"Roommate Closeness as a Function of Resemblance to a Loved One"
Research on the social-cognitive process of transference and the relational self has shown that when an individual meets someone new who resembles a significant person in his/her life, the significant-other representation in memory is activated and applied to the new person (Andersen & Chen, 2002). Accordingly, the individual then infers that the new person has characteristics of the significant other, likes (or dislikes) the new person in a similar way, and behaves toward the new person in a manner specific to the prior relationship. Although considerable research has tracked the process and its consequences in the lab, little work has explored the real-world implications of this phenomenon. Over the course of an academic semester, we tracked self-reported relationship closeness of 142 first-year college roommates as a function of how much the roommate resembled a positive significant other from an individual’s life. Results indicated that greater self-reported significant-other resemblance in a roommate predicted more closeness with this roommate over time. These results held over and above the predictive value of one's more general attachment style and point to the significance of transference in everyday life. In particular, resemblance to a significant other has important implications for how new relationships develop.
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