What’s hotter than a vampire in love? Two vampires in love...with the same woman! Admit it, you eagerly awaited each Sunday, hoping that this season of True Blood might push the erotic boundary of an already risqué show by including a steamy three-way relationship between Sookie, Bill, and Eric! Then, stunned, you watched the season draw to a close with Sookie walking away from both of her true loves.
After great reflection, I propose that the only thing more shocking than Sookie’s decision to relinquish both of her sexy suitors is the fact that Eric, her previous nemesis, was even in the running for her undying affection. After seasons of being thrilled and titillated by the romance between Sookie and Bill, you may have wondered how such passion could be rivaled by the feelings that have developed with Eric. Psychology’s gain-loss perspective offers one possible explanation.
The idea is this, attraction is at its greatest in situations where one “gains” the esteem of another.1 In other words, having someone feel consistently positive towards us is nice, but research has shown that it’s even more rewarding when someone shifts their evaluation of us from negative to positive. Relating the gain-loss framework to our True Blood love triangle, suggests that while Sookie certainly cherished Bill’s unwavering devotion, it may have paled by comparison to “winning over” Eric (and more surprisingly, Eric’s ability to garner Sookie’s affection in return).
Why might this be the case? Thinking about attraction in our own lives, we know to be cautious of unfounded flattery, craving instead, compliments from an honest and trustworthy source. Winning someone over provides just such feedback. For these individuals, the brutal honesty of their previous sentiments provides credibility that their current affection is not taken lightly, but rather thoughtful, sincere, and as a result highly rewarding.
True, gain-loss perspective is less exciting than the alternative True Blood explanation (that attraction results from having vampire blood course through your veins making your desire insatiable and your protest futile), but is a bit more relevant to relationships in our own lives. With regard to the show, we know that plot twists do not always abide by psychological theory, so only time (and next season) will tell what is in store for our favorite vampire trio. One thing is for sure, there should be no shortage of passion, attraction, or “sexy time”, so look out Bon Temps, cause if the cubby is a rockin’...
1Aronson, E., & Linder, D. (1965). Gain and loss of esteem as determinants of interpersonal attractiveness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1, 156-171.
Dr. Sadie Leder - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Leder's research focuses on how people balance their desires for closeness and protection against rejection, specifically during partner selection, goal negotiation within established romantic relationships, and the experience of romantic love, hurt feelings, and relationship rekindling.