Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Ordinary social interaction can explain perceived supports link to positive affect

Department

Psychology Department

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Disciplines

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Low perceived social support (PSS) is a marker for poor mental health, including major mental disorders (Lakey & Orehek, 2011; PsychRev). Most theory explains this effect as resulting from the receipt of supportive actions that buffer stress (Cohen & Wills, 1985; PsyBull). However, stress buffering theory does not fit the data well. For example, the receipt of supportive actions is not consistently linked to better mental health (Finch et al., 1999; JPers) and stress buffering effects can be difficult to replicate (Lakey & Orehek, 2011). Relational Regulation Theory (RRT; Lakey & Orehek, 2011) is an alternative to stress buffering theory and predicts: 1) PSS does not buffer stress primarily, but is linked to better mental health regardless of stress. 2) PSS is rooted in ordinary conversation and shared activities rather than conversations about stress and coping. 3) Observers show little agreement about which providers are most supportive. That is, who is supportive is mostly a matter of personal taste (i.e. PSS is primarily relational). Thus, measures of ordinary conversation and shared activity should show the same pattern of findings as PSS. Ordinary conversation and shared activity should be 1) primarily relational, 2) strongly linked to PSS, and 3) linked to high positive affect (PA) and low negative affect (NA). 16 groups of 4 students who had shared an apartment for at least 3 months rated each other in a round-robin design (Kenny, 1994; book). Students rated ordinary conversation and shared activity (Lakey et al., 2014; submitted), the partners perceived supportiveness (Social Provisions Scale; Cutrona & Russell, 1987), and affect typically experienced with the partner (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988; JPSP). Data were analyzed with the Social Relations Model (Kenny, 1994). As predicted, perceived support, ordinary conversation and shared activity were primarily relational. Relationship effects accounted for over 52% of the variance in these constructs. For relationship effects, ordinary conversation and shared activity were strongly and significantly linked to PSS (rs > .63) and PA (rs > .58), but not low NA (rs < -.13). When ordinary conversation and shared activity were controlled using multiple regression, PSS link to positive affect dropped from explaining 35% of the variance to explaining 3%. Thus, ordinary conversation and shared activity could explain most of perceived supports links to positive affect, but not negative affect.

Conference Name

Annual Meetings of the Association for Psychological Science

Conference Location

New York, New York

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