Domains of Experience: Investigating Relationship Processes From Three Perspectives
Harry T. Reis University of Rochester
God is in the details. -- attributed to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
It is perhaps trite to note that the fabric of a relationship is contained in the social events that involve its members. Far from being a simple clarion call to an event-based research program, this assertion points to a set of concerns and assumptions that demonstrate how difficult it may be to study relationships from the perspective of interaction events. The theoretically sophisticated researcher, well read in communication theory, social psychology, and sociology, knows that interaction is strongly influenced by contextual variables. From personality theory and developmental psychology, we have learned that individuals have meaningfully unique ways of construing their experience, and that these construals may be what matters most. From personal experience, we know that the thoughts, feelings, and content of social interaction do not stand apart from dayto-day activities and goals; rather, they are intrinsically woven into the ebb and flow of everyday life.
These considerations suggest that a full understanding of the importance of relationships in human endeavors requires an appreciation of the events that transpire in ongoing, daily socializing. Yet we did not always have conceptual models or methodological options for disentangling these levels of analysis from one another. Heretofore, researchers were faced, in the most general sense, with the choice between two paradigms: experiments and self-generated summaries. (This latter category, described later, includes most questionnaires and many