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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Aug;97(2):256-78. doi: 10.1037/a0014562.

Commitment insurance: compensating for the autonomy costs of interdependence in close relationships.

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Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260-4110, USA.


A model of the commitment-insurance system is proposed to examine how low and high self-esteem people cope with the costs interdependence imposes on autonomous goal pursuits. In this system, autonomy costs automatically activate compensatory cognitive processes that attach greater value to the partner. Greater partner valuing compels greater responsiveness to the partner's needs. Two experiments and a daily diary study of newlyweds supported the model. Autonomy costs automatically activate more positive implicit evaluations of the partner. On explicit measures of positive illusions, high self-esteem people continue to compensate for costs. However, cost-primed low self-esteem people correct and override their positive implicit sentiments when they have the opportunity to do so. Such corrections put the marriages of low self-esteem people at risk: Failing to compensate for costs predicted declines in satisfaction over a 1-year period.

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