Social Psychology (PSY403)
WHAT IS INTIMACY?
"Intimacy refers to sharing that which is inmost with others"
Taken from a Latin word intimus, which means "inner" or "inmost"
Arther Aron and Elaine Eron (1997) contend that in intimate relationships we psychologically expand our
self-concept by acting as if all or some aspects of our partner are part of our own selves.
William James talked about "self as object of attention" or self-concept. People will think about and
respond toward intimate ones as they do about themselves.
"A friend is, as it were, a second self" Cicero, 106-43 BC, Roman statesman
Schematic illustration of different degrees of self-other relatedness.
As this link is also established in memory, activating either memories of the self or the other will
automatically activate the memories of both persons. People will think about and respond to intimate others
very similarly to how they feel about themselves. The degree of inclusion determines the relationship
Inclusion of others in the self
Inclusion of other in the self
Following are described research areas
where evidence of inclusion of other in the
self has been found. Accordingly intimacy
may be manifested in:
The attribution process
Communal vs. exchange relationships
As the intimacy bonds depend between two
people, they begin to incorporate some of
the other's self-schemas into their own self
concept. As a result of this cognitive
blurring of self-other distinction, people need less time to recognize self-descriptive traits shared with their
partner. For example if both partners have self-concepts of being industrious and tidy, while being athletic
is part of self concept of one partner and hardworking is of other partner, it will be easier for both to
remember their traits of industriousness and tidiness.
The attribution process:
Contrary to actor observer effect, the attributions for the loved one are similar to those we would have for
Close partners also share their physical and psychological resources with each other.
Communal vs. exchange relationships:
In most of our everyday relationships, we operate on the principle of exchange that whether we should
maintain the relationship or not. The communal relationships, on the other hand, are organized according to
the principle that people are to be given what they need. With loved ones we do not think about reward and
cost, as if we are managing our bank accounts.
People in intimate relationships have a shared memory system for encoding, storing, and retrieving
information that is greater than either of their individual memories. For example, in marital partnership, one
remembers place and organization of documents, while other remembers the organization of grocery items.
Social Psychology (PSY403)
Both can update each other on what is in each other's knowledge area, and can further embellish their
Attachment as an adaptive response
Attachment theories suggest that the tendency to form relationships is at least partly biologically based.
Human infants have an infant attachment response observable within minutes of birth by:
The rooting instinct (sucking mother's breast)
The Moro reflex (ability to grasp and hold)
Newborns recognize and prefer face, voice, and smell of their mother
Spontaneously imitate their caretaker's facial expressions
Mothers produce oxytocin hormone which influences parenting behavior. Research shows that during
labour and breast feeding higher levels of oxytocin is related with desire for companionship and taking
good care of their infants (Maestripieri, 2002).
John Bowlby (1969)
British psychiatrist John Bowlby (1969) was one of the first social scientists to systematically study the
attachment process. He studied human and other species' infants and indicated that the purpose of
attachment is to protect immature and highly vulnerable young ones.
He proposed that attachment is a part of many species' genetic heritage
There is a standard pattern of three responses produced by infants of many species:
Protest: Following parental separation, infants scream and cry to get the attention, and thus fed and
Despair: No success in getting an access to their parents results into despair which reduces the likelihood of
attracting the attention of predators in the case of animals.
Detachment: if left unattended for long periods, begin to behave independently
It is considered a cornerstone for all relationships in a child's life. Not unique to human beings but is found
in most species of birds and mammals.
The strong emotional bond that develops between infants and their caregivers is known as attachment.
Attachment means that an infant responds positively to specific others, feels better when they are close, and
seeks them out when frightened.
Attachment styles & later adult relationships
Although our biological heritage propels us toward our caregiver, the principle of reinforcement theory
suggests that the caregiver's response will determine the strength of this desire to establish this proximity.
Mary Ainsworth (1978), one of Bowlby's associates, identified two major attachment styles
Secure: People with such attachment styles think that they are worthy of others' love;. Moreover they think
that people can be trusted. Parents of such children are nurturing and sensitive to children's needs.
Insecure: People with insecure attachment style think that they are unworthy of love, and other people can
not be relied upon. Their parents are usually inattentive to their needs.
As infants interact with their parents, they develop either optimistic or pessimistic beliefs about human
relationships (Moss et al., 2004)
Through childhood, insecurely attached children exhibit less social competence and lower levels of self-
esteem and self-concept complexity
Social Psychology (PSY403)
Exhibiting vacillating pattern of approach-avoidance (indecisive: sometimes initiating social contact, and
sometimes avoiding social advances) invites social rejection confirming child's insecurity and distrust
Many theorists believe that infant attachment to caregivers provides a "working model" for adult
relationships. Hence, there is some evidence for continuity. However, attachment style may change if a
person has a significant attachment-related event (e.g., divorce, abuse, etc.)
Attachment styles and culture
Although a universal feature, the nature of attachment styles is shaped by culture. These differences are due
to different views about how to raise children, promoting independence or otherwise. For example, in
individualistic cultures, parents discourage their children from staying near and are more likely to give
them toys rather than picking them up. One study reported that American and German children are more
likely to develop an insecure attachment style than those of Japanese (Cole, 1992).
New concepts in attachment styles
An additional discovery was that attachment styles are being determined by two basic attitudes:
The extent to which one's self esteem is positive or negative
The extent to which one perceives others trustworthy
This new conception of attachment yields four kinds of attachment styles:
Secure: characterized by trust, a lack of concern with being abandoned, and a feeling of being valued &
Preoccupied: characterized by trust, but combined with a feeling of being unworthy of others' love and a
fear of abandonment
Dismissing-avoidant: characterized by low trust and avoidance of intimacy combined with high self-
esteem and compulsive self-reliance
Fearful-avoidant: characterized by low trust and avoidance of intimacy, combined with a feeling of being
unworthy of others' love and a fear of rejection
Research on attachment styles
High interpersonal trust
Securely attached report positive family
relationships when young, while the
insecurely attached rate their childhood family
environment as emotionally cold and openly
conflicted (Klohnen & Bera, 1998)
Securely attached adults easily become close
to others, expect intimate relationships to
endure, and handle relationship conflicts
constructively (Morrison et al., 1997)
If securely attached are involved with insecure
ones, there is prototype mismatch, but secure
Low interpersonal trust
partner can buffer the negative effects and
may gradually change the insecure and make
him change his feelings of intimacy and self-
worth (Feeney, 2003)
· Franzoi, S. (2003). Social Psychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 12.
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