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 Please do not quote without the author’s permission.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. Shaver Keren 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 mental representations (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 representations to 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 in


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