Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Jennifer Bosson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Attitudinal similarity, Self-esteem, In-group, Out-group, Balance theory

Abstract

Holding the same negative, as compared to positive, attitudes about a third party has been shown to predict increased liking for a future interaction partner (Bosson, Johnson, Niederhoffer, & Swann, 2006). The current work extended past research by examining two possible mediators of this effect: perceptions of "knowing" the future interaction party, and state self-esteem. Participants learned that they held the same positive or negative attitude of a professor with a future interaction partner, and then rated their feelings of "knowing" their partner, their own state self-esteem, and the closeness they felt to their future interaction partner. It was predicted that holding the same negative attitude about a third party, as compared to a positive attitude, would facilitate closeness to a future partner more effectively because it would (a) provide greater perceived insight into the partner's disposition, and (b) boost state self-esteem. Findings revealed an interaction in which a shared negative attitude toward a third party produced more closeness to a future partner than a shared positive attitude, but only when the attitude was strongly held. When the attitude was weakly held, attitude valence did not influence closeness to the future partner. Participants did not feel like they knew more about their partners if they shared a negative over a positive attitude, but they did feel like they knew their partners to a greater extent if they shared an attitude that was strongly held. In addition, the manipulations had no effect on state self-esteem. Therefore, predictions regarding the possible mediators were not supported. The results are discussed in the context of past findings, and the discussion focuses on the ecological validity of the current study. In addition, the discussion considers the implications of this work for understanding social relationship formation, and offers suggestions for future research.

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