Have you ever thought why we sometimes get attracted to mean people?
Of course, if you think about it, you’ll find that these people are not always mean.
They may be mean at times but at other times they do nice acts that make us wonder if they are really mean and keep up us excited and always wanting to see more of their kindness.
Usually people don’t fall for someone who is totally mean but they usually fall for those who treat them in a good way sometimes and badly in other times.
In 1955, A. E. Fisher conducted an experiment with puppies. His team separated puppies into three groups. Members of the first group were treated kindly every time they approached a researcher. Members of the second group were punished for approaching the researcher.
Members of the third group were randomly treated kindly or punished. This group grew up never knowing what to expect. Their world wasn’t a world of kindness or punishment but rather one of uncertainty.
What is really surprising is that the study found that the third group of puppies ended up being the most attached to the researchers. They loved the researchers the most and were the most dependent upon them.
This became known as the polarity principle. (See also Why being mysterious works)
Stress, including the mental stress of uncertainty, is an ingredient in attachment or love. Perhaps, even manifestations of hatred (the polar opposite of love) somehow strengthen love.
In my book How to make someone fall in love with you i said that uncertainty can lead to some of the greatest feelings of attachment and dependence we humans know.
Being at a loss to know whether a person is mean or kind makes us curious and attracts all of our attention towards that person as we try to understand and know the rule that makes that person half-mean and half-tender. (see also How to attract someone
The truth is that humanity is the third group of puppies. We get attracted to people who “only sometimes” give us what we want. (see also Why women find bad boys attractive)
In another study participants showed the most pleasure when they were rewarded without having predicted it. It didn’t even matter whether they liked the reward very much or not. It was the fact that the reward was unexpected that made them highly excited. (see also Why you should be mysterious)
In our love lives, we become excited by the fact that this person “may” or “may not” call or show any signs of care. We wait for him/her to surprise us. (see also How to not get attached to a person)
In behavioral terms the ups and downs of relationships with unpredictable lovers can be explained by the term “partial reinforcement” (or limited rewarding). When you know that you will certainly be rewarded, you will learn a behavior quickly but you might become lazy.
Lab animals who are rewarded every time they do a task correctly slow down because they know that the next time they want their reward, it will be waiting for them. However, if they don’t know when their next reward is coming, they will remain eager to perform the task in the hope that one magic act will produce the much desired reward. (see also How to keep yourself motivated)
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