Examining predictors and consequences of information seeking in close relationships


  • Walid A. Afifi, Megan R. Dillow, and Christopher Morse, Department of Communication Arts & Science, Pennsylvania State University.

    The authors would like to thank the editor and five anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

should be addressed to Walid A. Afifi, Pennsylvania State University, Department of Communication Arts & Science, University Park, PA 16802, e-mail: w-afifi@psu.edu.


The management of information in close relationships plays a critical role in our well-being (e.g., S. Petronio, 2002). Since relational partners often desire to be “in the know” about one another, the relative absence of inquiry into the process of information seeking in close relationships is puzzling. Recently, W. Ickes, J. W. Dugosh, J. A. Simpson, and C. L. Wilson (2003) examined that process and showed important ways in which the motivation to acquire relationship-threatening information may be harmful to relationships. We extend their work and apply the newly developed Theory of Motivated Information Management (W. A. Afifi, & Weiner, 2004) to close relationships. In addition, we test the consequences of information seeking for short-term changes in relationship commitment. Two hundred and twenty-two participants thought of something that their relational partner did or said for which they wanted more information, then completed 2 surveys, 3 weeks apart, measuring cognitive and behavioral factors related to the information-management process. Results reveal several factors that influence the seeking of information in close relationships (e.g., issue importance, anxiety, expected outcomes, and perceived efficacy), show benefits of an indirect search for information in the face of negative expectancies, and suggest several directions for future research.