Do I want you and can I have you? : desirability and feasibility concerns mediate the association between relationship status and pursuit of alternatives




Hunt, Lucy Louise

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Stay versus leave behavior (i.e., the choice to maintain versus terminate one’s relationship status) represents a decision that faces both single and partnered individuals, but these groups likely experience this decision differently. The present investigation focuses on the specific stay/leave outcome of pursuing a novel relationship partner (i.e., a romantic alternative). Based on Interdependence Theory and motivational goal theory, I propose that single individuals perceive both potential romantic alternatives more positively (replicating established work, e.g., Maner, Gailliot, & Miller, 2009) and barriers to pursuing those alternatives less strongly compared to partnered individuals, and I further propose that these differences in perceptions of alternatives (i.e., desirability concerns) and barriers (i.e., feasibility concerns) statistically mediate the association between relationship status and likelihood of pursuing romantic alternatives. As predicted, across three studies, results indicated that single participants perceive greater desirability concerns (i.e., more positive evaluations of their alternatives) and weaker feasibility concerns (i.e., fewer barriers to pursuing their alternatives) compared to partnered participants, and these concerns doubly mediated the association between relationship status and likelihood of pursuit. Moreover, in Study 2, experimentally manipulating barriers to be strong reduced average differences between single and partnered participants in their pursuit of a highly desirable alternative partner, suggesting that barriers and their attendant feasibility concerns represent an important construct underlying differences in how single versus partnered individuals approach the decision to pursue a novel romantic partner.


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