The Affect-Centered Model of Attraction

07 March, 2021
This is a type of attraction that goes beyond the physical aspect. It stems from affection and daily complicity. You start sharing interests and hobbies with someone, creating a bond through values, dreams and passions. Then, almost without realizing it, love arises. According to psychologist Donn Byrne, this can be attributed to the so-called affect-centered model of attraction.

The affect-centered model of attraction was defined by psychologist Donn Byrne in the 1980s. According to this approach, one of the factors that explains how and why we fall in love is when we share common interests, values, and hobbies. It’s these areas that involve our emotions and passions where, little by little, the most sincere affection and attraction start to form, and a special bond emerges.

We know that love is a basic feeling in human beings. However, to this day, we’re still trying to understand how and why it occurs, and what factors are involved. This isn’t an easy task, and fields such as neuroscience, psychology, biology, and anthropology have been striving for decades to give us an explanation.

However, one thing we have to admit is that love is a mystery that involves psychological, primitive, magical, and spiritual factors, and even chance itself. As a result, multiple theories try to differentiate the many different forms of love.

Some relationships are passionate and obsessive, whereas others are based on intimacy and friendship. Some exist for selfish reasons, others have commitment as their central core, and others integrate all of these dynamics and many others.

However, there’s one that many of us will be very familiar with. It’s where affection and love arise through daily contact with a person. This contact creates roots and a feeling of trust in which loyalty and emotional honesty have a chance to grow. Thus, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at this fascinating subject.

A couple with candles.

Characteristics of the affect-centered model of attraction

When we talk about attraction models in personal relationships, it’s easy to think about the importance that physical appearance can have. It goes without saying that attractiveness always has a certain power, and our eyes will always be drawn to a pleasant appearance. However, most of us know that there are attractions that go beyond what we can see at first glance.

As a result of this, Donn Byrne brought us the affect-centered model of attraction. He was a renowned social psychologist and expert in the field of personality. In his findings, he tells us about something deeper, more delicate, and very interesting from a psychological standpoint.

One of his most important works was undoubtedly the one conducted at the University of Texas. In it, the researchers demonstrated that factors such as reciprocity, daily contact, shared interests, and common beliefs can lead to the emergence of love and affection that are as intense as they are sincere.

Does this mean, for example, that you’re more likely to fall in love with a co-worker or classmate than with a person you suddenly meet by chance? The answer is ‘not always’. Because, in order for this attraction to arise, several factors must be present. This is why you’ll often not feel anything for many people that you share your time and hobbies with.

We’ll now explain the factors that make up the affect-centered model of attraction.

Behavioral factors

As we’ve already pointed out, all of us live and move in very specific scenarios where we relate to a certain number of people. Everyday contact doesn’t always ignite attraction or affection. Something like this only arises with certain men and women when they notice things in others that they find positive and attractive.

  • You’ll also have found positive and attractive characteristics in people. Examples of this would be a sense of humor, openness, approachability, good social skills, etc.
  • Behavior or actions that are beneficial to your well-being are also attractive. The fact that they help you or care about you really matters.
  • On the other hand, the fact that they share their time with you also creates the magic of bonding. Enjoying hobbies and creating an environment where they make you feel valuable and special is always positive.

Emotional factors in the affect-centered model of attraction

From these daily interactions, a series of emotional processes end up emerging that gradually feed the intensity of the bond with the person you’re sharing time and things in common with. We can mention the following:

  • Empathy. Some relationships begin with a friendship. However, little by little, a kind of emotional connection emerges where a gesture is often enough for you to know how the other person is feeling or what’s worrying them.
  • Other couples experience what we often define as “magnetism”. This is an almost immediate attraction that makes them fall in love. However, in the affect-centered model of attraction, there’s no such immediate imprint. Love grows slowly starting from the trust that starts to form on a daily basis. This will come from the loyalty and honesty you see in the other person and which you consider to be valuable and positive in your life.
A couple sharing a drink.

The way you interpret the feelings you experience

Something that the affect-centered model of attraction also reminds us of is that, sometimes, love doesn’t arise because of what a certain person does for us. What really matters is how they make us feel.

Similarly, the fact that you share the same area as a person and that they care for you won’t automatically ignite the flame of attraction. However, your evaluation of that person can create the spark.

This area includes factors as diverse as they are complex, such as cognitive, personality, and emotional aspects. Other factors often have no clear explanation. Carl Jung called this chemistry.

These are times when two people experience a certain “chemical” reaction, which they don’t experience with others. It is a kind of alchemy that’s both sensual and mysterious.

As you can see, the affect-centered model of attraction could undoubtedly explain many things. Many of the experiences that you yourself have had and that have had such an impact on you could be down to this model of attraction.

  • Byrne, D. (1961). Atracción interpersonal y similitud de actitud. Revista de psicología anormal y social , 62 (3), 713-715. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0044721
  • Byrne, D., Clore, G. L., & Smeaton, G. (1986). The Attraction Hypothesis. Do Similar Attitudes Affect Anything? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology51(6), 1167–1170. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.51.6.1167