Attraction and the Formulation of Sexual, Organizational and Cultural Relationships
The issue of attraction is simultaneously universal to our sociological orientation as a species and yet frequently misunderstood or unrecognized by a great many individuals. This is because the process of attraction is so often unconscious, stimulated by an array of characteristics beyond our control and based on a complex intercession of cultural, personal, ethnic and sexual factors that remain the topic of intense critical examination. The discussion here provides a review of literature taken from the sociological perspective and designed to provide a better understanding of the concept of attraction and how it drives interactions, relationships and even the process of evolution as an omnipresent force between human beings.
It is tempting to presume that most interactions are based upon the manner in which we communicate, relate to one another and form common ground upon which to engage interpersonally. However, there is also a significant body of evidence to suggest that aesthetic cues are also of central importance in defining these interactions, with outcomes frequently hinging upon the visual attractiveness projected and perceived by interactants. This is especially true in Western cultures, the article by Anderson & Adams (2008) contends, with the degree to which personal relationships are formed and maintained often hinging in substantial ways upon these issues of attraction.
The purpose of the study by Anderson & Adams is to consider this reality as it is impacted by variations across cultural constructions. The authors make a point to distinguish that this is not to suggest that physical attractiveness is more or less important in the formulation of personal relationships across different nationalities, ethnicities or other indicators of culture. Indeed, as literature hereafter denotes, such features are also significant in defining the comfort which individuals bring into certain relationships. The discussion by Anderson & Adams centers on the construction of personal relationships as provoked by certain cultural parameters. Here, the authors distinguish between "voluntaristic-independent constructions of relationship" and "embedded-interdependent constructions of relationship." (Anderson & Adams, 352)
The former of these denotes that the individuals engaged in a relationship have had all discretion afforded them in the determination of interaction while the latter indicates a relationship of 'affordance,' in which the interactants have responded to some previously constructed social circumstances in establishing their relationship. Underlying the whole of this discussion remains the assertion that physical attractiveness is a significant determinant in the formulation of personal relationships, particularly when free individual will is the dominant force in guiding attraction.
To introduce the point, the article indicates that without significant empirical differentiation, "physical attractiveness matters for important life outcomes. Attractive adults receive more attention, positive social interaction, and help from others than do unattractive adults; in addition, they achieve greater occupational success, have more dating and sexual experience, are more popular, and -- perhaps as a result of positive treatment -- enjoy better physical and mental health." (Anderson & Adams, 352)
It is thus that, the authors argue, there may be observed some perceptible correlation between the impact of physical attractiveness in the formulation of personal relationships and the specific ethnic or geographical nature of the culture in which one is steeped. Though this is not seen as the independent variable in the discussion, it does underscore a connection based on stronger tendencies in one culture vs. another of affordance-based relationships rather than those driven by a wider latitude of personal discretion.
To make an example, the authors consider the prevalence of arranged marriage in some cultures, which is an embedded interdependent construction of marriage. In most Western societies, marriage is formulated upon voluntarisitic-independent construction, whereas in many tribal and Eastern traditions, arranged marriage remains an active tradition that removes the issue of attraction from the formulation of sexual relationships. The article argues that in the latter case, physical attractiveness is significantly less likely to play a role in the formulation of a marriage relationship based on the heightened pressure, limited pool of selection and imposition of the interests of others which feed into such a social construction. This means that without attraction present, other proposed connections between attraction and procreation-based-evolution also cease to be true.
This example is a fitting one, but also causes us to consider independently other constructions which in Western society may be affordance-based. Among them, interactants in the business world may find themselves drawn into close personal relationships out of necessity, and may therefore be less likely to evaluate physical attractiveness as a primary effecter. This is suggested in the article by Thornbury & Littl (2006), which argues that individuals within organizations may derive attraction to formulate personal relationships based on shared interests of cooperative interaction and similar professional goals. Moreover, the article contends that there is a likelihood that the individual identities which have attracted these interactants to the same organization also produce a greater tendency toward relationship attraction. The article reports that "a theory of symbolic attraction is presented that posits social-identity consciousness as a moderator of the relation between symbolic inferences about organizations (e.g., this company is dynamic and innovative) and attraction to those organizations." (Thornbury & Little, 134) This is a non-aesthetic form of attraction that can be a significant effecter in the workplace, suggesting that a set of common attractive forces such as positive human resources, appropriate employee compensation, productive efficiency, or maintenance of a positive morale and company culture will not just improve the recruitment of suitable personnel, but will also improve the chances that personnel form constructive interpersonal relations based on mutual attraction.
This is true not just at the broad organizational level but, as Lott & Lott (1965) would report in a progressive study on interpersonal attraction, also applies to smaller groups such as workplace teams and social circles. The factors of social compatibility at play will tend to create stronger bonds across whole groups where attraction is present between individual pairs. So denotes their article where it contends that "the cohesiveness of small groups is defined in terms of intermember attraction" (Lott & Lott, 259) Upon these individually formed bonds, greater tendencies toward collective attraction become present.
As implied in the above discussion from the text by Anderson & Adams, ethnicity is also a feature which plays a part in strengthening individual and group bonds. A study by Yun & Kim (2008) reinforces this point in an article regarding the formulation of social bonds predicated on an ethnicity-based attraction. The comfort, commonality and shared experience that is often present for those of minority ethnicity or at immigrant transplants when assembled amongst those of similar demographic features produces a kind of attraction that is culturally formulated but which may also be steeped in psychological and psychosexual factors. As Yun & Kim report, "people migrate into a country, become an ethnic group, and experience sociological contact/interaction with other ethnic groups, through which they form more concrete and experiential attitudes toward each other. In turn, these attitudes affect their perceptions of other ethnic groups' homeland countries." (Yun & Kim, 565) This describes an attraction that is based on a correlation between common ethnicity and favorability. The formulation of ethnic boroughs and communities in the United States, for instance, is simultaneously a feature of both the economic conditions here and the sociological tendencies of all human beings to form attractions thusly.
Though individual ethnic cultures will play a significant role in social constructions of physical beauty, one universal reality is that which brings us back to the introductory point by Anderson & Adams. Namely, that physical attractiveness remains the primary effecter in the way that we define attraction and that this, in turn, has a direct impact on the physical features which are maintained in a gene pool. So contend Swami & Furnham (2008) in defining "the role of evolution in…