PSYC 333 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Social Cognition, Alexithymia, Mental Model
The Relationship Context of Human Behavior and Development
oThe goal of relationship science is to understand relationship dynamics and the antecedents and
consequences of these. In order to do that, we need to map out the causal pathways by which a person’s
interpersonal relationships will inﬂuence his/hers behavior. New ﬁeld, not a lot of research and/or
oBut the little evidence available shows that the meaning of the stimuli to the individual may change a lot
with changes in the relationship context so to understand and predict behavior need to understand
the relationship context + his/hers developmental course.
Conceptualization of Relationships:
oThe concept of relationship:
oThe study of relationships was hindered for many years.
In part because the word relationship, used in everyday life, wasn’t deﬁned for the
purpose of the study.
Most agree that relationships are interactions between the relationship partners:
each partner’s behavior inﬂuences the other partner’s subsequent behavior within
a single interaction episode. And each interaction episode inﬂuences the next one.
Relationships are inherently temporal in nature.
oTypes of relationships:
oSimilarities underlying di!erent types of relationships are su"cient to develop a
superordinate body of relationship knowledge or relatively independent bodies of
Mechanisms to organize di!erent categories?
Laws governing the behavior with the same partner depends on the type of
M.S. Clark and Mills:
oCommunal: people respond to the other’s need.
oExchange relationships: in which beneﬁts are exchanged in repayment for prior beneﬁts or
in expectations of future beneﬁts.
Bugental and Goodnow socialization is the process of learning the distinctive sensitivities and
regulatory processes appropriate to di!erent social domains.
oFive social domains:
1. Attachment domain: proximity-maintenance within a protective relationship.
2. Hierarchical power domain: use and recognition of social dominance.
3. Coalition group domain: identiﬁcation of “us” and “them”.
4. Reciprocity domain
5. Mating domain
oThe individualistic perspective vs. the system perspective:
oIndividualistic perspective: identifying associations between properties of the individual and
the individual’s relationship experiences and outcomes. but only looks at one person but
a relationship is started by two persons so its value is limited.
oSystem theory: classify systems according to the way the parts are organized or interrelated,
and […] to describe typical patterns of behavior for the di!erent classes of system as
Relationship are open systems, they exchange info, energy and material.
The system perspective acknowledges that:
1. From the moment of conception, individuals are nested in social relationships
that inﬂuence the nature and operation of the many hierarchically organized
biological and behavioral systems each individual encompasses.
2. Each relationship is itself nested in a social environmental system and in a physical
environmental system, which together represent each relationship's ecological
3. The speciﬁc ecological niche of each relationship is, in turn, embedded in larger
societal and cultural systems
4. All of these systems are simultaneously evolving and inﬂuencing each other over
To understand if relationship is maintained/dissolved and what impact it has on the
individual’s current and future behavior necessary to understand its principles of
oFeedback loops: can be self-reinforcing (e.g. rejection sensitive women
perceive their partners to be rejecting and thus treat them in hostile
fashion, which elicits actual rejection from the partner, which, in turn
reinforces the women’s perceptions that her partner is rejecting. Downey,
Freitas, Micahealis, and Khouri – 1998)
oPrinciple of equiﬁnality: the system can reach the same end by di!erent
routes. E.g. Gottman and Levenson (1992): positive behaviors appear to
be at least 5 times more frequent than negative behaviors in satisﬁed
couples this can be reach in di!erent ways.
oCultural variation in relationships:
Recent studies are predicated on the assumption that similar ﬁndings found across cultures may highlight
universal processes derived from evolutionary adaptations (e.g. Buss (1989): similar sex di!erences in mate
preferences in 37 cultures)
oTwo models of the self: (1) autonomous individualistic self (satisfaction of personal needs and
individual goals. They tend to rely on dispositional explanations for behavior, and (2) self that is
embedded in a web of relationships and roles (prevails in Asian cultures) >> interdependence >>
behavior is oriented toward the harmonious functioning of these social entities. They tend to
emphasize the social context in which behavior occurs.
The role of relationships in human survival and well-being:
oSocial relationships and human evolution:
oThe small cooperative group has been the primary survival strategy of the human species.
oSocial group constitutes the selection environment for human evolution at the individual
level. we have built-in characteristics for socialization.
oAdaptive value of social relationships and biological systems that facilitates the formation
and maintenance of social bonds. E.g. Baumeister and Leary (1995): over time humans have
developed a “need to belong”, a drive to maintain at least a minimum number of positive,
lasting, signiﬁcant relationships.
oIdentiﬁcation with in-groups and rejection of out-groups.
oInnate social response systems:
oAll behavior is a product of interactions between genetically determined biological
properties and the environment.
oFace perception: newborns posses an innate predisposition to attend to the faces its
conspeciﬁc (e.g. its parents). Langlois (1987) babies prefer innately pretty faces than ugly
oAttachment: theory proposed by Bowlby attachment between infant and caregiver. Infant
recognizes the face, smell, voice, of its caregiver and it facilitates interaction. Adult
attachment styles have been correlated with adult relationship characteristics such as self-
disclosure, nurturance toward a partner under stress, social participation, and a!ect
•How come experiences in one couple (or dyad) are replicated in other
relationships internal working model: residual of early relationship
experiences a!ect later functioning in relationships with the same and
•What are the links between attachment and other innate social responses
system such as care giving or reproduction?
oBrain development and relationships:
oEarly attachments relations have a direct e!ect on the development of the domains of
mental functioning that serve as our conceptual anchor points: memory, narrative, emotion,
representations, and states of mind
oSocial relationships and physical and mental well-being:
House, Landis, and Umberson (1998): low social integration is a major risk factor
for mortality, with an aged-adjusted relative risk ratio exceeding that of cigarette
Relationship quality, e.g. social support is associated with diverse indicators of
health and well-being.
Illness, especially severe or chronic illness, has far-reaching e!ects that extend
beyond the ill person to close relationship partners (spouses, family members…).
Has both a!ective and behavioral consequences for partners.
We don’t know the causal mechanism of this.
oMental health and happiness:
Relationships are people’s most frequent source of happiness AND distress.
•Married persons tend to be happier than unmarried.
•Family life has a profound impact on the well-being of the child.
•Friendships provide very important resources for socioemotional and
cognitive development and only grow stronger during adolescence.
•As with physical health there is inadequate evidence of the causal
oCognitions about other persons and one’s connection with them play an inﬂuential role in
the nature and development of a relationship.
oBut cognition is also “thinking is for relating”
oThe nature of relationship cognition:
Reﬂects the organization of social life around interactions with others with whom
one has ongoing associations, each of whom may also have ongoing associations
with each other. (e.g. important to know who is with who). Also perceptions of
others tend to be inﬂuenced by what we think of their partner/friends/family.
Baldwin (1992): relationship knowledge >> how the self is experienced in a social
context, a parallel schema for the partner, and interpersonal script (expected
pattern of interaction).
Representation: Anderson et al. (1999) representations of signiﬁcant others may
transfer to new partners and situations. Activation of signiﬁcant other
representation >>> shifts in mood and self-evaluation.
Expectations: derive from a lot of sources such as personal exp, third-party
reports, stereotypes, etc…. they provide guide lines for moderating one’s behavior.
Expectations may also model the partner’s behavior.
oThe inﬂuence of relationship context on social cognition:
The process and content of social cognition depends on interpersonal goals and
involvement. Ex: active participants in social interaction (and also those
anticipating future interaction) often make di!erent judgments than uninvolved
oEmotions and relationships:
oEmotional behavior inﬂuences relationships, and relationships inﬂuence emotional behavior.
Many of the most intense emotion arise during the formation, maintenance,
disruption, and renewal of attachment relationships.
oCommunication of emotion:
People are more likely to express their emotions in close, communal relationships.
As the relationship grows the partner shares more emotions (positive and
People who care more about their partner are more sympathetic to the expression
of emotional experiences.
Socialization of emotional expressions starts very early (as early as 3 months)
People who grew up in families where the expression of emotions wasn’t allowed
feel emotionally unsafe and have trouble identifying their own emotions (i.e.
People who su!er from chronic emotional disturbances have poor relationships.
(bad marriages, antisocial behavior, etc…).
One longstanding controversy in the emotion arena appears to be approaching
resolution, with implications for future research on the relationship-emotion link.