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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Apr;98(4):535-49. doi: 10.1037/a0018581.

Shifting closeness: interpersonal effects of personal goal progress.

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Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.


In this article, we examine how the shifting motivational priority of personal goals affects relationship closeness. We hypothesize that people will draw closer to significant others who are instrumental (vs. noninstrumental) for a goal that has not been progressing well-a goal that is thus high in motivational priority. Once the goal has progressed successfully, we predict that people will cease to draw closer to instrumental others. Five studies support these predictions by showing that the impact of goal progress on reduced preference for instrumental others (Experiment 1) depends on the framing of progress as partial attainment (vs. greater commitment, Experiment 2) and the intention to balance across goals (vs. focus on one goal; Experiments 3-4). We find that moving away from instrumental others post progress is functional, in that it allows for drawing closer to those who are instrumental for alternative goals (Experiment 5).

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