Mothers never retire: Contextual priming of working models of mother affects adults' representations of self and romantic partners

Eileen Lahat, Mario Mikulincer, Uri Lifshin, Phillip R. Shaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: The main goal of these studies is to provide an experimental test of a core hypothesis based on attachment theory: Working models of mother are active in adults' minds and can bias their views of self and romantic partners. Method: In two studies, we conducted clinical interviews to identify positive and negative core traits that participants used to describe their mothers. We then implicitly primed either positive or negative traits extracted from the interviews and compared this priming condition to control conditions in which we primed either positive or negative control traits (traits that described the mother of another study participant). Following this manipulation, we assessed participants' self-appraisals (Study 1) and explanations of their romantic partner's hurtful behaviors (Study 2). Results: Priming with one's mother's positive traits led to more positive views of self and romantic partner (compared with the effects of priming with positive control traits). In contrast, as compared to negative control traits, the priming of one's mother's negative traits led to less positive views of self and romantic partner. Conclusions: Findings support the hypothesis that working models of mother play a causal role in shaping adults' representations of self and romantic partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-514
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume88
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords

  • attachment
  • causal attribution
  • mental representations of mother
  • self-representations
  • working models

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