Regulatory Focus and the Interpersonal Dynamics of Romantic Partners' Personal Goal Discussions

Heike A. Winterheld, Jeffry A. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Guided by regulatory focus theory, we examined how romantic partners' chronic concerns with promotion (advancement) and prevention (security) shape the interpersonal dynamics of couples' conversations about different types of personal goals. Members of 95 couples (N=190) first completed chronic regulatory focus measures and then engaged in videotaped discussions of two types of goals that were differentially relevant to promotion and prevention concerns. Participants also completed measures of goal- and partner-relevant perceptions. Independent observers rated the discussions for support-related behaviors. Highly promotion-focused people approached their partners more, perceived greater partner responsiveness, and received more support when discussing goals that were promotion-relevant and that they perceived as less attainable. When partners' responsiveness to promotion-relevant goals was low, highly promotion-focused people reported greater self-efficacy regarding these goals. Highly prevention-focused people perceived more responsiveness when partners were less distancing during discussions of their prevention-relevant goals, and greater responsiveness perceptions reassured them that these goals are less disruptive to the relationship. These findings suggest that chronic concerns with promotion and prevention orient people to their relationship environment in ways that are consistent with these distinct motivational needs, especially when discussing goals that increase the salience of these needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-290
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

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© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


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