Working models of attachment shape perceptions of social support: evidence from experimental and observational studies.

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Abstract or Description

Two studies examined the association between attachment style and perceptions of social support. Study 1 (N = 95 couples) used an experimental paradigm to manipulate social support in the context of a stressful task. Insecure participants (anxious and avoidant) who received low-support messages appraised these messages more negatively, rated a prior behavioral interaction with their partner as having been less supportive, and performed significantly worse at their task compared with secure participants. Study 2 (N = 153 couples) used a similar paradigm except that partners were allowed to send genuine support messages. Insecure participants (especially fearful) perceived their partners' messages as less supportive, even after controlling for independent ratings of the messages and relationship-specific expectations. These studies provide evidence that individuals are predisposed to appraise their support experiences in ways that are consistent with their chronic working models of attachment, especially when the support message is ambiguous.


Published In

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 3, 363-383.