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Making Interpersonal Meaning: Significant Others in Mind in Transference

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Abstract

The social cognitive process of transference may serve as a means of constructing interpersonal meaning. Support for this proposition is presented through a review of evidence on the relational self in transference, reframed in terms of meaning construction, as well as new investigations of the ways precise ways in which transference can serve this function. In the underlying theory, knowledge one has about each of the various significant others in one’s life is represented in memory and linked to a distinct relational self in memory by means of the relationship with that other. Significant-other knowledge can be activated in an interpersonal encounter and, when transference occurs, used to go beyond the information given about a new person and also influences affect, motivation, and self-regulation (Andersen & Glassman, 1996). Distinct relational selves also arise in transference depending on which significant other is triggered by the situation. These processes allow the individual to imbue the interpersonal encounter with personalized meaning. Further, recent evidence suggests that whole meaning systems shared with the significant other are constructed in that relationship and are thus evoked and pursued in the transference encounter.

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