Predicting Unpredictability: Do Measures of Interpersonal Rigidity/Flexibility and Distress Predict Intraindividual Variability in Social Perceptions and Behavior?

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Abstract

Maladjusted individuals have been theorized to exhibit problematic intraindividual variability of social behavior across situations. This variability is either excessively high (i.e., unpredictable) or low (i.e., rigid), or the behavior is inappropriately matched to the interpersonal context (noncomplementary). However, research has not tested systematically whether interpersonal distress and purported measures of rigidity actually predict these different types of variability across a broad range of social situations. Participants completed measures of interpersonal functioning and then responded to a range of hypothetical interpersonal scenarios, rating perceptions of others and their own expected behavioral responses (Study 1). A subset of participants also rated others' and their own social behaviors across a week of naturalistic social interactions (Study 2). Results most consistently suggested that interpersonal distress predicts high intraindividual variability, with little support for the measurement or theory of rigidity. Moreover, variability of social perceptions partially mediated the link between distress and behavioral variability. Results largely persisted even after accounting for gender and variables' mean levels, and cannot be fully explained by interpersonal complementarity. The implications of these dynamic processes for understanding personality and interpersonal adjustment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-912
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume97
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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