Expect and you shall perceive: People who expect better in turn perceive better behaviors from their romantic partners. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • People who are happy with their romantic relationships report that their partners are particularly effective at meeting their everyday relational needs. However, the literature invites competing predictions about how people arrive at those evaluations. In pilot research, we validated a scale of concrete, specific relationship behaviors that can be performed by a romantic partner day-to-day. In Study 1, cross-lagged panel models examined how expectations of positive behaviors, perceptions of positive behaviors, and relationship quality predict changes in one another from week to week. People who expected more positive behaviors in turn perceived more positive behaviors from their partners 1 week later. Key effects extended to negative relationship behaviors (Study 2). In Study 3, the same pattern emerged in a dyadic sample, with expected behaviors predicting changes in perceived behaviors independent of the partner's own reports. Truth and bias analyses revealed that people with lower expectations had more negatively biased perceptions of their partners' behaviors, whereas high expectations were associated with better accuracy. We obtained these results in the context of specific, verifiable behaviors reported on over relatively short periods, underscoring how powerfully people's everyday relationship perceptions may be shaped by their more global perceptions. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).


  • Joel, Samantha
  • Maxwell, Jessica
  • Khera, Devinder
  • Peetz, Johanna
  • Baucom, Brian RW
  • MacDonald, Geoff

publication date

  • June 2023