4.3 Proximity and familiarity
Proximity means geographical closeness. An obvious and basic requirement for forming a relationship is that the people involved need to be geographically close enough to have opportunities to interact with each other. You may find a certain film star very attractive but if you never get the chance to meet them or talk to them then you'll have no chance of forming a relationship. If you examine friendship patterns of people living in blocks of flats then they will be much more likely to be friendly with the people who live near them on the same floor than with people living on different floors just because they have more opportunities to meet and get to know each other. Similarly people are more likely to form friendships at work with the people working near them and students will be more likely to form friendships with people studying the same subject and attending the same classes.
Having more chances to interact with another person means that we become more familiar with that person and numerous studies have shown that we prefer people who are familiar to us rather than strangers. This is known as the ‘mere exposure effect’ (Robert B. Zajonc, 1968) which states that the more often we are exposed to a stimulus whether it is a sound, picture or person the more positively we will rate that stimulus. The reason why we are more likely to be attracted to people we meet more often may be because we feel more secure with people that we know. However, we are also more likely to be in regular close proximity to people with whom we share interests: working together, undertaking leisure activities, being within the same friendship group and similar social circumstances. You will see in the next section that similarity also has a part to play in attraction.