The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships

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9780131836129: The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships

This textbook provides an integrated and organized foundation for students seeking a brief but comprehensive introduction to the field of relationship science. It emphasizes the relationship field's intellectual themes, roots, and milestones; discusses its key constructs and their conceptualizations; describes its methodologies and classic studies; and, most important, presents the theories that have guided relationship scholars and produced the field's major research themes.

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About the Author:

Ellen S. Berscheid, Regents' Professor of Psychology Emerita, University of Minnesota

Pamela C. Regan, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Just a little over two decades ago, at a conference addressed to interpersonal relationship phenomena, our host related to some of us that he had submitted a course proposal to the dean of his college suggesting that the psychology department offer a relationships course. His proposal was summarily rejected. At that time, his dean was not the only one who viewed the study of interpersonal relationships as fragmented empirically, immature conceptually, uncohesive theoretically, and lacking in the methodological rigor that characterized established lines of inquiry. Many, both inside and outside of psychology, believed the relationship field to have the potential to yield only an inchoate collection of "interesting" findings and "how to" advice to college students about their romantic relationships. Even within social psychology, the study of interpersonal relationships was regarded as teetering dangerously on the brink of the outer "edge of "soft psychology."

Today, no major research university can afford not to have a relationship course in its psychology curriculum. Scholars in virtually all of the traditional areas of psychological inquiry have come to recognize that human behavior end development take place in the context of relationships with other people, and thus, in order to accomplish psychology's aim of understanding and predicting human behavior, it is necessary to incorporate the relationship context into psychological theory and research. "Contextualism" is in ascendance in psychology, and no context is more omnipresent and omnipotent than the relationships in which people are embedded from the time they are born to the time they die. The growing recognition of the critical role that relationships play in human behavior and development is partly due to the fact that the relationship field has confronted and successfully overcome many of its conceptual and methodological obstacles and currently is drawing on and contributing to virtually all areas of psychology—including clinical, counseling, educational, industrial and organizational, developmental, and social and personality psychology, as well as behavior genetics, cognitive and affective neuroscience, and psychoimmunology, to name just a few.

As a consequence, increasing numbers of upper-division undergraduate and graduate students in psychology and many of the other social, behavioral, biological, and health sciences are seeking a brief but comprehensive introduction to the field that will inform their own specialized pursuits within psychology and other disciplines. This textbook is intended to provide an integrated and organized foundation for such students. It emphasizes the relationship field's intellectual themes, roots, and milestones; discusses its key constructs and their conceptualizations; describes its methodologies and classic studies; and, most important, presents the theories that have guided relationship scholars and produced the field's major research themes. This text is intended to reflect the fact that relationship science has proved to be an intellectually cohesive and cumulative endeavor, one with vast potential to advance progress in most areas of psychological inquiry as well as many other disciplines.

Although relationship science is multidisciplinary, this text is titled The Psychology of Interpersonal Relationships for a number of reasons: Psychology has been and continues to be a major contributor to the field; psychology is likely to be the major beneficiary of the advancement of relationship science; the authors are psychologists; and, finally, mast relationship courses at present are taught within academic departments of psychology. It is not difficult to foresee that there will someday be departments of relationship science that will bring together scholars from all the contributing disciplines, but such developments must await a loosening of the financial constraints that currently afflict higher education. As a multidisciplinary field, relationship science covers vast terrain and presents a challenge to instructors who generally are themselves interested in only certain subsets of relationship phenomena. By providing the student with a broad and comprehensive foundation in relationship science in the course text, we hoped to free instructors (including ourselves) from the necessity of presenting this foundation in lecture or through supplementary readings, thereby affording them the opportunity to emphasize their own disciplines.

Finally, we should note that although this text assumes that the reader has had an introductory course in psychology, it does not assume a strong background. Many students currently earning degrees in other disciplines have taken only an introductory psychology course (sometimes in the distant past). Students in relationship courses are, we have discovered, nothing if not eclectic. It is not unusual to have students from psychology and sociology alongside those from business, nursing, pharmacy, mortuary science, theater, family practice, social work, and anthropology. We have tried to make relationship science accessible to interested and motivated students in these disciplines as well as to upper-division undergraduates and graduate students in psychology.

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