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When flattery gets you nowhere: discounting positive feedback as a relationship maintenance strategy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date04/2008
JournalCanadian Journal of Behavioural Science
Journal number2
Volume40
Number of pages10
Pages59-68
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Intimates can rely on a number of strategies to protect their relationships from potential threats. In the present article, the authors investigate a new strategy: to discount flattering comments received from an attractive alternative to a dating partner by making a situational attribution. However, the authors did not expect everyone to adopt this strategy, as not everyone is likely sufficiently motivated to override both the tendencies to make dispositional attributions and to accept positive feedback from others. Dating and single participants were informed that an attractive alternative's positive impression of them had been made freely or under constraint. As expected, dating participants in the constraint condition were less likely than were those in the no-constraint condition to believe that the alternative's impression of them was genuine. In contrast, single participants believed that the confederate's impression of them was genuine, irrespective of their experimental condition. Self-esteem further moderated this effect. As hypothesised, only dating participants with low self-esteem were sufficiently motivated to recognise the situational constraint and discount the positive feedback. High self-esteem daters who were less inclined to discount the positive feedback instead protected their relationships by devaluing the alternative's attractiveness compared to singles.