• Self-Expansion and Couple Possessions: The Representation of The Self and Other in Valued Possessions

      Paniccia, Lindsey (2011-09-20)
      The current study seeks to understand the influence of romantic relationships on identity symbolism, specifically the use of personal possessions as a means of achieving social validation. According to self expansion theory (Aron & Aron, 1986), engaging in a romantic relationship alters one’s sense of self; romantic partners take on the qualities and characteristics of a partner and integrate them into the self. To understand the process of identity symbolism due to one’s newly expanded sense of self, this study investigated the link between the amount of reported self-expansion and couple representativeness as well as the function of one’s possessions (other-direct identity claim, self-directed identity claim, feeling regulator, and utility). Participants were asked to read a vignette in which they were told their home had been destroyed by a tornado and were then asked to list three possessions which they wished to find among the rubble. Results indicated that reported self-expansion is associated with the tendency to choose couple representative possessions as indicators of the self. As hypothesized, couple representativeness was significantly correlated with tendency to use possession as other-directed identity claims (as evidenced in both reported function and placement) and feeling regulators. Additionally, reported couple representativeness was significantly correlated with the tendency to use possessions as self-directed identity claims and for utility. This study provides support for the relationship between self-expansion and the tendency to communicate one’s expanded self to others by means of material possessions as well as the emotional significance tied to such possessions.