Relationships at risk: How the perceived risk of ending a romantic relationship influences the intensity of romantic affect and relationship commitment
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Drawing on emotional intensity theory (EIT: Brehm in Personality and Social Psychology Review 3:2–22, 1999; Brehm and Miron in Motivation and Emotion 30:13–30, 2006), this experiment (N = 104) shows how the manipulated risk of ending a romantic relationship influences the intensity of romantic affect and commitment. As predicted by EIT, the intensity of both romantic feelings varied as a cubic function of increasing levels of manipulated risk of relationship breakup (risk not mentioned vs. low vs. moderate vs. high). Data additionally showed that the effects of manipulated risk on romantic commitment were fully mediated by feelings of romantic affect. These findings complement and extend prior research on romantic feelings (Miron et al. in Motivation and Emotion 33:261–276, 2009; Miron et al. in Journal of Relationships Research 3:67–80, 2012) (a) by highlighting the barrier-like properties of manipulated risk of relationship breakup and its causal role in shaping romantic feelings, and (b) by suggesting that any obstacle can systematically control—thus, either reduce or enhance—the intensity of romantic feelings to the extent that such obstacles are perceived as ‘risky’ for the fate of the relationship.
KeywordsEmotional intensity Deterrence Perceived risk of relationship breakup Romantic affect Relationship commitment Goals Motivation Emotions Paradoxical effects
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