The surprising effect of partner flaws and qualities on romantic affect
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We examined whether the intensity of romantic affect is a function of deterrence to that affect (i.e., a reason for not feeling the affect) and explored the effect of deterrents that are relevant to the stimulus instigating the emotion. In line with the Emotional Intensity Theory, we found that positive affect toward the romantic partner was reduced by a minor salient partner flaw, was maintained intense by a moderately important flaw, and was reduced by a very important partner flaw. Study 2 replicated the results of Study 1. In Study 3, romantic negative affect in the form of anger at the romantic partner was a nonmonotonic function of the importance of a salient positive partner characteristic. Anger was reduced by a minor partner quality, was maintained intense by a moderately important quality, and was reduced by a very important partner quality. Theoretical and practical implications for romantic relationships are discussed.
KeywordsEmotional intensity Romantic affect Deterrence Love Anger
We thank Christina Romo, Abbie Gilmore, Stephanie Cornwell, and Patricia Wood, who assisted with data collection. We especially thank Jack Brehm for the fruitful discussions that led to the development of this research and to Jack Brehm, Mark Ferguson, and David Lishner for their comments on an earlier draft. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Jack Brehm, the first author’s mentor, who passed away on August 9, 2009.
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