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Equity Theory and Interpersonal Attraction

Human beings have a desire to be accepted as part of a group. They also have a want to create and hold on to meaningful relationships with other individuals. These interactions with other individuals are known as social relations. According to Polk (2011), trust, honest, respect, and a care for others are the ingredients that most relationships are created and based on (Polk, 2011). In most cases, these relationships that individuals search for and create are sometimes the most important thing to them.

To explain social relations more in depth, this paper will examine attraction, helping others, and the equity theory.

Summary Points


Attraction is the feeling that one gets or feels about another person that pulls them in to that person. When it comes to relationships, most individuals are attracted to a person that they feel they can have a rewarding relationship with (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2017). If you have ever met someone for the first time and encountered the butterfly feeling in your tummy or if you have ever found yourself daydreaming over a person, then you have experienced attraction.

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When it comes to finding a friend or getting involved in a romantic relationship, some people look for a person who is smart, kind, honest, and especially trustworthy. Trust is such a very important characteristic and is valued by many individuals. It is necessary for a relationship to be successful (Leary, Diebels, Jongman-Sereno, Fernandez, 2015). Most individuals, however, are attracted to a person because of their physical appearance. Individuals also feel as if beauty has an advantage because if a person is physically attractive then they must possess desirable qualities.

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This is known as the “what-is-beautiful-is-good” stereotype (Kassin et al., 2017).

Helping Others

Whether it was giving a friend a ride to their place of employment, donating food and clothing to a local shelter, cooking for a relative, or walking the dog for your elderly neighbor, regardless of who we are, we have all assisted someone in some way. When we help others, the purpose of our actions is to enhance others, also known as prosocial behaviors (Kassin et al., 2017). There are many reasons as to why individuals help other individuals. One reason is reciprocity, meaning that a person assists someone else because their chances of receiving assistance in return is increased, also known as reciprocal altruism. People also tend to help individuals just because they are family members to survive. This is known as kin selection. There are also individuals that help others out of the kindness of their hearts. In other words, these individuals display an empathic concern for people (Kassin et al., 2017). We as human have the tendency to choose to help others. Although helping others have its rewards, it does come with demands and requires, courage, time, effort, and financial obligations (Rand, Brescoll, Everett, Capraro, & Barcelo, 2016).

Equity Theory

When it comes to relationships, equity theory relates to balance and fairness in the relationship. Equity is important in a relationship because it affects many areas. Inputs and outputs, as well as rewards and costs must be balanced to have happiness in a relationship (Polk, 2011). In a relationship, if one individual feels as if they receive more benefits than what they contribute then that individual tends to feel guilty. They are also known as the overbenefited. However, if one individual feels as if they contribute more to the relationship but receives less benefits in return tends to feel upset and displeasure. They are also known as the underbenefited (Kassin et al., 2017). Both individuals are miserable and unsettled, which causes strong negative emotions in the relationship. These strong emotions could also lead to explosive reactions and responses as well (Leary et al., 2015).


Social relations are something that we encounter daily. We all have a desire for being with others because let’s face it, no one likes to feel or be alone. Everyone wants to develop and maintain rewarding relationships with others. We have all met someone who has made us feel tingly inside and caused us to develop an attraction to that person. No matter what the reason may have been, we all have also reached out and helped others who were in need. The equity theory explains to us how important balance is in a relationship. Having healthy and positive relationships is key to a person’s overall well-being.

Cite this page

Equity Theory and Interpersonal Attraction. (2019, Nov 28). Retrieved from

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