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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Jan;84(1):148-64.

Thinking of you: nonconscious pursuit of interpersonal goals associated with relationship partners.

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Department of Psychology, New York University, New York 10003, USA.


The mere psychological presence of relationship partners was hypothesized to trigger interpersonal goals that are then pursued nonconsciously. Qualitative data suggested that people tend to pursue different interpersonal goals within different types of relationships (e.g., mother, best friend, coworker). In several studies, priming participants' relationship representations produced goal-directed behavior (achievement, helping, understanding) in line with the previously assessed goal content of those representations. These findings support the hypothesis that interpersonal goals are component features of relationship representations and that mere activation of those representations, even in the partner's physical absence, causes the goals to become active and to guide behavior nonconsciously within the current situation.

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