Expression of personality and relationship quality in couples' homes
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Individuals use their physical environments (e.g., dorm rooms, offices) to broadcast information about themselves, influence their thoughts and feelings, and they unintentionally leave discernable traces of their daily behaviors (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli, & Morris, 2002). As a result, a lot can be learned about an individual simply by looking at the spaces he or she inhabits. The previous work on this topic has focused on spaces occupied by individuals (Gosling et al., 2002). However, in many instances (e.g., work, home, and public life) people share environments, raising the question of what can be learned about individuals from their shared spaces? The present study examined the shared home environments (living rooms) of 98 heterosexual cohabitating romantic couples. Participants independently completed self-reports of personality, couple personality (i.e., the collective personality of the participant and his or her romantic partner), values, and relationship commitment and satisfaction. Observers independently rated each member of the couple's personality, values, and relationship characteristics, as well as the couple's "couple personality" based solely on photographs of the couples' living rooms. These observations were compared with the couples' self-reported characteristics and the specific environmental features of the spaces. Analyses revealed generally strong inter-observer agreement for most characteristics and in some cases (e.g., perceptions of male Agreeableness, female and couple Conscientiousness, and male, female, and couple Openness) these observer impressions were also accurate. Results also suggested that observers relied on specific environmental cues (e.g., how colorful or organized a room was) to form these impressions and sometimes these cues were valid.