Beware of friends: The cultural psychology of relational mobility and cautious intimacy
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Previous research has contrasted patterns of cautious or prevention-oriented relationality in various West African settings with patterns of growth or promotion-oriented relationality in many North American settings. The present research draws upon the concept of relational mobility to test the hypothesis that different patterns of relationality have their source in respective affordances for embedded interdependence or abstracted independence. Study 1 investigated the relationship between cautious intimacy and perception of relational mobility among a sample of Hong Kong students. Study 2 compared students in Hong Kong and North American settings to test whether differences in perception of relational mobility mediated the hypothesized differences in caution about friends. Study 3 used an experimental manipulation among a sample of Hong Kong students to test the hypothesis that increased perception of relational mobility reduces caution about friends. Results reveal broad support for the hypotheses. Whether as a measured variable or as an experimental treatment, the perception of relational mobility was negatively related to caution about friends. Moreover, this relationship mediated hypothesized cross-national differences in caution about friendship. A discussion of the results considers intersections of cultural and ecological approaches to psychology and implications for theoretical conceptions of interdependence.
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