High-maintenance interaction: Inefficient social coordination impairs self-regulation

Eli J. Finkel*, W. Keith Campbell, Amy B. Brunell, Amy N. Dalton, Sarah J. Scarbeck, Tanya L. Chartrand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


Tasks requiring interpersonal coordination permeate all spheres of life. Although social coordination is sometimes efficient and effortless (low maintenance), at other times it is inefficient and effortful (high maintenance). Across 5 studies, participants experienced either a high- or a low-maintenance interaction with a confederate before engaging in an individual-level task requiring self-regulation. Self-regulation was operationalized with measures of (a) preferences for a challenging task with high reward potential over an easy task with low reward potential (Study 1) and (b) task performance (anagram performance in Study 1, Graduate Record Exam performance in Studies 2 and 3, physical stamina in Study 4, and fine motor control in Study 5). Results uniformly supported the hypothesis that experiencing high-maintenance interaction impairs one's self-regulatory success on subsequent, unrelated tasks. These effects were not mediated through participants' conscious processes and emerged even with a nonconscious manipulation of high-maintenance interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-475
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006


  • High-maintenance interaction
  • Interdependence theory
  • Mimicry
  • Self-regulation
  • Social coordination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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