Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Living Life in the Direction of What You Signal

Hi folks.  I’ve been over-busy and not had an entry for a bit and wanted to get something new up here and wanted to get something posted.  So, here’s something I was reflecting on today.  I was talking with a colleague earlier and thinking about some ideas from what has been called consistency theory as it relates to commitment in romantic relationships.  I looked up something I wrote long ago in my dissertation based on the work of Kiesler and Rosenblatt.  It seems to fit in with the whole stream of recent thoughts about signals and commitment.  For example, see the Lolo and Tebow entry further below. Anyway, I was enjoying reminiscing about this line of thought that a younger version of me wrote long ago. Thought I’d just share it for those of you who are grooving on the signal thoughts.   

From:  Stanley, S. M. (1986).  Commitment and the maintenance and enhancement of relationships.  Doctoral dissertation.  University of Denver. 

Based upon numerous studies of commitment to attitudes about social issues (e.g., air pollution, the legal voting age, birth control for teenagers), Kiesler presents a view of commitment based on the need of individuals to maintain consistency between thought and action. He describes commitment as a "pledging or binding of the individual to behavioral acts" (p. 17). Having performed previous behaviors, individuals seek to reduce inconsistencies in their lives by bringing present attitudes and behavior in line with past behavior. Attitudes, being more pliable than past behavior, are likely to be changed so that they are consistent with that behavior. Past behavior can constrain one to a specific line of attitude or action that is consistent with that behavior. According to Kiesler, commitment will be strengthened by increasing one or more of the following: the explicitness of the previous acts, the importance of these acts for the individual, and the perceived degree of volition involved in performing the acts.

Rosenblatt (1977) discusses consistency theory, and applies this approach to a discussion of commitment in relationships. Rosenblatt makes a number of predictions. For example, he suggests that early in marriages, marital stability and commitment will be positively associated with ceremonial effort and publicity. Under such circumstances, the couple is accountable to many observers, leading them to infer that they really must have been sincere to have taken their vows in front of so many people. By similar reasoning, the couple who invests much in their wedding and relationship (in terms of time, effort, or money) has a great deal of behavior favoring maintenance of the commitment. There is a press (i.e., constraint) to bring attitudes in line with these committing behaviors, especially if the previous behaviors are perceived to have been voluntarily undertaken. Rosenblatt (1977) does not report any research, but suggests numerous projects for studying commitment within the context of consistency theory.

There are a lot of times in life where it’s a pretty cool idea to be aiming at what you signaled that you expected of yourself.  

Kiesler, C. (1971). The psychology of commitment. New-York: Academic Press.

Rosenblatt, P.C. (1977).  Needed research on commitment in marriage.  In G. Levinger and Raush (Eds.), Close relationships: Perspectives on the meaning of intimacy.  Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.