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Relationship Closeness as Including Other in the Self: Cognitive Underpinnings and Measures

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.1999.17.2.140

Previous research has identified nonobvious, cognitive indexes of including other in the self (self-other overlap) that differentiate close from nonclose relationships. These indexes include a reaction time measure and a measure focusing on attributional perspective. This study demonstrated for the first time that these cognitive indices differentiated among romantic relationships of varying degrees of closeness, suggesting that self-other overlap is not an either-or phenomenon. Further, the degree of self-other overlap was associated with subjective feelings of closeness, but little if at all with amount and diversity of interaction, suggesting that cognitive self-other overlap is not a direct product of behavioral interaction. Finally, these indexes predicted relationship maintenance and other variables over 3 months and correlated with self-reports of love, suggesting a broad linkage of cognitive self-other overlap to other aspects of relational experience.