Entries in self-concept (14)

Wednesday
Apr152015

Face It, Recover the Self to Recover from Break-Up

Break-ups are tough. Your world changes and you may be left feeling sad, confused, and lonely; When you lose a relationship, you not only lose your partner, you also lose part of your self.1 In fact, after breaking-up, people have fewer responses to provide to the question “Who am I?”, and they generally feel more unsure about who they are as a person. Given the potential damage to one’s self-concept, recovery from break-up should go more smoothly when individuals focus on restoring their sense of self.

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Friday
Mar062015

MTV's "Catfish": When Truth, Lies, and Self-Concept Collide

On the MTV reality show, “Catfish,” the show’s hosts help a viewer track down an elusive online love. Almost inevitably, it is discovered that they have been fooled, and the person to whom they poured out their heart is not who they appeared to be. However, sometimes something very real has developed beneath the lies. 

In each episode, a viewer involved in an intense online relationship contacts hosts Nev and Max, asking for help tracking down an online paramour, who has repeatedly refused to meet in person. In almost every episode, it is revealed that their love is merely a “catfish,” someone who has constructed a false identity with a fake online profile and lured the unsuspecting subject into a relationship. 

The feelings expressed by the people on the show are intense. Some even claim to be engaged to online loves they have never met in person. In some cases the catfish themselves express strong feelings and a desire to continue the relationship after the deception has been revealed. Many viewers wonder how someone can feel such a strong bond with a person they’ve only met online and how some of the catfish can claim to truly care about a person they have been deceiving for months, or even years. However, research on the expression of the “true self” online suggests that the development of these intense bonds is not so surprising.

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Tuesday
Feb102015

Should You Go See the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie for Valentine’s Day?

Dubbed an “erotic fiction” and “mommy porn,” the Fifty Shades books are among the top selling novels of all time. In fact, worldwide sales are said to be over 100 million, and at its height one of these provocative page-turners was being sold every second.1 Given the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, it is no wonder that the geniuses in Hollywood are planning to cash in on the “feels so good to be bad” phenomenon this Valentine’s Day. Of course, the question remains, should you go see this movie?

If you are like my sister, then you have already answered with a resounding, “Yes!” Of course, it is likely prudent to consider how this deliciously salacious movie may impact your relationship, for better or worse.

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Thursday
Dec112014

How Relationships Change Us Over Time: Relationship Matters Podcast 40

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out! In this edition, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Kevin McIntyre (Trinity University) discusses research regarding how being in a relationship changes who we are as a person.  

Together with Dr. Bent Mattingly (Ursinus College) and Dr. Gary Lewandowski (Monmouth University), McIntyre studied the different ways people change when in a relationship. Specifically, they looked at four different types of changes we experience: (a) Self-expansion refers to people gaining positive personal traits from being in a relationship (e.g., gaining a new hobby one is pleased about), (s) self-adulteration refers to gaining negative personal traits (e.g., gaining a new bad habit one doesnt want), (3) self-contraction refers to losing positive personal traits (e.g., discontinuing a favorite activity), and (4) self-pruning reflects losing negative personal traits (e.g., losing a bad habit one is pleased to be rid of). 

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Monday
Jul212014

When I Lose You, I Lose Part of Me, Too

There’s no question that romantic breakups can be really hard. Losing a partner we’ve become very close to means losing someone who was previously part of our daily lives. As a result, breakups can undermine our ability to sleep and eat well (among other things). Research has revealed that experiencing a breakup has several unique effects on our sense of self or self-concept (i.e., everything that makes us who we are) as well. For example, research has demonstrated that, after a breakup, people feel that their self-concept is smaller than it was before the breakup; in other words, they feel like their self-concept has diminished somewhat.1 This makes sense, since over time people tend to incorporate their romantic partner into their self-concept, meaning that their individual identities begin to merge (that is, “me” and “you” becomes “we” and “us”). In the wake of a breakup, then, the self-concept may feel reduced or contracted because there used to be another person involved in it (e.g., part of “me” used to include being a loving partner to a specific person, and now that part is gone).

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Wednesday
Apr092014

How Your Relationships Shapes Who You Are For Better and/or Worse

You have likely heard someone in a relationship say something like “She makes me a better person.” Alternatively, you may have also heard people say things like (with apologies to Stone Temple Pilots) “I’m half the man (or woman) I used to be.” Though these statements convey feelings of overall relationship satisfaction in the former case, or dissatisfaction in the latter case, something else important is being communicated – that romantic partners are capable of modifying our sense of who we are as individuals (i.e., sense of self). 

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Monday
Feb172014

They’re Just Like Me: How Jealousy Influences Self-Views

Imagine for a moment that you’re running late to meet your romantic partner for a movie date. As you approach the theater, you see your partner speaking to an attractive stranger. As you wait, you happen to overhear part of their conversation. The stranger asks your partner for directions, which your partner provides happily. The stranger then invites your partner to a local concert this Friday. Your partner politely expresses interest and they exchange phone numbers.

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Tuesday
Jan072014

When Does Forgiving Make Us Feel Like A Doormat?

Forgiveness can be really good for our relationships. To name just a few benefits, forgiving a transgression reduces blood pressure for both victims and their wrongdoing partners,1 and increases the victim’s life satisfaction and positive mood.2 Researchers are also beginning to understand what it takes to forgive; for example, we are more likely to forgive our partners when they apologize (i.e., make amends) for bad behavior. But what happens when we forgive someone who hasn’t attempted to make up for their transgression? In a series of four studies, Laura Luchies and her colleagues found that forgiving a partner who does not make amends after wrongdoing erodes the victim’s self-respect and self-concept clarity (the extent to which we have a clear sense of ourselves).3 In other words, we seem to lose respect for ourselves and feel more confused about who we are if we forgive a partner who hasn’t apologized.

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Friday
Nov012013

I Cheated, Therefore I’m Not a Cheater

Most people generally believe that they are moral and good and that cheating on a partner is wrong. So how do cheaters live with themselves after their infidelity? Understanding how they reconcile their indiscretions with their beliefs about themselves can help us figure out why “good people cheat.” 

Dissonance theory1 predicts that when individuals’ thoughts and behaviors are inconsistent, something has to give. Have you ever wondered why anyone would be a smoker these days, given what we know about the link between “cancer sticks” and cancer? A smoker knows that smoking causes cancer, but might rationalize it by saying “I don’t smoke very much” or “My grandma smoked two packs a day and lived to be 90 years old!” By coming up with these rationalizations, people are able to preserve the impression that their behaviors and attitudes are consistent.

Similarly, cheaters might minimize the significance of their infidelity as a way to cope with knowing they did something wrong. The authors of a new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships2 propose that cheaters feel bad about their indiscretions but try to feel better by reframing their past infidelities as uncharacteristic or an out-of-the-ordinary behavior.

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Wednesday
Oct162013

We Should Hang Out Sometime (If You Help Me Achieve My Goals)

Have you ever noticed that you prefer to spend time with certain people when you’re trying to achieve a goal? For instance, when you’re striving to be physically fit, are you more likely to seek out your friend who enjoys going to the gym (as opposed to your friend who enjoys eating cheese puffs and watching TV)? Close others have a unique capacity to help (or hinder) us as we work to achieve our goals (check out a related post here). Researchers call people who help us pursue our goals instrumental others and people who don’t really affect our pursuit of goals or people who impede our pursuit of goals non-instrumental others. Whether or not we feel someone is instrumental in achieving a goal tends to influence our behavior toward that person.

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Wednesday
Jul312013

The Michelangelo Phenomenon: How Your Partner Sculpts a Better (or Worse) You

Take a moment to think about the kind of person you would ideally like to be. What skills or traits do you want to possess? Is it important to you that you develop greater patience, foster leadership skills, become physically fit, or learn to speak another language? Psychologists believe that each person has an “ideal self” they strive to become.1 This ideal self is essentially the person you would be if you fulfilled all your dreams and aspirations. Certainly, you might be able to work toward your ideal qualities on your own, but it seems that your romantic partner can be especially helpful (or unhelpful) in shaping you, a process researchers refer to as the Michelangelo phenomenon.2 

This phenomenon is named for the Renaissance artist Michelangelo (famous for the Pietà and David, among other masterpieces), who viewed sculpting as an opportunity for an artist to release an ideal figure from the block of stone in which it slumbers. The ideal figure exists within the stone, and the artist simply removes the stone covering it. In romantic relationships, partners adapt to each other, adjusting as needed to keep the relationship running smoothly, and over time these responses can become a relatively permanent part of who we are (read more about this idea here). Thus, our romantic partners can “sculpt” us (and we can “sculpt” our partners) just as Michelangelo sculpted marble figures.

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Wednesday
Jul242013

Too Close for Comfort? The Potential Pitfalls of “You + Me = We”

There’s something to be said about the “we-ness” of high-quality romantic relationships. When you think of your relationships in a plural sense (e.g., “We've been together for 6 years,” rather than "I've been with him/her for 6 years"), you sometimes start to define who you are (what psychologists call your self-concept) in terms of those relationships. By defining yourself in this way, you include aspects of your romantic partner in your self-concept. For example, you might take on some of your partner's characteristics, or see your partner's interests as your own (think about it – did you actually get into that eccentric rock band because you think they make great music...or was it because your partner liked them first?). In many studies, partners who define themselves in this pluralistic way tend to enjoy greater closeness, more commitment, and greater relationship satisfaction.1,2 In other words, the more you include your partner in your self-concept, the better your relationship is likely to be.

But is it always good when we include our partners in our selves? 

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Tuesday
May072013

The Benefits and Risks of Growing Close: Relationship Matters Podcast #23

In the 23rd installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Jennifer Tomlinson (Carnegie Mellon University) discusses her recent research with Professor Art Aron (Stony Brook University) on the classic dilemma: how do we balance the benefits of growing emotionally close to a person with the risk of getting hurt that comes when we make ourselves vulnerable?

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Tuesday
Feb122013

Bad Valentine’s Day Gifts: Do They Hurt Your Relationship?

Now that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, you may be worried about picking out the perfect gift for your partner. Is it something he will like? Will she be disappointed by your efforts? And how is a partner’s response to your Valentine's Day gift related to thoughts about the future of your relationship?

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