Theoretical Frameworks for Personal Relationships

By Ralph Erber ; Robin Gilmour | Go to book overview

Self-recording of daily events is often touted as an alternative to traditional self-report methods, primarily because it is less susceptible to memory loss and other sources of inaccuracy. For example, Costa and McCrae ( 1987) asserted that standard checklists of somatic complaints are likely to produce biased estimates of healthfulness, in part because neuroticism affects retrospective interpretations of past symptoms. They suggested that daily reports are less likely to be so affected, and they recommended that such diaries be used when objective medical information is not available. Such usage of these methods is entirely consistent with the logic of diary methods. But if this were the only way that daily event methods were used, researchers would be overlooking a potentially more generative role, and that is in complementing the two traditional domains of inquiry discussed earlier.

If most questionnaires and interviews deal with reconstructions and other personal impressions of past experience, then daily event-based methods provide a unique window into the all-important processes by which these reconstructions are generated. Comparison of contemporaneous reports of daily-life experience with retrospective summaries and accounts of those same experiences can illuminate the cognitive and motivational processes by which new information is integrated into a stable view of oneself in relation to others. If laboratory experiments provide valuable insights about behavior in controlled settings, then daily event studies offer the valuable counterpart of investigating the same processes in their natural context. From the standpoint of developing theoretical principles about relationships, and applying them in intervention settings, identifying the role of contextual factors is no less important than establishing the precise causal mechanisms that govern the process ( Holmes & Boon, 1990).

Thus, no single perspective or research strategy is inherently preferable. Triangulation in the form of multiple perspectives is desirable. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages; much more importantly, each is capable of providing unique insights. Wider adoption of a more diverse set of paradigms, especially within the focus of a single conceptual issue, has the potential to add significantly to the bank of empirical data and theoretical constructs. This can only enrich our understanding of human interaction and relationships.


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Anderson, N. H. ( 1981). Foundations of information integration theory. New York: Academic Press.

Baumeister, R. ( 1982). "A self-presentational view of social phenomena". Psychological Bulletin, 91,3-26.

Blanchard, E. B., Appelbaum, K. A., Radnitz, C. L., Michultka, D., Morrill, B., Kirsch, C., Hillhouse J ., Evans, D. D., Guarnieri, P., Attanasio, V., Andrasik, F., Jaccard, J., & Dentinger, M. P . ( 1990). "A controlled evaluation of thermal biofeedback and thermal biofeedback combined with cognitive therapy in the treatment of vascular headache". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58,216-224.

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