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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Jul;95(1):94-110. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.1.94.

Navigating personal and relational concerns: the quest for equilibrium.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, UK.


The authors' personal-relational equilibrium model suggests that people come to seek equilibrium in their dedication to personal and relational concerns in that these 2 important needs cannot always be gratified simultaneously. The authors proposed that the experience of personal-relational disequilibrium motivates attempts to restore equilibrium and that achieving equilibrium promotes life satisfaction. Four studies revealed good support for the model. In Study 1, a manipulation of anticipated future disequilibrium (vs. equilibrium) as a result of overdedication to either the personal or relational domain caused reduced motivation to address concerns in that domain and increased motivation toward the complementary domain. In Study 2, narratives describing disequilibrium experiences (vs. equilibrium experiences) exhibited increased motivation to restore equilibrium and reduced life satisfaction. In Study 3, diary reports of everyday disequilibrium were associated with increased same-day motivation to restore equilibrium, reduced same-day life satisfaction, and increased next-day dedication of effort to the complementary domain. In Study 4, experiences of disequilibrium predicted reduced well-being 6 months later. Collectively, these findings extend knowledge of how people regulate themselves toward equilibrium in pursuing 2 fundamental human concerns.

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