In this episode of N of Us, we placed a lot of attention on proximity and propinquity as predictors of interpersonal attraction.
Here are our fearless researcher Hannah's notes on this phenomenon. You'll see familiar names like Festinger, Schachter and Back and Theodore Newcomb.
THOMAS NEWCOMB ON FRIENDSHIP
A study conducted by Theodore Newcomb (The Acquaintance Process, 1961) on college dorm roommates suggested that individuals with shared backgrounds, academic achievements, attitudes, values, and political views typically became friends.
Through his study, he identified four factors that affect the probability of making an acquaintance:
1. Proximity/Propinquity: We are more likely to get to know somebody with whom we have regular contact. This was shown to be most important.
2. Reciprocity: We like people who like us.
3. Similarity: We like people who share our values and beliefs.
4. Complementarity: We are attracted to people whose skills and abilities are complementary to our own (yet compatible and mutually beneficial).
The propinquity effect can be defined as: "the more we see and interact with a person, the more likely he or she is to become our friend or sexual partner" (Rowland Miller, Intimate Relationships).
In one study, Priest and Sawyer (1967) monitored students moving into a newly constructed college dorm. After eight months, roommates were named as friends twice as often as floormates, floormates twice as often as students on other floors in the same dorm. Similaryly, a study by Segal (1974) showed effects of propinquity by assigning police trainees to seats in alphabetical order. At the end of the term he asked them to name their three closest friends. The result was an almost perfect correlation between friendship choice and seating order.
Another study demonstrating the relationship between proximity and friendship choice was conducted by Festinger, Schachter, and Back (1950). This examined the development of friendships in a new housing project for married students. The housing development consisted of small houses arranged in U-shaped courts, such that all except the end houses faced onto a grassy area. The two end houses in each court faced onto the street. The overall conclusion was that architects wield great power to determine the social life of residents of their projects.
According to Festinger:
“It is a fair summary to say that the two major factors affecting the friendships which developed were (1) sheer distance between houses and (2) the direction in which a house faced. Friendships developed more frequently between next-door neighbors, less frequently between people whose houses were separated by another house, and so on. As the distance between houses increased, the number of friendships fell off so rapidly that it was rare to find a friendship between persons who lived in houses that were separated by more than four or five other houses...
...There were instances in which the site plan of the project had more profound effects than merely to determine with whom one associated. Indeed, on occasion the arrangements of the houses severely limited the social life of their occupants ... In order to have the street appear 'lived on,' ten of the houses near the street had been turned so that they faced the street rather than the court area as did the other houses. This apparently small change in the direction in which a house faced had a considerable effect on the lives of the people who, by accident, happened to occupy these end houses. They had less than half as many friends in the project as did those whose houses faced the court area. The consistency of this finding left no doubt that the turning of these houses toward the street had made involuntary social isolates out of the persons who lived in them.”
[Festinger, L. "Architecture and group membership," Journal of Social Issues, 1951, l, pp. 156-157]
On the flip-side, there is evidence that close proximity produces interpersonal hostility as well as interpersonal attraction. This comes primary from police records, rather than from the social scientist's notebook. For instance, Berscheid explains that the Detroit Police Department's 1967 Annual Report, for example, indicates that in the majority of robberies, the perpetrator was either related to, or acquainted with, the victim; thieves are much more likely to rob an intimate than a stranger. Those in fear of the burglarising maniac may take some comfort from the fact that the intruder is likely to be a friend.
Propinquity effect is very similar to the mere exposure effect, in that the more a person is exposed to a stimulus, the more the person likes it: for instance, studies have found that when participants were repeatedly presented with faces of different individuals, participants rated faces they saw more frequently as more attractive (Peskin & Newell, 2004; Rhodes et al., 2001). An additional study found that after repeated exposure to faces, subjects regarded familiar faces as similar to themselves, suggesting a direct link between familiarity and perceived similarity (Moreland & Zajonc, 1982).
Unlike exposure effect, propinquity effect however also suggests that familiarity can also occur without physical exposure. Recent studies show that relationships formed over the Internet resemble those developed face-to-face, in terms of quality and depth.