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Interpersonal Orientation in Context: Correlates and Effects of Interpersonal Complementarity on Subjective and Cardiovascular Experiences


  • Jessi L. Smith, Montana State University, Department of Psychology, 304 Traphagen Hall, Bozeman, MT 59717-3440. E-mail: Portions of this article were presented at the 2002 Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, and at the 2003 Meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Salt Lake City. We would like to thank James Isaac and John Kircher for their valuable contribution to this project. We also thank our primary research assistants, Kristina Larsen and Laura MacLin.


ABSTRACT Interpersonal orientation (IO) generally refers to individual differences in preference for social interaction. The influence of IO, however, likely depends on the nature of complementarity within the interpersonal context. Using the interpersonal circumplex and Five-Factor Model, we first selected a measure of IO characterized by affiliation and neuroticism. Second, we examined the influence of IO on subjective, physiological, and nonverbal experiences as a function of experimentally manipulated complementarity or noncomplementarity. We hypothesized that women in noncomplementarity conditions (i.e., women low in IO working with a friendly confederate, women high in IO working with an unfriendly confederate) would experience the interpersonal situation more negatively compared to women in complementarity conditions. Study results confirmed this prediction, with noncomplementarity in IO resulting in greater physiological reactivity, greater likelihood to attempt nonverbally to restore complementarity, more partner-related thoughts, and a reduced desire to seek out attention compared to women working in complementarity conditions. Implications for research on IO as a person variable are discussed.