Relational regulation theory (Lakey & Orehek, 2011) predicts that the correlation between perceived support and mental health emerges through ordinary conversation and shared activities rather than through conversations about stress and how to cope with it. Observing the conversations and activities of others also helps regulate mental health. Symbolic providers (known only through media) mimic how real providers regulate affect in that recipients observe the conversations and shared activities of symbolic providers. Thus, many perceived support findings obtained for real providers should also be found for symbolic providers. We found the same links between perceived support and affect when recipients rated symbolic providers as when recipients rated real providers. When participants’ affect was worsened, viewing symbolic providers helped restore affect.
Lakey, Brian; Cooper, Corey; Cronin, Arika; and Whitaker, Travis, "Symbolic Providers Help People Regulate Affect Relationally: Implications for Perceived Support" (2014). Funded Articles. 26.