Date Approved

2004

Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Pamela Landau

Second Advisor

Elliot Bonem, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Alida Westman, Ph.D.

Abstract

Bowlby’s attachment theory states that experiences with primary caregivers and others in early childhood allow one to form internal “working models” of the self and significant others. Studies have shown that an adult’s attachment style is related to his or her attachment history from childhood and subsequent working models about various relationships. An individualistic specific evaluation of one's relationship is related to his or her attachment style (secure, preoccupied, fearful, or dismissive attachment style). Attachment styles may influence both partners’ levels of trust, satisfaction, love, commitment, and other emotions that are characteristically associated with a relationship. The similarity-attraction perspective from the personal attribution theory suggests that seeing oneself as similar to a partner may be associated strongly with attractions and evaluations of relationships. The concept of “self-other similarity” refers to “the evaluation of the extent to which one’s own traits and opinions are shared by others”. In this social comparison process, people negotiate their identities and regulate cognitive distance from significant others. Overestimating the level of self-other similarity allows one to decrease cognitive distance from others and thereby may facilitate assimilation in one’s social surroundings. Underestimating self-other similarity and emphasizing one’s unique traits and opinions allow one to increase cognitive distance and may facilitate differentiation from others. People overestimate or underestimate the level of self-other similarity depending on the extent to which these biases protect or reinforce their own self-view. A person’s attachment style influences the estimation of self-other similarity. This survey found that: (1) people to feel similar to a partner if the partner had a secure attachment style, irrespective the one’s own attachment style; (2) relationships in dyads with the perception of similar attachment styles tended to be more lasting; (3) in secure-secure relationships, perceiving self and the other highly similar, including attachment style, and the security itself may play important roles in relationship endurance; and (4) in lasting insecure-insecure relationships, perceived attachment styles similarity and self-other dissimilarity seemed to have a big influence. It is clear from the findings and other inconsistent findings of this study that more research is needed in the effects of attachment styles on estimation of self-other similarity.

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