Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Susan Sprecher

Second Advisor

Corinne Zimmerman


Self-expansion, the motivation for people to learn, explore, and grow, is facilitated by novel and challenging activities; often with close others (Aron & Aron, 1996). The current studies were designed to replicate and extend Mattingly, McIntyre, and Lewandowski's (2012) experiment on self-expansion opportunity. Highly approach-oriented individuals reported greater liking for potential partners who offered many opportunities to self-expand, whereas less approach-oriented individuals rated potential partners similarly across the differing levels of self-expansion opportunity.

In Study 1, I sought to alleviate the negative wording used to describe low self-expansion opportunity in used by Mattingly and colleagues (2012), which described future experiences with a potential partner as "dull and boring." The current study compared this description of low self-expansion opportunity with an affect-neutral alternative, "familiar and comfortable." Two hundred and twenty-six students from a Midwestern university completed measures of approach and avoidance motivation before reading and reacting to a hypothetical scenario about meeting an attractive, opposite-sex stranger. My analyses revealed that the original vignette constructed for Mattingly et al.'s (2012) study produced significantly lower liking than the affect-neutral vignette that I created for the current study. That is, their vignette may have biased participants' reactions to the hypothetical target, using language to describe a low self-expanding target as "dull and boring."

Study 2 was designed to investigate the associations among social motives, self-expansion opportunity, and romantic liking using a live-interaction paradigm. In this study, 60 pairs of heterosexual, romantically unattached opposite-sex strangers spent 20 minutes getting acquainted with one another in a structured interaction. Contrary to my hypothesis, individuals' social motives (approach motivation, avoidance motivation, curiosity, and desire for social intimacy) did not affect their ratings of self-expansion opportunity or liking in the live-interaction context. However, perceptions of similarity, compatibility, and self-expansion opportunity were strongly and positively associated with liking. The current studies contributed to the current literature by increasing the precision of the self-expansion model and examining self-expansion motivation in a live interaction context.


Imported from ProQuest Hilaire_ilstu_0092N_10097.pdf


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