Occurrent Social Cognition in Close Relationship Interaction: The Role of Proximal and Distal Variables

G. J O Fletcher*, Julie Fitness

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


We examined the relations among ongoing social cognition, interactive behavior, and the distal variables of depression and relationship quality. Thirty-eight couples in long-term unmarried relationships each had 10-min discussions of important problems in their relationship. Ss then independently reviewed videotapes of these discussions and provided verbal descriptions of their thoughts and feelings as experienced during the conversation. Observers later coded the positivity of the behavior from the videotapes and the positivity of the material from transcripts of these thought/feeling protocols. The most important findings were that (a) higher relationship quality was significantly related to more positive cognitions, whereas increased depression was associated with significantly fewer positive emotions, (b) relationship quality was significantly related to facial expression and posture, but relationship quality was more weakly related to the verbal material, and (c) in contrast, when depression and relationship quality were controlled for, facial expression and posture were unrelated to the positivity of cognitions, whereas verbal material was significantly related to the occurrence of positive cognitions. The results are discussed in terms of the distinctions between automatic and controlled cognitive processing, and distal and proximal classes of variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-474
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1990
Externally publishedYes


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