Mitchell, Alexandra Elizabeth (2008-05). The effect of perceived and observed behaviors on feelings of intimacy: a comparison of "insider" versus "outsider" perspectives. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • According to the interpersonal process model, interactions characterized by self-disclosure and empathic responding foster emotional intimacy between the two participating individuals (Reis & Shaver, 1988). This study provided "insider" and "outsider" perspectives of this model, examining the relation between perceived and observed behaviors in couple interactions and their relative contributions to the development of intimate feelings. The sample consisted of 102 community couples who completed measures of intimacy after engaging in videotaped discussions about relationship injuries that occurred both within and outside of the relationship. Both self-report and observational measures were used to assess disclosure and empathic responding during these discussions. There was significant agreement between self- and observer-report of men's behavior, between self- and observer-report of women's male partner's behavior, and between partners' report of disclosure and empathic responding. There was mixed support for global distress and attachment style as predictors of differences between self- and observer-report. Whereas an earlier study using observational measures found gender differences in the effect of self-disclosure and empathic responding on intimacy (Mitchell et al., 2008), in this study self-report measures from the same sample indicated that perception of both an individual's own and his or her partner's disclosure and empathic responding predicted intimacy for both men and women. Observational measures provided incremental validity relative to self-report measures in predicting intimacy. These findings suggest that targeting certain personal and relational characteristics may be helpful in treating intimacy deficits and also indicate that self-report and observational measures provide unique information about the influence of behaviors on the development of intimate feelings in couple relationships.

publication date

  • May 2008