The impact of thinking about supportive relationships on interpersonal defensiveness. Does it matter who thinks, about whom, and in what way?


  • Dariusz Kuncewicz SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities


Słowa kluczowe:

attachment, defensiveness, close relationships, egosystem and ecosystem perspectives


The aim of this study was to test the effects of thinking about supportive relationships on interpersonal defensiveness among participants with different levels of attachment security. The effects were examined depending on closeness with a visualized person and an ecosystem or egosystem perspective of thinking about him/her.

Participants and procedure
After taking the bogus emotional intelligence test and completing the attachment questionnaire, the participants (N = 124) visual-ized an acquaintance or a close person, adopting the ecosystem or the egosystem perspective on thinking about him/her. Subse-quently the participants received unfavorable feedback on their bogus test results and completed measures of defensiveness in an anticipated conversation with the researcher.

The high-securely attached individuals reported less comfort in an anticipated conversation with the researcher after close well-wishing person visualization than after well-wishing acquaintance visualization. The low-securely attached participants showed greater emotional openness to the researcher after ecosystem thinking about any well-wishing person than after egosystem thinking.

The key results suggest that some aspects of interpersonal defensiveness among insecurely attached people can be reduced by a shift from an ego- to an ecosystem perspective of thinking about their relationships. In the next research step, it seems espe-cially important to explore whether therapeutic work focusing on ecosystem orientation can overcome the attachment problems in relationships.


Download data is not yet available.


Admoni, S. (2006). Attachment security and eating disorders. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, BarIlan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.

Arndt, J., Schimel, J., Greenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (2002). The intrinsic self and defensiveness: Evidence that activation the intrinsic self reduces self-handicaping and conformity. Personality and Social Bulletin, 28, 671–683. 10.1177/0146167202288011.

Baldwin, M. W. (2007). On priming security and insecurity. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 157–162. https://

Baldwin, M. W., Keelan, J. P. R., Fehr, B., Enns, V., & Koh-Rangarajoo, E. (1996). Social-cognitive conceptualization of attachment working models: Availability and accessibility effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 94–109. https://

Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: a test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226–244. 3514.61.2.226.

Baum, A., & Andersen, S. (1999). Interpersonal roles in transference: Transient mood states under the condition of significant–other resemblance. Social Cognition, 17, 161–185. soco.1999.17.2.161.

Canevello, A., & Crocker, J. (2010). Creating good relationships: Responsiveness, relationship quality, and interpersonal goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 78–106. https://doi. org/10.1037/a0018186.

Carnelley, K. B., & Rowe, A. C. (2007). Repeated priming of attachment security influences later views of self and relationships. Personal Relationships, 14, 307– 320.

Cheavens, J. S., Feldman, D. B., Woodward, J. T., & Snyder, C. R. (2006). Hope in cognitive psychotherapies: On working with client strengths. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 2, 135–145. https://

Cramer, P. (2000). Defense mechanisms in psychology today. Further processes for adaptation. American Psychologist, 55, 637–646. https://doi. org/10.1037//0003-066X.55.6.637.

Crocker, J. (2008). From egosystem to ecosystem: Implications for learning, relationships, and well-being. In H. A. Wayment & J. J. Brauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest: Psychological explorations of the quiet ego (pp. 63–72). Washington, DC: APA.

Crocker, J. (2011). The paradoxical consequences of interpersonal goals: Relationships, distress, and the self. Psychological Studies, 56, 142–150. https://

Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2008). Creating and undermining social support in communal relationships: The role of compassionate and self-image goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 555– 575.

Crocker, J., Canevello, A., Breines, J. G., & Flynn, H. (2010). Interpersonal goals and change in anxiety and dysphoria in first-semester college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 1009–1024. htps://

Crocker, J., & Garcia, J. (2009). Downward and upward spirals in intergroup interactions: The role of egosystem and ecosystem goals. Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 229–245). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Crocker, J., Niiya, Y., & Mischkowski, D. (2008). Why does writing about important values reduce defensiveness? Self-affirmation and the role of positive other directed feelings. Psychological Science, 19, 740–747.

Crocker, J., Olivier, M. A., & Nuer, N. (2009). Selfimage goals and compassionate goals: Costs and benefits. Self and Identity, 8, 251–269. https://doi. org/10.1080/15298860802505160.

Cyranowski, J. M., Hofkens, T. L., Swartz, H. A., & Gianaros, P. J. (2011). Thinking about a close relationship differentially impacts cardiovascular stress responses among depressed and nondepressed women. Health Psychology, 30, 276–284.

Downey, G., Mougios, V., Ayduk, O., London, B., & Shoda, Y. (2004). Rejection sensitivity and the defensive motivational system: Insights from the startle response to rejection cues. Psychological Science, 15, 668–673. 7976.2004.00738.x.

Fitzpatrick, J., & Lafontaine, M. F. (2017). Attachment, trust, and satisfaction in relationships: Investigating actor, partner, and mediating effects. Personal Relationships, 24, 640–662. https://doi. org/10.1111/pere.12203.

Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13, 353–379.

Gillath, O., Selcuk, E., & Shaver, P. R. (2008). Moving toward a secure attachment style: Can repeated security priming help? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 1651–1666. https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2008.00120.x.

Kahn, J. H., Hucke, B. E., Bradley, A. M., Glinski, A. J., & Malak, B. L. (2012). The Distress Disclosure Index: a research review and multitrait-multimethod examination. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59, 134–149.

Kumashiro, M., & Sedikides, C. (2005). Taking on board liability-focused information. Close positive relationships as a self-bolstering resource. Psychological Science, 16, 732–739. j.1467-9280.2005.01603.x.

Kuncewicz, D. (2012, July). The impact of close person visualization on emotions depending on interpersonal perspective adoption and individual traits. Paper presented at the International Association for Relationship Research Conference, Chicago, IL.

Kuncewicz, D., Niiya, Y., & Crocker, J. (2015). Are compassionate and self-image goals comparable across cultures? Polish Psychological Bulletin, 46, 513–522.

Mallinckrodt, B. (2007). A call to broaden and build Mikulincer and Shaver’s work on the benefits of priming attachment security. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 168–172.

Mayer, B., & Merckelbach, H. (1999). Unconscious processes, subliminal stimulation, and anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 19, 571–590. https://doi. org/10.1016/S0272-7358(98)00060-9.

Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. (2001). Attachment theory and intergroup bias: Evidence that priming the secure base schema attenuates negative reactions to out-groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 97–115. 3514.81.1.97.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., Bar-On, N., & Ein-Dor, T. (2010). The pushes and pulls of close relationships: Attachment insecurities and relational ambivalence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 450–468.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P., Gillath, O., & Nitzberg, R. A. (2005). Attachment, caregiving, and altruism: Boosting attachment security increases compassion and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 817–839. 89.5.817.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P. R., & Horesh, N. (2006). Attachment bases of emotion regulation and posttraumatic adjustment. In D. K. Snyder, J. Simpson, & J. N. Hughes (Eds.), Emotion regulation in couples and families: Pathways to dysfunction and health (pp. 77–99). Washington, DC: APA.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P., & Pereg, D. (2003). Attachment theory and affect regulation: The dynamics, development, and cognitive consequences of attachment-related strategies. Motivation and Emotions, 27, 77–102.

Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P., & Rom, E. (2011). The effects of implicit and explicit security priming on creative problem solving. Cognition and Emotion, 25, 519– 531. https://doi:10.1080/02699931.2010.540110.

Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing assurance: The risk regulation system in relationships. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 641– 666.

Nathan, P., Stuart, S., & Dolan, S. (2000). Research on psychotherapy efficacy and effectiveness. Between Scylla and Charybdis? Psychological Bulletin, 126, 1084–1085. 909.126.6.964.

Pierce, T., & Lydon, J. (1998). Priming relational schemas: Effects of contextually activated and chronically accessible interpersonal expectations on responses to a stressful event. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1441–1448. https://doi. org/10.1037//0022-3514.75.6.1441.

Schimel, J., Arndt, J., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (2001). Being accepted for who we are: Evidence that social validation of the intrinsic self reduces general defensiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 35–32. 10.1037//0022-3514.80.1.35.

Whitfield, C. L. (1993). Boundaries and relationships: Knowing, protecting, and enjoying the self. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.



Jak cytować

Kuncewicz, D. (2020). The impact of thinking about supportive relationships on interpersonal defensiveness. Does it matter who thinks, about whom, and in what way?. Current Issues in Personality Psychology, 8(2), 108–118.