The dangers of dating the "bad boy" (or girl): When does romantic desire encourage us to take on the negative qualities of potential partners?

Erica B. Slotter*, Wendi L Gardner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

People generally strive to maintain positive views of themselves. Even in the face of negative feedback, individuals frequently protect the self-concept from incorporating negative information. Two studies examined a potential exception to that rule: whether and when romantic desire may motivate individuals to spontaneously adopt the negative attributes of a potential partner. Study 1 demonstrated the basic effect such that single individuals spontaneously incorporated negative attributes of a potential romantic partner into their self-concepts, and incorporation was magnified by desire for the partner. Study 2 explored boundary conditions of these effects. Negative attributes were only incorporated if the potential partner expressed self-acceptance about possessing these attributes; when potential partners reported wishing to change the negative attribute, it was not adopted into the self-concept. Attribute extremity also moderated incorporation. The implications of these results for understanding the nuances of motivated self-malleability are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1178
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume48
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012

Keywords

  • Motivation
  • Romantic relationship
  • Self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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