Event Title

Attachment Style and Accessible Memories Influence Optimism about Romantic Relationships

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Donna Nelson

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Honors Thesis Committee

Donna Nelson, Ph.D.; Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.; Darren Ritzer, Ph.D.

Location

West Center, Room 219

Start Date

22-4-2016 1:40 PM

End Date

22-4-2016 1:55 PM

Description

Relationship researchers have often relied on attachment theory as a framework for understanding. Individuals differ in their characteristic attachment behaviors. For example, one dysfunctional style known as attachment avoidance involves an aversion to interpersonal intimacy and reliance on others. Avoidant tendencies have been linked to negative perceptions of interpersonal interactions and difficulties in intimate relationships. Our aim was to explore mechanisms whereby those with avoidant tendencies may become more optimistic about relationships. We hypothesized that those high (versus low) in attachment avoidance would exhibit more pessimistic expectations and attributions about interpersonal conflicts, but that a positive recollection intervention would counteract those effects. Twenty-two male and 59 female undergraduates responded to the “Experiences in Close Relationship Scale-Short Form (ECR-S)” to measure attachment. Participants then recalled either a neutral event or a previous time in which they experienced great happiness in a romantic relationship. Next, they read scenarios that described romantic relationship difficulties and then responded to questions to assess their level of optimism about the relationships. Our results showed that, in the neutral recall condition, those high (versus low) in attachment avoidance reported less optimism and made more pessimistic attributions about negative relationship behaviors. Those effects disappeared in the positive recall condition. Our findings suggest that moment-to-moment optimism can be influenced by efforts to control accessible memories. Furthermore, state-like optimism can result in more favorable interpretations and expectations about relationships, regardless of attachment style.

Previously Presented/Performed?

Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2016

Awards Won

Winner, Psi Chi Regional Research Award, SEPA Annual Meeting, April 2016

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Apr 22nd, 1:40 PM Apr 22nd, 1:55 PM

Attachment Style and Accessible Memories Influence Optimism about Romantic Relationships

West Center, Room 219

Relationship researchers have often relied on attachment theory as a framework for understanding. Individuals differ in their characteristic attachment behaviors. For example, one dysfunctional style known as attachment avoidance involves an aversion to interpersonal intimacy and reliance on others. Avoidant tendencies have been linked to negative perceptions of interpersonal interactions and difficulties in intimate relationships. Our aim was to explore mechanisms whereby those with avoidant tendencies may become more optimistic about relationships. We hypothesized that those high (versus low) in attachment avoidance would exhibit more pessimistic expectations and attributions about interpersonal conflicts, but that a positive recollection intervention would counteract those effects. Twenty-two male and 59 female undergraduates responded to the “Experiences in Close Relationship Scale-Short Form (ECR-S)” to measure attachment. Participants then recalled either a neutral event or a previous time in which they experienced great happiness in a romantic relationship. Next, they read scenarios that described romantic relationship difficulties and then responded to questions to assess their level of optimism about the relationships. Our results showed that, in the neutral recall condition, those high (versus low) in attachment avoidance reported less optimism and made more pessimistic attributions about negative relationship behaviors. Those effects disappeared in the positive recall condition. Our findings suggest that moment-to-moment optimism can be influenced by efforts to control accessible memories. Furthermore, state-like optimism can result in more favorable interpretations and expectations about relationships, regardless of attachment style.