Different Partners, Different Selves: Strategic Verification of Circumscribed Identities

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It is proposed that people negotiate and receive verification for highly positive, relationship-specific selves. Study 1 indicated that although people wanted evaluations that were roughly consistent with their self-views on most dimensions, on a dimension that was crucial to a specific relationship (physical attractiveness in dating relationships) they wanted evaluations that far exceeded their self-views. Studies 2 and 3 showed that participants recognized that their desired evaluations exceeded their self-views but they expected to—and actually did—evoke exalted appraisals of their attractiveness from dating partners. Study 4 suggested that the desire to receive exceptionally positive appraisals on relationship-relevant dimensions generalized to other self-views and same-sex, nonromantic relationship partners. The authors conclude that people find ways of circumventing the conflict between their desires to be valued yet understood.

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Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, v. 28, issue 9, p. 1215-1228