Implicit Partner Evaluations: How They Form and Affect Close Relationships

Ruddy Maxime Patrick Faure

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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For decades, research on couples has attempted to understand the source of relationship decay by explicitly asking people how they evaluate their relationships. Ironically, however, relationship science also indicates that people seem largely indisposed to acknowledge some aspects of their relationships in self-report questionnaires, particularly when those are undesirable. To circumvent these limitations, a growing body of work has started to employ more indirect measurement tools (the so-called ‘implicit measures’) to capture people’s spontaneous evaluative associations, or gut-feeling reactions, toward their partner: their implicit partner evaluations. Recent evidence suggests that implicit partner evaluations, as assessed by implicit measures, differ quite sharply from self-reported explicit evaluations and predict later relationship quality and stability, even when explicit evaluations do not. To date, however, little is known about the sources of implicit partner evaluations and the reasons why they have such powerful predictive power. The present dissertation contributes to this growing field of research in many ways by examining how implicit partner evaluations form and affect close relationships in everyday life. First, using a combination of longitudinal and observational methods, Chapter 2 provides evidence that, compared to their explicit counterparts, implicit partner evaluations remain more stable over time, are more resistant to day-to-day relationship experiences, and update gradually as relationship experiences accumulate in time. Second, Chapters 3 and 4 capitalize on diary and experimental designs to show that one of the reasons why implicit partner implicit partner evaluations have important implications for relationship maintenance is because, under specific yet prevalent conditions (i.e., when opportunities to deliberate are limited), they determine daily behaviors that are critical for long-term relational well-being, such as nonverbal communication in problem-solving conversations and forgiveness toward the partner’s offense. Third, drawing on a large dyadic sample of newlyweds, Chapter 5 further extends these findings by showing that having ambivalent implicit partner evaluations can also affect relationship functioning over time by motivating spouses to make behavioral efforts that may improve their marital problems. Last, Chapter 6 describes how studying implicit evaluations in close relationship contexts can also invigorate basic implicit social cognition research on how attitudes change and affect behavior in the real world, and inform interventions for society. Taken together, the findings from the present dissertation provide novel insights about the key role of implicit partner evaluations in relational contexts, and further illustrate the scientific and practical value of integrating research in relationship science and implicit social cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Righetti, F, Supervisor
  • van Lange, PAM, Supervisor
  • Hofmann, Wilhelm, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date30 Sept 2021
Place of PublicationAmsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021


  • close relationships
  • implicit partner evaluations
  • implicit measures
  • automatic attitudes
  • social cognition
  • dual-process theories
  • psychology
  • dyadic interactions
  • longitudinal methodologies
  • relationship well-being.


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