Entries in familiarity (3)


The Blacklist: Seriously Lizzie, When is Enough, Enough?

Since getting married, I’ve had to add to my TV watching line-up. No longer can I subsist on Bravo and E! alone. In hopes of accommodating my husband’s preferences, there is now an endless parade of action heroes, zombies, and murderers (and that is just on the regular stations…don’t get me started on the movie channels).  One of the shows that I’ve actually grown to like is NBC’s The Blacklist. Although not designed to be a series about close relationships, I’d argue there are a number of interpersonal dynamics at play in each episode. For now, I will skip the obvious daddy-issues between Red Reddington and Lizzie (who I’ve long suspected to be his daughter). What I find even more baffling is the relationship between Tom and Lizzie.

For those who are unfamiliar with the storyline, Tom and Lizzie Keen are married. Lizzie is a FBI Profiler and, in an unexpected twist, her husband Tom is a covert operative (i.e., a spy and, when it suits him, killer). Needless to say, this couple has had a pretty tumultuous time since the revelation of Tom’s true identity. To my shock and discomfort, during this time they have repeatedly battled (both verbally and physically). What I find so perplexing is that, since separating, Tom and Lizzie have continued to gravitate back to each other. Yep, even after his repeated attempts to kill her, Lizzie keeps ending back up in the arms and bed of her estranged husband. (Just as an aside, their destructive behavior is a two-way street. Lizzie held Tom captive in the hull of an abandoned ship for over four months. Just your typical couple, clearly.) Every episode I find myself asking, “Why do they keep get back together?!?”

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Is Knowledge Power?: Familiarity and Liking in Relationship Initiation

Some say that knowledge is power. Although knowledge in skills such as physics, literature, history, or foreign languages can help you look smart and win on Jeopardy (speaking of which, do you want to hear me talk about history in Russian?), it is less clear whether having knowledge of other people can help you “win” in social situations. In other words, can knowledge about another person lead you to like this person more? Social psychological research has evidence that familiarity may lead to either more and less liking, depending on the context.

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How I Met Your Mother: Mere Exposure and the “Mermaid Theory”

Decades ago psychologists discovered that simply being close in physical proximity to another person increases liking and attraction for that person. Scientists call this the “mere exposure” effect. Earlier this season on How I Met Your Mother, the mere exposure phenomenon was in full effect, illustrated creatively through Barney Stinson’s "Mermaid Theory."

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