"The Part of Me That You Bring Out": Ideal Similarity and the Michelangelo Phenomenon

Caryl E. Rusbult*, Madoka Kumashiro, Kaska E. Kubacka, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


This work examines the Michelangelo phenomenon, an interpersonal model of the means by which people move closer to (vs. further from) their ideal selves. The authors propose that partner similarity-similarity to the ideal self, in particular-plays an important role in this process. Across 4 studies employing diverse designs and measurement techniques, they observed consistent evidence that when partners possess key elements of one another's ideal selves, each person affirms the other by eliciting important aspects of the other's ideals, each person moves closer to his or her ideal self, and couple well-being is enhanced. Partner similarity to the actual self also accounts for unique variance in key elements of this model. The associations of ideal similarity and actual similarity with couple well-being are fully attributable to the Michelangelo process, to partner affirmation and target movement toward the ideal self. The authors also performed auxiliary analyses to rule out several alternative interpretations of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-82
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Michelangelo phenomenon
  • actual similarity
  • ideal self
  • ideal similarity
  • partner affirmation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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