Relationship Formation – The Filter Model

1 January 2018

The Filter Model:
This model states that relationships go through three ‘filters’.
These filters can be remembered as ‘DAN’. Demographic, Attitudes, and Needs.
Before we begin filtering we look to the ‘Field of Available’. This includes all the people we could possibly have a relationship with.
The first filter is then Socio-Demographic Variables. Such variables include similar background, education, location etc. People with different or incompatible variables are ‘filtered’ out at this point.

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The second filter is Similar Attitudes. Similar attitudes help aid communication and so the more attitudes, beliefs, and ideas the couple share the more likely they are to form and sustain a relationship. People with different or incompatible attitudes are ‘filtered’ out at this point. The third filter is Complimentary Needs. Once the relationship is established, complimenting each other’s needs becomes one of the most important factors. To study the model, Kerkoff and Davies conducted a study using students in a relationship for 18 months. Using self-report questionnaires, the study found that attitude similarity was the most important factor for up to 18 months, were complimenting each other’s needs becomes the most important factor.
The study used real-life couples and so has an aspect of mundane realism.

However, there are problems with this study. Firstly, self-report questionnaires are problematic as they are easy to lie on, or to misrepresent data, or to get wrong as they often require retrospective knowledge. This means that the findings could be biased or incorrect. People may also show social-desirability bias, in order to paint their personal relationships in a better light. The study does support the filter model by showing that there are stages to a relationship and that these stages have distinct markers. However, this model is flawed. The socio-demographic variables stage may not be as important as the model makes out, with the rise in internet dating and also long-distance relationships, especially in military families, not fitting in with the model.

However, Sprecher conducted another study and found that couple matched in physical attractiveness, social background, and interests were more likely to develop a long-term relationship. This suggests that the filter model is correct in regards to socio-demographic variables. The filter model also fails to explain a lot of individual differences, so this could account for the difference in socio-demographic variables. It also disregards outside influence, social desirability, and it is assumed to be an unconscious choice to enter a relationship with a certain person. This removes a certain amount of the romantic aspect of relationships, rather showing it to be more about convenience and benefit than any sort of loving relationship. Many of the theories in this area seem to ‘box off’ human emotions and prove to be robotic in nature; human emotions and relationships are often more fluid and complex than this area perceives.

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