Three research projects that were developed with support by the PERSOC network are now funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)! (03.02.2011)

Starting from a newly developed developmental social interaction perspective (the PERSOC framework), the projects investigate different interfaces between personality and social phenomena (narcissism, motive dispositions, emotion perception and emotion regulation) and different relationship domains (peer relationship acceptance, adjustment in a social network, romantic relationship satisfaction). All three research projects have in common that they apply a multimethodological approach and use up-to-date designs and statistical analyses. Results of the proposed research group will provide important insights for understanding the interplay of personality and social relationships. The abstracts appear below – please contact Michela Schröder-Abé, Jaap Denissen or Mitja Back for further information.

Emotional Competencies and Relationship Quality: Analysis of Intra- and Interpersonal Effects and Mediating Factors in Couples’ Interactions (Michela Schröder-Abé)

The project investigates the effects of emotional competencies (emotion perception and emotion regulation) on the quality of romantic relationships (stability, satisfaction, and closeness). The advantages of a dyadic design will allow for the examination of intrapersonal as well as interpersonal processes. The observation of real behavior of couples in a conflict situation and a cooperation situation constitutes a central feature of the project. The aim is to analyze which processes mediate the relationships between emotional competencies (as dispositions) and aspects of relationship quality. The following mediators will be investigated: 1) a person’s own emotional experience in social situations, 2) signals, i.e., outward appearance and behaviors (e.g., emotion expression and communication behavior), and 3) interpersonal perceptions (e.g., perception of the partner’s emotions). We expect effects of individual differences in emotional competencies on 1) cue utilization for interpersonal perceptions (and thus accuracy in the perception of the partner’s emotions), 2) the experience and expression of certain emotions, and 3) the choice of emotion regulation strategies and communication behavior. As in previous studies processes at the dispositional level have often been examined separately from processes at the level of experiences and behavior in social situations, a common examination can provide insight at both levels.

Accuracy of self-rated motive dispositions: Assessment of processes, moderators and developmental dynamics (Jaap Denissen)

Research has established individual differences in the disposition to be motivated by power, achievement and affiliation with others. Such dispositions can be conceptualized as the likelihood to react with positive affect to motive-relevant outcomes. In the proposed research, the focus will be on the congruence between these behavioral reactions and people's explicit representations of them (accuracy). Using models of self-perception, a mediation model is tested that links implicit motives to their explicit representations via the perception of relevant behavioral cues, which will be assessed in both a naturalistic and a laboratory setting. Using these data, theoretically derived moderators of individual accuracy will be studied, such as positive affect reactivity, emotional expressiveness, private self-consciousness and need for closure. Employing a longitudinal design, the hypothesis will be tested that high levels of accuracy promote the selection of motive-congruent vocational contexts for intrinsically motivated individuals, leading to higher levels of well-being and a further increase of their already higher level of accuracy. Finally, moving beyond traditional merely descriptive studies of accuracy, the proposed research will introduce an experimental manipulation by providing individuals with feedback regarding their behavioral reactions, allowing for new insights into the role of self-perceptual accuracy for successful development.

The longitudinal course of narcissists’ reputations: A developmental social interaction approach (Mitja Back)

Narcissism is an important personality dimension with considerable interpersonal consequences. The processes that characterize the interplay of narcissism and social relationships are, however, not well understood. In the current research project we apply a developmental social interaction perspective to investigate one of the most fascinating interpersonal paradoxes, namely, the short-term popularity but long-term unpopularity of narcissists. Using continuous judgments of videotaped behaviors, group interactions and real-life experience sampling it will be investigated (a) why narcissists become unpopular over time (i.e. what kind of social behaviors mediate the decline in popularity) and (b) what circumstances accelerate or decelerate this development (i.e. what kind of situational and personal variables moderate the decline in popularity). Results have important implications not only for the study of the intra- and interpersonal dynamics of narcissism but also for understanding the influence of personality on interpersonal perceptions and the development of social relationships in general.