DOI: 10.1177/01461672241233419 ISSN: 0146-1672

On Creating Deeper Relationship Bonds: Felt Understanding Enhances Relationship Identification

Emilie Auger, Sabrina Thai, Carolyn Birnie-Porter, John E. Lydon
  • Social Psychology

Relational experiences play a critical role in shaping how individuals see themselves. In four studies ( N=945) using person-perception, longitudinal, and experimental designs, we demonstrate that feeling understood changes individuals’ self-concept by increasing the centrality of a specific relationship (relationship identification). Study 1 showed that participants perceived an individual to be more identified with their relationship when their partner was high (vs. low) in understanding. Study 2 extended these results by examining individuals in romantic relationships longitudinally. The results of Studies 1 and 2 were distinct for understanding compared to acceptance and caring. Studies 3 and 4 manipulated felt understanding. Recalling many versus few understanding instances (Study 3) and imagining a close other being low versus high in understanding (Study 4) led individuals to feel less understood, which reduced identification in their friendships and romantic relationships. Furthermore, Study 4 suggests that coherence may be one mechanism through which felt understanding increases relationship identification.

More from our Archive