familiarity will pave the way for greater relationship with our family and friends. Having said that,  we can always beg to differ and agree to disagree. 


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