Is your face securely attached? The effect of attachment on evaluations of face threats from romantic partners

Cichocki, Jennifer A.
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University of Delaware
To understand why individuals differ in their perceptions of the severity of face threatening messages, the current study evaluated attachment security as a predictor of face threat sensitivity. The study sought to determine the extent to which the attachment theory constructs anxiety and avoidance function as useful predictors of individual variation in perceptions of face threatening messages from a romantic partner. Undergraduate participants (N = 631) completed questionnaires measuring their attachment security and perceptions of the severity of hypothetical face threatening prompts. Results indicated that attachment-related avoidance is a significant predictor of sensitivity to messages threatening listeners' face need for autonomy. The results also suggest that although attachment-related anxiety is able to predict autonomy threat sensitivity to small degree, anxiety does not predict sensitivity to messages threatening listeners' face need for validation. The current study contributes to politeness and face management theory research by offering an examination of attachment security as an individual difference variable affecting the perceived magnitude of face threatening messages. The study illustrates how the attachment dimensions anxiety and avoidance may account for trait face needs, adding to politeness theory's ability to predict the nature of threat interpretations as well as explain the possible origin of trait face need differences.