Attachment, mental representations of others

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Final Version of a chapter for M. Mikulincer & G. S. Goodman (Eds.), Dynamics of Romantic Love: Attachment, Caregiving, and Sex. New York: Guilford. Please do not quote without the author’s permission.

Attachment, Mental Representations of Others, and Gratitude and

Forgiveness in Romantic Relationships

Mario Mikulincer Phillip R. ShaverKeren Slav
Bar-Ilan University University of California, Davis Bar-Ilan University

Author addresses: Mario Mikulincer, Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 52900, Israel, e-mail:
Phillip R. Shaver, Department of Psychology,University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-8686, e-mail:
Keren Slav, Department of Psychology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 52900, Israel, e-mail:
According to attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969/1982, 1973, 1980), adults’ behavior in close relationships and their subjective construal of these relationships are shaped by mentalrepresentations (working models) whose origins lie in early childhood relationships with primary caregivers and which continue to evolve as people develop new relationships throughout life. In other words, theoretically speaking, people construe person-environment transactions subjectively, store representations of typical transactions in an associative memory network, and use these representationsto understand new interpersonal transactions and organize action plans. In Bowlby’s (1980) words, “Every situation we meet in life is constructed in terms of representational models we have of the world about us and of ourselves. Information reaching us through our sense organs is selected and interpreted in terms of those models, its significance for us and for those we care for is evaluated interms of them, and plans of action are conceived and executed with those models in mind” (p. 229).
Bowlby (1969/1982) imagined that a person’s history of significant social experiences is stored in at least two kinds of working models: representations of relationship partners’ responses to one’s own proximity-seeking bids (working models of others) and representations of one’s ownlovability and competence (working models of self). Thus, attachment working models include representations of the availability, responsiveness, sensitivity, and goodwill of others as well as representations of the self’s own capabilities for mobilizing others’ support and one’s feelings of being loved and valued by others. In this chapter, we focus mainly on a person’s working models of others and theirinfluence on attitudes and behaviors toward close relationship partners. These working models of others seem to underlie attachment-style differences in caregiving behavior (see Collins, Chapter 7) and the appraisals people make of conflicts that inevitably arise in close relationships (see Simpson, Campbell, & Weisberg, Chapter 9). They frequently affect one’s appraisals of relationship partners,expectations concerning how they will behave, and interpretations of their actions (see Shaver & Clark, 1994; Shaver & Hazan, 1993; Shaver & Mikulincer, 2002, for reviews of relevant studies). In this chapter, we extend existing research on working models of others by focusing on the way they modulate two important kinds of reactions to close relationships partners – gratitude toward a generous,caring partner and forgiveness toward a partner who has been disloyal, inconsiderate, or hurtful.
We begin by briefly reviewing the parts of attachment theory that deal with the nature and development of working models (Bowlby, 1969/1982, 1973, 1980). We then specify how the two major dimensions of attachment insecurity, avoidance and anxiety, as well as their prototypical underlying...
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