Have you ever dated someone you worked with? How about someone you lived near? If so, you are already aware of the power of proximity. For more than fifty years relationship researchers have consistently found that one of the most powerful predictors of attraction is proximity (being physically close ).1 Sure, love is a mystical and mysterious thing, but it just so happens to occur more often between people who are closer together (in actual inches, feet, and miles)!
Aside from my own life, one of my favorite ways to see the power of proximity in action is with TV and movie co-stars. For example, the relatively recent announcement of the engagement between Kit Harington (Jon Snow) and Rose Leslie (Ygritte) from HBO’s Game of Thrones. We loved watching the sparks fly between these two on screen, but that attraction seems to have moved off-screen as well. It is interesting to think that the actors may never have met if they weren’t both cast in the same show or moreover scripted to shoot so many scenes together.
Sure, not everyone who works together falls in love. However, data suggests that as long as we initially feel neutral or positive about a person, being near them will increase our liking for them.2 Think back to a time when you were thrown into close quarters with a complete stranger. A typical example is with college roommates. Sure, not all roommates end up best friends, but many of us forged deep connections with those strangers and now call them lifelong friends.
Other notable co-stars who ended up canoodling include: Brad and Angelina (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook), Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan (Step Up), Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Anna Camp and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect), as well as Benjamin McKenzie and Morena Baccarin (Gotham). Is it just me or do you love it when your on-screen duos become real life lovers?
1 Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K.W. (1950). Social pressures in informal groups; A study of human factors in housing, 1st ed. Harper, New York.
2 Grush, J. E. (1976). Attitude formation and mere exposure phenomena: A nonartifactual explanation of empirical findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 33(3), 281-290.
Dr. Sadie Leder-Elder – Articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder-Elder’s research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.