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Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2003;7(1):56-74.

Relational discrepancy theory: the implications of self discrepancy theory for dyadic relationships and for the emergence of social structure.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Relationship formation and maintenance is guided by more than similarity between partners' actual selves. Expanding the domain of self-discrepancy theory (SDT; Higgins, 1987), we propose that a type of discrepancy previously not considered-discrepancies between self-aspects of relational partners-is central to relationship cognition, including perceptions of intimacy and trust, and to the emergence of roles within relationships. Our argument relates both to unconstrained environments, where individuals freely choose partners, and constrained environments (e.g., workplaces) with relationships imposed. We argue that SDT's prediction of emotional consequences from discrepancies permits a motivational account of why individuals might form and maintain relationships in terms of hierarchies and roles

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