Defending the self: the role of the relational-interdependent self-construal
Individuals with relational-interdependent self-construals define themselves based on their important relationships. This organization of the self-concept has implications for self-enhancement and self-protection. High relationals should be motivated to maintain and strengthen important relationships. This motivation is a departure from typical self-enhancement research, which focuses on the motivation to emphasize one's own positive qualities. The purpose of this project was to examine how the relational self-construal is related to individuals' responses to threat.;Study 1 examined the relational self-construal and a threat to the self. For high relationals, some forms of self-enhancement, such as emphasizing individual traits and attributes, might conflict with motives to enhance important relationships. Participants learned that their partner (either a friend or a stranger) outperformed them on a test. It was hypothesized that high relationals who were outperformed by a close friend would be less threatened by their poor performance than other participants. The results revealed that a threat to one's intelligence resulted in lower negative partner evaluations among high relationals paired with a friend than among the other participants. Contrary to prediction, high relationals who were outperformed by a friend also reported higher levels of negative affect than the other three groups.;Study 2 examined the relational self-construal and a threat to a relationship. Threatening a relationship should be more aversive to high relationals than low relationals because the relationship is more self-defining for individuals with high relational self-construals. Participants were induced to write a negative evaluation of their partner. It was hypothesized that high relationals who wrote the negative evaluation about a close friend would feel more guilty and make a greater effort to repair the damage to the relationship than the other participants. The results revealed that partner enhancement was higher among high relationals paired with a friend than the other three groups, suggesting that the former group was trying to repair the relationship more than the other groups. The results from both studies suggest that the relational self-construal plays an important role in behavior and emotion.