According to pop psychology, one of the best tools for achieving a goal is monitoring one’s progress towards that goal. But what if your goal is to become emotionally close to another person? Can obsessing about how close you feel towards someone interfere with your ability to actually feel close? To test this idea, these scientists had first year undergraduate psychology students talk to each other, and had some of them rate how close they felt every five minutes. It turns out that checking in with their feelings regularly didn’t help them feel closer, and in fact, made it worse. Perhaps this is something to keep in mind on a first date.
An ironic effect of monitoring closeness.
“Most theories of goal pursuit underscore the beneficial consequences of monitoring progress towards goals. However, effects of affect labelling and dissociations between experience and meta-consciousness suggest that monitoring may not always facilitate goal pursuit. We predicted that in the case of pursuing interpersonal closeness, intense monitoring of progress would have a detrimental effect. We tested this hypothesis with the intimate conversation procedure, adapted from Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, and Bator (1997). Participants in the closeness-monitoring condition asked themselves every five minutes in the course of a 45-minute interaction with a partner whether they felt any closer to their partner, whereas participants in the control condition monitored the room temperature. As predicted, intense monitoring interfered with achieving a feeling of closeness, as measured by sitting distance between pair members following the intimate conversation procedure. We discuss the possibility that monitoring would also be detrimental for achieving other goals that are internal states.”
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