Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Mark A. Whisman

Second Advisor

Sona Dimidjian

Third Advisor

Donald Weatherley

Fourth Advisor

Bernadette Park

Fifth Advisor

Cindy White

Abstract

The ways in which intimate relationship partners think about one another has been shown to be associated with a wide range of relationship outcomes. This study was conducted to evaluate the cross-sectional and 6-month longitudinal associations between implicit cognition about one's partner and broad domains of marital functioning that included marital satisfaction, communication, partner behaviors, and commitment to the marriage. Participants were 89 married individuals who completed the Go/No-Go Associations Task (GNAT), an implicit performance measure, which was modified to evaluate how strongly a person associated words that describe their partner with positive or negative photographs. The GNAT stimuli consisted of two sets of photographs (couple specific: photographs of couples interacting in a positive or negative fashion; general: photographs of positive or negative non-couples content). It was hypothesized that (a) positive and negative implicit cognition would be associated with measures of marital functioning at baseline, (b) positive and negative implicit cognition would be associated with changes in marital functioning from baseline to 6-month follow-up, and (c) the associations between positive and negative implicit cognition and marital functioning would be incremental to explicit cognitions about one's partner. Results indicated that participants on average had stronger positive implicit cognitions about their partner as compared to negative implicit cognitions, and that relationship-specific implicit cognitions were more strongly associated with marital functioning than general implicit cognitions. Regression analyses indicated that positive relationship-specific implicit cognitions were positively associated with change in marital satisfaction over the study period, and incrementally predictive of change in marital satisfaction over and above shared associations with explicit cognition about one's partner. No other associations between implicit cognition and relationship functioning were obtained.

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