Functional Interdependence Theory: An evolutionary account of social situations

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Social interactions are characterized by distinct forms of interdependence, each of which has unique effects on how behavior unfolds within the interaction. Despite this, little is known about the psychological mechanisms that allow people to detect and respond to the nature of interdependence in any given interaction. We propose that interdependence theory provides clues regarding the structure of interdependence in the human ancestral past. In turn, evolutionary psychology offers a framework for understanding the types of information processing mechanisms that could have been shaped under these recurring conditions. We synthesize and extend these two perspectives to introduce a new theory: functional interdependence theory (FIT). FIT can generate testable hypotheses about the function and structure of the psychological mechanisms for inferring interdependence. This new perspective offers insight into how people initiate and maintain cooperative relationships, select social partners and allies, and identify opportunities to signal social motives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-388
Number of pages28
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number4
Early online date26 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council awarded to Daniel Balliet (StG #635356).

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme635356
European Research Council


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