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Reciprocal liking is a psychological term to describe the phenomenon of people tending to better like those people who like them. It reflects the notion that people feel better about themselves knowing that they are likable and enjoy the company of those who give them positive feelings.[1] Reciprocal liking is considered a significant factor in the formation of friendships and interpersonal attraction.



In an experiment by Gold, Ryckman, & Mosley (1984), male participants were shown to have an increased interest in a female confederate who made eye contact, leaned in and listened attentively, despite disagreeing on important issues.[2] Another such experiment involved a number of role players. 24 graduate students were paired with evaluators. They were to either try to gain approval negatively or positively. Those who tried to gain approval in a more positive manner were an instant attraction and received higher scores when reviewed by the female grad students.[3]


Possibly the most important factor in whether someone will like another is how much they believe the other person likes the first person. An experiment tested this by pairing college students together. Both groups received different types of special information. One group was told their partner liked them and the other group was told their partner disliked them. The "liked" group was much friendlier to each other and argued less.[4]


The person's self-esteem also plays a role. While those with positive self-esteem respond to reciprocal liking, those with negative self-esteem seem to prefer working with people who are critical of them.[5] Nathaniel Branden stated that "self-esteem creates a set of implicit expectations about what is possible and appropriate to us" and continues on to say that the one's "[reality] confirm[s] and strengthen [one's] original belief".[6] This explains why self-esteem plays a role in reciprocal liking: if you can't accept someone likes you, you won't like them back.[7]


  1. ^ Forgas, 1992; Zajonc & McIntosh, 1992
  2. ^ Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Mosley, N. R. (1984). Romantic mood induction and attraction to a dissimilar other: Is love blind?. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10, 358-368.
  3. ^ Lowe, Charles A.; Joel W. Goldstein (Oct 1970). "Reciprocal liking and attributions of ability: Mediating effects of perceived intent and personal involvement". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 16 (2): 291–297. doi:10.1037/h0029853. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  4. ^ Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D., & Akert, A.M. (2005). Social Psychology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
  5. ^ Swann, W. B., Jr., Wenzlaff, R. M., & Tafarodi, R. W. (1992). Depression and the search for negative evaluations: More evidence of the role of self-verification strivings. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101, 314-371.
  6. ^ Branden, Nethaniel (1994). The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. New York: Bantam Books. p. 14. ISBN 0553374397.
  7. ^ Young, Jeffrey (1994). Reinventing Your Life. New York: Penguin. pp. 211–212. ISBN 0452272041.