Rebecca T. Pinkus, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia; Penelope Lockwood, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Tara C. Marshall, Department of Psychology, Brunel University, London, UK; Hyea Min Yoon, Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Responses to comparisons in romantic relationships: Empathy, shared fate, and contrast
Article first published online: 7 FEB 2011
Copyright © 2011 IARR
Volume 19, Issue 1, pages 182–201, March 2012
How to Cite
PINKUS, R. T., LOCKWOOD, P., MARSHALL, T. C. and YOON, H. M. (2012), Responses to comparisons in romantic relationships: Empathy, shared fate, and contrast. Personal Relationships, 19: 182–201. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2011.01347.x
This research was supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship to the first author, and a SSHRC Research Grant to the second author. We thank Christine Cabral, KaiTing Chang, Kim Chuong, HeeJoo Lim, and Laura Quick for their assistance with data collection. Portions of this article were presented at the annual conference of the Australian Psychological Society's Psychology of Relationships Interest Group in Brisbane, Australia, in November 2010.
- Issue published online: 1 MAR 2012
- Article first published online: 7 FEB 2011
Individuals who empathize and share outcomes with their partner are likely to react more positively to upward comparisons (UCs) than downward comparisons (DCs). Three studies examined responses to comparisons in romantic relationships. Participants reported more positive affect following UCs than DCs; positive affect was also predicted by empathy and shared outcomes. Relationship-maintaining responses were predicted by empathy and shared outcomes: Participants who felt boosted by sharing their partner's success were less likely to report distancing themselves from the partner following UCs, and participants who felt concern for their partner's failure were especially likely to help the partner following DCs. Our findings suggest that individuals respond functionally to these comparisons by focusing on protecting the relationship rather than protecting the self.