Relationship Formation in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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forgetting_sarah_marshall_2008_627_poster.jpgThe three major principles that guide relationship formation can be applied to many situations, and are even featured in American popular culture. Romance is a component of many movie plots, including the 2008 romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The two characters that fall in love, Peter and Rachel, display all three major principles. First, the two are in close proximity because Rachel works at the front desk of the hotel that Peter is staying at, so they see each other every day while Peter is in Hawaii. Second, Rachel and Peter display similarity and have things in common. They were both in serious relationships and got cheated on, and they both are at transition points in their lives. Third, they display reciprocity towards each other in the form of favors to maintain equity in their relationship. Rachel allows Peter to stay in a very expensive suite at the hotel free of charge, and Peter removes an embarrassing picture of Rachel from the men's bathroom at a bar, even though the bartender brutally beats him up for taking it down.


The three principles, proximity, similarity, and reciprocity, show that falling in love with someone is far from random. Although physical attractiveness may play a role in the probability of two people wanting to get to know each other, there's probably no such thing as love at first sight. In order for a relationship to develop successfully, the three major principles need to be acted upon to some degree.


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I think that your blog is a great application of proximity, similarity and reciprocity. It allows us to make connections to movies we have seen and than relate that to our life experiences. It is a lot easier to understand the concepts when you put them into the context that you did. It is interesting to know that finding a significant other is not random at all, there are underlying things that take part in the process that we didn't notice until psychology class.

You and bouch113 make a great point, and I would agree that there is a sort of true, "hard" science behind the romance between couples. But we should remember there are things that our science can not yet truly explain, and maybe never will. First-sighted loves can and will happen on occasion, and there may be some very unlikely couples that will spring up out of nowhere or make their near-impossible relationships work out somehow. Haha... that might just be the romantic side of me arguing, but its always good to keep an open mind about everything you encounter in life. The possibilities can be endless if you do.

However, a whole lot of relationships do abide by those guidelines. Perhaps if we've broken up with our girl/guy, we can use these guidelines to gain some insight as to what went wrong. Of course, assuming that we're humble enough to know where we went wrong as well.

Great application of psychology to an excellent movie!

This blog post does a wonderful example of showing the 3 "requirements" needed for a relationship. I agree when you say that there is no such thing as love at first site because it does take time and effort to establish a good relationship that works. I also liked how you showed each aspect through a current movie, and explained each one separately as well as providing an example for it.

I agree both Chris and Bouch113 that it is a great application of psychology into something we all know and love, romantic comedies. The more you think about other romantic comedies like John Tucker Must Die or others (I don't watch too many to pull examples) use the same 3 principles mainly in the similar fashion. This post helps us realize how many concepts in psychology are used today in our everyday lives. I think this example shows the perfect integration of psychology in the media in the same way advertisement uses Pavlovian conditioning.

It is interesting how in this case, many romantic comedies actually mirror real life. Although Rachel is very attractive, the movie probably would not have made as much sense if the three principles of relationship formation were not followed. For many romantic movies, we know that the two main characters will frequently be near one another, show similarities, and reciprocate by being kind to one another (even before we see the movie).

I like your analysis of this movie a lot. It is a very creative connection that you made. However, I will make the argument that attraction actually plays a very strong role in this movie. Mila Kunis is highly attractive and Jason Segel's character goes out of his way to talk to her because of that. It has been found that physical attraction is very important in determining whether or not two people will be attracted to each other romantically. Fortunately, it is not the only factor.

I also enjoyed your analysis of the film quite a bit. I really love this movie, but now I have even another reason to go back and re-watch it to observe all the psychological aspects that I know about now that I had no knowledge of before! I will say that this movie supports the ideas of proximity and similarity. It is obvious to anyone watching the movie, but to actually analyze the film and know how it affects each character is not something that everyone knows how to do. Fabulous post, I'm going to go watch it again right now!

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This page contains a single entry by somor003 published on April 9, 2012 5:34 PM.

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