Gain-loss theory and the "law of infidelity": Mr. Doting versus the admiring stranger

Ellen Berscheid, Thomas Brothen, William Graziano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The "law of infidelity," derived from E. Aronson's (1969) gain-loss theory of attraction, predicts that when 2 evaluators compete for the affections of an evaluatee, the one whose evaluations begin negatively but then become positive (a gain evaluator) will be liked more than a consistently positive evaluator. Experimental support for gain-loss theory has been obtained exclusively under single-evaluator conditions where the S evaluatee received evaluations from only one evaluator who either delivered a gain series or a continuously positive series of evaluations. The "law of infidelity," however, predicts attraction in a competitive triangle, a double-evaluator situation, where the S evaluatee receives evaluations both from the gain evaluator and the positive evaluator. The present study with 70 female undergraduates confirmed the hypotheses that while a gain evaluator is liked more than a positive evaluator under single-evaluator conditions, when placed in direct competition with each other in a double-evaluator situation, the gain evaluator is no longer preferred; rather, the positive evaluator is liked significantly more. These and other findings are discussed in terms of the importance of contextual factors in the prediction of interpersonal attraction. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-718
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1976
Externally publishedYes


  • attention to evaluator, female college students, implications for "law of infidelity" derived from E. Aronson's gain-loss theory of attraction
  • reception of initially negative but subsequently positive evaluations vs consistently positive evaluations, attraction &

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