Your actual feelings about your relationship influence the way you remember it in the past and perceive it in the future

Your actual feelings about your relationship influence the way you remember it in the past and perce ...

People who feel good about their romantic relationship manifest a stronger positive bias toward the future of the relationship, as well as a lesser negative bias towards the relationship in the present. These findings, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, demonstrate that actual feelings about their relationship are projected on how they perceive it in the past and future.

People are often biased towards seeing themselves in a positive light. This bias extends to persons intimate relationships, whereby they perceive their partners and their relationships as more favorable than they actually are. This is due to an phenomenon called illusory improvement, whereby a person considers their relationship to be worse in the past than it actually was, to show the illusion that the relationship has improved.

According to research author Johanna Peetz, who is an associate professor at Carleton University and the director of the TRI Lab, they are interested in how accurate people are about all kinds of predictions and memories in their lives.

People are often confused about how they used to feel in the past or how they will feel in the future. I believe that identifying these cognition errors is particularly important when it comes to judging relationships. People strive to make sense of what their relationship is like all the time, but knowing whether these personal stories are built on exact or biased information is essential.

Peetz and her team have conducted a series of experiments to investigate how people''s current perceptions of their relationship might affect these relationship biases.

People in relationships completed questionnaires at several time points, each one six months apart. At Time 1, participants rated their current relationship quality and then rated what they anticipated their relationship quality to be in six months. At Time 2, they again rated their current relationship quality and their relationship quality six months ago.

Participants tended to exhibit a negative retrospective bias, stating that their relationship was higher six months ago than they had actually assessed it at the time. However, the higher the actual a person''s relationship, the less they showed this negative bias toward the present. Additionally, the more they showed a positive forecasting bias, forecasting a more positive evaluation of their relationship.

Further analysis suggested that these effects were not due to actual differences in previous or future relationship quality, but it seemed to be the outcome of projection. Participants who felt better in their current relationships tend to have a positive impact on their relationships past and future.

After completing a follow-up speculative study, participants assessed their past and present relationship quality at two different time points. Participants were randomly assigned to a manipulation that induced higher relationship quality or decreased relationship quality. This was achieved by having participants ponder over a positive or a negative characteristic of their partner.

People who underwent the enhanced relationship quality manipulation showed a positive forecasting bias and less of a negative retrospective bias. Again, these findings tended to be driven by a projection of their current feelings about the relationship. A rosy outlook on the present created a rosier-than-actual prognosis for the future, with a lower probability of remembering a darker-than-actual past.

Peetz warned PsyPost that if you''re constantly a little confused at your partner, you might not give the relationship all of the credit it deserved, remembering the situation as worse than it was at the time. Similarly, consider that your memories and expectations may be biased and that you should not make important decisions about your relationship''s future if you are in the grip of a strong emotion!

Peetz and her fellow study authors highlight that although the findings revealed a mean-level retrospective bias, the effect size was small, suggesting that any conclusions about theextentof retrospective or forecasting bias be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, the overall findings provide convincing evidence that the way a person perceives their relationship today influences their perception and vision in the future.

Peetz claims that doing so might reassign how you used to feel about something and enable you to write more detailed stories about your relationship.

The study, "Proposed current feelings into the past and future," was authored by Johanna Peetz, Justin P. K. Shimizu, and Courtney Royle.

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