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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

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Why are individuals who are anxious and uncertain about their partner’s love and commitment especially likely to have turbulent and unstable relationships? Guided by three theoretical perspectives—Ickes and Simpson’s (1997) model of empathic accuracy in relationships, Bowlby’s (1969, 1973) attachment theory, and Holmes and Rempel’s (1989) appraisal model of trust, we examined how one psychological process—heightened empathic accuracy in relationship-threatening situations—might be associated with personal and relational distress. The participants inferred their dating partner's thoughts and feelings from a videotaped interaction in which they and their partner rated and discussed slides of either highly attractive or less attractive opposite-sex individuals. The data revealed that the more anxious individuals were more accurate when they inferred their partner’s thoughts and feelings in this relationship-threatening situation; however, their own reported thoughts and feelings indicated greater distress and less confidence in themselves and their partner/relationship. Following the evaluation task, the more anxious individuals reported a slight yet statistically significant decrease in the perceived closeness of their relationship. Four months later, the relationships of the more anxious individuals were more likely to have ended. These findings, along with some additional results for avoidantly attached individuals, are discussed in terms of the three theoretical perspectives from which our predictions were derived.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Psychology Commons



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