Background and objectives:
We examined the implicit affective mechanisms underlying provision of support in intimate dyads. Specifically, we hypothesized that in individuals with high relationship satisfaction, the perception that one’s partner is stressed leads to increased implicit positive attitudes toward communal goals. In turn, this change in implicit attitudes facilitates supportive behavior.
Design and methods:
In two studies, we induced partner stress by instructing participants to either recall a situation where their partner was highly stressed (Study 1; N=47 university students) or imagine a specific stressful event (excessive workload; Study 2; N=85 university students). Subsequently, implicit attitudes toward communal goals were assessed with an Implicit Association Test.
In both studies, we found that among participants with high relationship satisfaction partner stress increases preferences for communal goals. In addition, implicit preferences for communal goals predicted stronger inclinations to engage in supportive dyadic coping (Study 2).
The current findings provide important insights into the implicit cognitive-affective mechanics of dyadic coping. Moreover, they can explain how people manage to avoid experiencing motivational conflicts between partner-oriented and self-oriented goals in situations characterized by high partner stress.