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Psychological Self-Other Overlap: Implications for Prosocial Behavior in Close Relationships.

By Mary Y. Liu


The present dissertation uncovers the processes by which self-other overlap influences prosocial behavior and its consequences across different close relationships. Chapter I reviews extant theory and research on self-other overlap and its role in relationships and prosocial behavior. Chapter II explores whether discrete emotions shift perceptions of self-other overlap, and how shifts influence downstream prosocial tendencies across 4 studies. Study 1 found that reflecting on an angry experience with a close friend led to less self-other overlap and subsequent prosocial tendencies toward that friend, relative to reflecting on a happy or more neutral experience. Furthermore, anger undermined helping through the mediating role of self-other overlap, relative to the other conditions. Study 2 ruled out a general negative valence explanation after finding no significant self-other overlap differences from reflecting on emotions similar in valence (i.e., sad, content, or control) involving a close friend. Study 3 tested emotions that directly implicate others (i.e., gratitude, anger, and control) among best friends. Anger undermined self-other overlap, relative to the control. However, there were no self-other overlap differences between gratitude and control, condition effects on helping, or mediation. Study 4 found null effects of anger on self-other overlap, relative to gratitude and control, suggesting that marital relationships may be one boundary condition. Chapter III explores whether relationship type, a proxy for self-other overlap, moderates the long-term health outcomes of providing support to close others. Giving to emotionally close partners predicted mortality risk, when giving to children. This likely occurred because children activate the caregiving system, which is hypothesized to benefit stress-regulation. Study 5a found that providing support to adult children predicted reduced mortality risk 17 years later among older adult parents, but providing support to other partners (e.g., parents, siblings, other relatives, friends) did not predict mortality risk among either parents (Study 5a) or non-parents (Study 5b), controlling for a number of plausible confounds. Chapter IV concludes by discussing the implications of the research for a variety of research literatures and future directions. Together, the studies begin to illuminate the intricacies by which self-other overlap influences prosocial behavior and its consequences in different close relationships

Topics: Self-other Overlap, Relationships, Prosocial Behavior
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:deepblue.lib.umich.edu:2027.42/107282
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