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What Do We Really Want?: Mental Models of Ideal Romantic Involvement Explored through Multidimensional Scaling

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1006/jesp.1993.1023


Abstract Three studies extended the comparison level construct by exploring young adults′ mental models of ideal romantic involvement. Studies 1 and 2 were three-phase multidimensional scaling studies. In Phase 1 subjects′ descriptions of ideal involvement were solicited. In Phase 2 subjects judged the dissimilarities among Phase 1 descriptions, and multidimensional scaling solutions were computed in one through six dimensions. In Phase 3 a list of potential labels for the Phase 2 configurations was developed, and trained judges rated each Phase 1 description with respect to each label. These data were used to interpret the Phase 2 configurations. Two dimensions effectively described the derived configurations-Intimate versus Superficial and Romantic-Traditional versus Practical-Nontraditional. These dimensions defined four quadrants, or types of ideal: Picturebook Fantasy, Marital Bliss, Utilitarian Involvement, and Companionship. A third study asked whether these ideals are relevant to the ways in which subjects think about potential or actual relationships. Relationship descriptions were solicited under one of three instructional sets-ideal involvement, realistic standard, or actual relationship. Judges′ ratings of descriptions revealed few substantive differences across instructional sets, either in mean levels of labels or in the structure of relationships among labels. Thus, the issues that are salient when describing ideal romantic involvement do not differ substantively from those that are salient when thinking about realistic standards or actual, ongoing relationships. This work also demonstrated that women′s ideals exhibit greater Intimacy and Romance-Traditionalism than men′s.

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