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11 - Social Cognition and Social Relationships

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2009

Frieder R. Lang
Affiliation:
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg, Germany
Karen L. Fingerman
Affiliation:
Purdue University, Indiana
Fredda Blanchard-Fields
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 274, 5th Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0170
Carolyn Cooper
Affiliation:
School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 274, 5th Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0170
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Summary

From a social cognitive and developmental perspective, we offer a content-based explanation for age differences in social judgment biases when individuals are presented with relationship dilemmas. Older adults' tendency to blame individuals for negative outcomes in relationship situations may reflect age-related differences in the nature and content of information stored in long-term memory (knowledge, beliefs, and values) that are relevant to the particular social judgment. Older adults may have highly schematized social rules for appropriate behavior that are chronically accessible and drive social judgments in particular situations, especially in the domain of marital relationships. In addition, we suggest that changes in emotional functioning as we grow older also impact the attributional processes in the context of marital relationships.

There is a substantive body of research examining the importance of social cognitive mechanisms in understanding adaptive social relationships. These include how relationship enhancing attributions relate to marital satisfaction (Bradbury & Fincham, 1990; Lopez, 1993), how selectively attending to negative aspects of a relationship creates relationship distress (Baucom, Epstein, Sayers, & Sher, 1989; Sillars, Roberts, Leonard, & Dun, 2000), how individuals preserve positive self-views in the context of a relationship (Fincham & Beach, 1999), and the accessibility of attitudes, values, and beliefs when engaging in interpersonal interactions (Baldwin, 1992; Fincham & Beach, 1999). Individual differences in the influence of such cognitive representations and processes may help us to differentiate adaptive from dysfunctional cognitions in dealing with relationship situations across the life span.

Type
Chapter
Information
Growing Together
Personal Relationships Across the Life Span
, pp. 268 - 289
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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