Self expansion model


Psychlopedia, Psychology wiki written by scholars

Psychlopedia -- Key theories -- Social theories -- Self expansion model
Jump to the comments Section

Overview

The self-expansion model assumes that individuals ultimately form relationships to facilitate growth and progress (see A. Aron & E. N. Aron, 1986; A. Aron, Norman, E. N. Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000; E. N. Aron & A. Aron, 1996). This theory can explain some key observations, such as the finding that engaging in creative and challenging activity together, of reflecting upon events that provoked shared laughter (Fraley & Aron, 2004), improve satisfaction in relationships.

Description of the model

According to the self-expansion model, the yearning to grow and expand is key motivation in humans (A. Aron & E. N. Aron, 1986). That is, as a consequence of this motivation, individuals inherently enjoy novel, exciting, and challenging activities, which promote this growth and expansion.

One of the key sources of growth and expansion derives from romantic relationships (A. Aron & E. N. Aron, 1986). That is, when individuals form a romantic relationship, their own sense of self assimilates some of the qualities and characteristics of their partner. If their partner, for example, is mathematical, the individuals themselves feel their self encompasses this attribute.

Thus, romantic relationships, especially with someone who is different to the self (Aron & Aron, 1997), can fulfill this desire to grow and expand. As a consequence, individuals experience the positive affect, and feelings of flow and absorption (Graham, 2008) that such growth and expansion evoke. Individuals begin to associate these positive affective states with the relationship. Over time, as a consequence of this association, they perceive the relationship more positively. That is, they attribute their positive affective states to the relationship (A. Aron, Norman, E. N. Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000; Aron, Aron, Tudor, & Nelson, 1991).

Hence, according to this account, love emanates from this desire to grow and expand (E. N. Aron & A. Aron, 1996). That is, love motivates the formation and maintenance of romantic relationships.

Determinants of relationship satisfaction

Initially, many relationships are fulfilling, because partners can readily engage in novel and challenging activities to satisfy their desire to grow and expand. As the relationship progresses, however, fewer opportunities to engage in novel and challenging experiences are available. Self expansion might stall, feelings of boredom rather than positive affect might surface, and relationship satisfaction might decline (A. Aron, Norman, E. N. Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000).

Instead, to maintain solid relationships, couples must identify more opportunities to engage in inspiring, exciting, and novel activities together. Couples who can uncover such opportunities will tend to maintain a flourishing and satisfying relationship (E. N. Aron & A. Aron, 1996).

Empirical evidence

Inclusion of partner in the self

According to the self-expansion model, individuals tend to assimilate the traits and characteristics of the partner into their conceptualization of themselves. A variety of studies have confirmed this hypothesis (Aron, A., Aron, E. N., Tudor, & Nelson, 1991; Mashek, Aron, & Boncimino, 2003; Smith, Coats, & Walling, 1999).

Some of these studies examine allocation of resources. Participants were asked to allocate money to themselves, a best friend, and another person. In some conditions, participants were informed that nobody would know if they received this money or not. Typically, participants would allocate money to themselves and their best friend to a similar extent; they would not allocate money to other individuals, like stranger or acquaintances, for example (see Aron, Aron, Tudor, & Nelson, 1991)

A second set of studies show that memory advantages for words that relate to the self also apply to terms that relate to romantic partners or close friends. That is, usually individuals can more readily memorize a list words, such as adjectives, if they apply to themselves. Nevertheless, they can also memorize words that apply to someone who is close to them (for a meta-analysis, see Symons & Johnson, 1997)

A third set of studies indicates that individuals confuse traits that represent themselves with traits that represent their partners (e.g., Aron, Aron, Tudor, & Nelson, 1991). In a typical study, participants must decide whether or not various adjectives or traits describe themselves. Reaction times are protracted when the traits correspond to their partner but not themselves.

Measure of inclusion

Aron, Aron, and Smollan (1992) also developed a procedure to assess the extent to which individuals feel they have incorporated their partner into their conceptualization of themselves. Several pairs of circles are presented, each with varying levels of overlap, ranging from no overlap to complete overlap. Participants specify the pair of circles to represent the extent to which they feel their partner is included in their sense of self. This measure predicts marital satisfaction as well as relationship maintenance over the next three months.

This scale can also be used to represent overlap between the self and some social collective, such as the community (e.g., Mashek, Cannaday, & Tangney, 2007). A continuous version of this scale has also been developed, which ranges from 0 to 100, using a computer (see Le, Moss, & Mashek, 2007)

Impediments to novel activities

According to the self-expansion model, relationships that impede growth and expansion should be experienced as unsatisfying. Indeed, Lewandowski and Bizzoco (2007) showed that individuals experience more positive moods after a dissatisfying relationship dissolves. When individuals dissolve such obstructive relationships, their mood improves and they are also less likely to endorse items such as "I feel as though many of my good qualities have been lost" and "I do not feel like myself anymore". Hence, any loss of self tends to be reversed.

Preference for similarity

The self-expansion model also implies that individuals will often value traits in their partner that differ from their own characteristics. Such traits enable these individuals to expand their conceptualization of themselves.

Aron, Steele, Kashdan, and Perez (2006) corroborated this proposition. They demonstrated the usual inclination of individuals to prefer strangers who are similar to themselves. However, if told they might be able to form a relationship with this stranger in the future, this preference of similarity diminished significantly.

Simialrly, Amodio and Showers (2005) showed that couples who are dissimilar to each other are more more satisfied with their relationship. Interestingly, the benefits of dissimilarity decline when individuals are committed to each other. Presumably, commitment may curb the motives to expand the self.

Antecedents to self expansion

Engaging in novel activities with a partner

The self-expansion model also implies that couples who engage in exciting activities together-experiences that will facilitate growth-will experience relationship satisfaction and passionate love. Again, this proposition has been confirmed in several studies (A. Aron, Norman, E. N. Aron, McKenna, & Heyman, 2000).

In some of these studies, however, these exciting activities were also physiologically arousing. Hence, excitement and arousal was confounded. To counter this issue, studies have shown that couples who engage in exciting, but not arousing, tasks also experience relationship satisfaction and passionate love (Lewandowski & A. Aron, 2004).

More specifically, Graham (2008) applied the experience sampling method to examine whether momentary engagement in exciting activities together corresponds to changes in relationships satisfaction. Consistent with the self-expansion model, such activating and exciting experiences did coincide with perceived relationship quality.

Engaging in novel experiences alone

Research in the literature on self-expansion theory has shown that partners who share novel experiences experience a sense of self-expansion, and these feelings project onto the relationship, improving marital satisfaction. Recent studies have shown that novel experiences alone can also promote this sense of self-expansion (Mattingly & Lewandowski, 2014).

In one study, participants completed a measure that assesses the degree to which they had engaged in a range of 49 experiences, such as extended their knowledge, learned a skill, became interested in a new ideology, and so forth. In addition, they completed a measure that assesses the breadth of their self-concept; they indicated which of various traits, such as happy, independent, selfish, caring, anxious, and smart, they exhibit. Engagement in novel experiences was positively associated with the breadth of self-concept.

The second study replicated this finding. In particular, as this study showed, the relationship between novel experiences and self-concept size persisted even after controlling the number of items they believed belonged in an effective kitchen. The results, therefore, cannot be ascribed to an acquiescence or effort bias.

The third study manipulated exposure to novel experiences using embodied cognition. In this study, a variety of bricks were assembled. On each brick was a label that identified a novel experience, such as fly in a helicopter, learn how to juggle, and so forth. Participants identified three experiences they perceived as novel and interesting or neither novel nor interesting. Participants were then granted an opportunity to pull these bricks towards themselves or to point at these bricks. Relative to the other conditions, if participants pulled bricks towards themselves that represented novel experiences, they reported a broader self-concept.

Self concept clarity

As Lewandowski, Nardone, and Raines (2010) showed, when individuals are certain of their qualities and attributes, called self concept clarity (see also optimal self esteem), they are more likely to feel a sense of overlap with their relationship partners. In one study, participants completed a series of measures. Specifically, self concept clarity, relationship satisfaction, relationship commitment, inclusion of others in the self, and self esteem were all measured. Self concept clarity was indeed associated with both satisfaction with relationships and commitment to romantic relationships. Furthermore, inclusion of others in the self, in which people feel their identity overlaps considerably with their partner, mediated these relationships.

Presumably, if self concept clarity is elevated, individuals are more certain of which qualities they have yet to acquire. They can, therefore, more readily determine which qualities in their partner they need as a means to complement these shortfalls. They can determine which attributes in their partner they would like to integrate with their own self concept. Nevertheless, because of their clarity, they are still cognizant of their own attributes, ensuring they maintain a sense of personal identity. Accordingly, they feel a stable connection to this person, enhancing relationship quality.

Consequences of self-expansion to individuals

Broader self-concepts, in which individuals feel they exhibit a range of traits, tend to offer many benefits. If people report an extensive self-concept, their self-esteem and self-efficacy to resolve problems increases, for example (Aron, Paris, & Aron, 1995).

References

Amodio, D. M., & Showers, C. J. (2005). "Similarity breeds liking" revisited: The moderating role of commitment. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 817-836.

Aron, A., & Aron, E. N. (1986). love and the expansion of self: Understanding attraction and satisfaction. New York: Hemisphere.

Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Norman, C. (2001). The self expansion model of motivation and cognition in close relationships and beyond. In M. Clark & G. Fletcher (Eds.), Blackwell handbook in social psychology: Vol. 2. Interpersonal processes. (pp. 478-501). Oxford: Blackwell.

Aron, A., Aron, E., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of other in the self scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(4), 596-612.

Aron, A., Aron, E. N., Tudor, M., & Nelson, G. (1991). Close relationships as including other in the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 241-253.

Aron, A., Dutton, D. G., Aron, E. N., & Iverson, A. (1989). Experiences of falling in love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, 243-257.

Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D., Strong, G., Li, H., & Brown, L. (2005). Reward, motivation and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love. Journal of Neurophysiology, 93, 327-337.

Aron, A., & Fraley, B. (1999). Relationship closeness as including other in the self: Cognitive underpinnings and measures. Social Cognition, 17, 140-160.

Aron, A., Norman, C., Aron, E., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. (2000). Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273-284.

Aron, A., Paris, M., & Aron, E. N. (1995). Falling in love: Prospective studies of self-concept change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1102-1112.

Aron, A., Steele, J. L., Kashdan, T. B., & Perez, M. (2006). When similars do not attract: Tests of a prediction from the self-expansion model. Personal Relationships, 13, 387-396.

Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1996). love and expansion of the self: The state of the model. Personal Relationships, 3, 45-58.

Aronson, E., & Worchel, P. (1966). Similarity vs. liking as determinants of interpersonal attractiveness. Psychonomic Science, 5, 157-158.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond boredom and anxiety, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, New York: HarperCollins.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1993). Flow: The evolving self. New York: HarperCollins.

De Cremer, D. (2004). The closer we are, the more we are alike: The effect of self-other merging on depersonalized self-perception. Current Psychology, 22, 316-325.

Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 510-517.

Fraley, B., & Aron, A. (2004). The effect of shared humorous experience on closeness in initial encounters. Personal Relationships, 11, 61-78.

Graham, J. M. (2008). Self-expansion and flow in couples' momentary experiences: An experience sampling study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 679-694. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.3.679

Jones, E. E., Bell, L., & Aronson, E. (1972). The reciprocation of attraction from similar and dissimilar others: A study in person perception and evaluation. In C. G. McClintock (Ed.), Experimental social psychology (pp. 142-179). New York: Holt, Rinehart.

Le B., Moss, W. B., & Mashek, D. (2007). Assessing relationship closeness online: Moving from an interval-scaled to continuous measure of including others in the self. Social Science Computer Review, 25, 405-409.

Lewandowski, G. W., & Aron, A. (2004). Distinguishing arousal from novelty and challenge in initial romantic attraction between strangers. Social Behavior and Personality, 32, 361-372.

Lewandowski, G. W., Aron, A., Bassis, S., & Kunak, J. (2006). Losing a self-expanding relationship: Implications for the self-concept. Personal Relationships, 13, 317-331.

Lewandowski, G. W., & Bizzoco, N. M. (2007). Addition through subtraction: Growth following the dissolution of a low quality relationship. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2, 40-54.

Lewandowski, G. W., Nardone, N., & Raines, A. J. (2010). The role of self-concept clarity in relationship quality. Self and Identity, 9, 416-433.

Mashek, D., Aron, A., & Boncimino, M. (2003). Including other in the self as overlap of cognitive elements: Evidence from source memory confusions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 382-392.

Mashek, D., Cannaday, L. W., & Tangney, J. P. (2007). Inclusion of community in self scale: A single-item pictorial measure of community connectedness. Journal of Community Psychology, 35, 257-275.

Mattingly, B. A., & Lewandowski, G. W. (2012). The power of one: benefits of individual self-expansion. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 12-22. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2012.746999

Mattingly, B. A., & Lewandowski, G. W. (2014). Expanding the self brick by brick: Nonrelational self-expansion and self-concept size. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 484-490. doi: 10.1177/1948550613503886

Reissman, C., Aron, A., & Bergen, M. R. (1993). Shared activities and marital satisfaction: Causal direction and self-expansion versus boredom. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10, 243-254.

Smith, G. T., Snyder, D. K., Trull, T. J., & Monsma, B. R. (1988). Predicting relationship satisfaction from couples' use of leisure time. American Journal of Family Therapy, 16, 3-13.

Strong, G., & Aron, A. (2006). The effect of shared participation in novel and challenging activities on experienced relationship quality: Is it mediated by high positive affect? In K. Vohs & E. Finkel (Eds.), Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes (pp. 342-359). New York: Guilford Press.

Symons, C. S., & Johnson, B. T. (1997). The self-reference effect in memory: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 371-394.

Waugh, C. E., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Nice to know you: Positive emotions, self-other overlap, and complex understanding in the formation of a new relationship. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 93-106.





Created by Dr Simon Moss on 10/12/2008

Related objectives:
- Social identity and self categorization - Self construal - Social role theory - Self expansion model - Social dominance theory - Optimal distinctiveness theory - Subjective uncertainty reduction theory - Structural adaptation theory - Socioemotional selectivity theory - Social cognitive conceptions of moral identity - System justification theory - Resource-based perspectives of the firm - Intergroup helping as status relations model - Social exchange theory - The rational choice theory of terrorism - Costly signaling theory - The social identity theory of leadership - Motivated identity construction theory -


Login require to comment




Free Personality Tests : Relationships - Personality - Beliefs - Wellbeing - Attitudes - Behaviour - Cognitive Abilities
CBT online treatments: Premature ejaculation

All Rights Reserved © Psych-it.com.au