High and low self-esteem people typically have divergent responses to interpersonal risk. Highs draw closer to their partner, whereas lows self-protectively distance. However, these responses should be more likely when people are dependent on the rewards their partner offers. Two experiments tested the hypothesis that structural changes in the situation of interdependence lead high and low self-esteem people to reverse their typical responses to risk. When partners were instrumental to a current goal pursuit (and participants were more dependent on the rewards partners could offer), highs drew closer and lows distanced when risk was primed. However, when partners were not instrumental to an active goal (and participants were less dependent on the rewards partners could offer), these responses were reversed. Reducing one’s dependence on a partner to attain one’s personal goals appears to reduce highs’ incentive to connect, whereas it appears to increase lows’ incentive to connect.
- close relationships