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Transference in Social Cognition: Persistence and Exacerbation of Significant-Other-Based Inferences over Time

Abstract

A social-cognitive model of transference --defined as the activation and application of a mentalrepresentation of a significant other to a new person --has been verified experimentally in terms of relevant inferences and memory about the new person(e.g., Andersen & Cole, 1990; Andersen, Glassman,Chen, & Cole, 1995). The model suggests thattransference should persist and increase over time,indicating that the phenomenon is not fleeting orself-correcting, and is therefore of clinicalimportance. In two within-subject experiments,participants learned about four fictional people, one ofwhom resembled their own significant other. Theythen completeda recognition-memory test. In Study 1, the test wasadministered both immediately after learning about thenew people, and again 2 to 3 weeks afterward . As predicted, greater confidence in havinglearned representation-consistent attributes that hadnot been presented in the learning task occurred in thesignificant-other condition relative to the control conditions -- both immediately and after thedelay, with the effect increasing over time. Thepotential artifact of the first memory test vis-a-visthe second was ruled out in Study 2, which showed thepersistence effect using a test administered only once , 2to 3 weeks after the learning task. Persistence andexacerbation in the effect have theoretical and clinicalimplications, as does the general notion that transference occurs in everyday socialperception on the basis of significant-otherrepresentations.

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Glassman, N.S., Andersen, S.M. Transference in Social Cognition: Persistence and Exacerbation of Significant-Other-Based Inferences over Time. Cognitive Therapy and Research 23, 75–91 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018762724798

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018762724798

  • INTERPERSONAL PATTERNS
  • MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS
  • SIGNIFICANT OTHERS
  • TRANSFERENCE