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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.525301

Ambivalence and interpersonal liking: The expression of ambivalence as social validation of attitudinal conflict Provisionally accepted The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon. Notify me

  • 1Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Germany
  • 2Technical University of Munich, Germany
  • 3Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 4Deparment of Psychology, University of Cologne, Germany
  • 5Center for Social and Economic Behavior, University of Cologne, Germany

Literature on attitude similarity suggests that sharing similar attitudes enhances interpersonal liking, but it remains unanswered whether this effect also holds for ambivalent attitudes. In the present research, we shed light on the role attitudinal ambivalence plays in interpersonal liking. Specifically, we examine whether people express ambivalence strategically to generate a positive or negative social image, and whether this is dependent on the attitudinal ambivalence of their perceiver. We test two alternative hypotheses. In line with the attitude-similarity effect, people should express ambivalence towards ambivalent others to enhance interpersonal liking, as sharing ambivalence might socially validate the latter’s experience of attitudinal conflict. On the other hand, people might express more univalence, as ambivalence may drive ambivalent others towards the resolution of their attitudinal conflict and univalent stances could help to achieve that goal. In two studies (N = 449, 149), people expressed similar attitudes to those of their perceivers, even when the latter experienced attitudinal conflict (Study 1 and 2). Moreover, they composed an essay, the message of which validated their perceiver’s attitudinal conflict (Study 2). In line with these results, we further observe that the more people experienced their ambivalence as conflicting, the more they liked others who similarly experienced attitudinal conflict (Study 1). These findings suggest that the expression of ambivalence can have important interpersonal functions, as it might lead to an enhanced social image when interacting with those coping with attitudinal conflict.

Keywords: ambivalence, Interpersonal liking, Attitude similarity, self-presentation, Social validation, Attitudinal conflict

Received: 08 Jan 2020; Accepted: 26 Aug 2020.

Copyright: © 2020 Toribio-Flórez, Van Harreveld and Schneider. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Daniel Toribio-Flórez, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn, Germany, toribio-florez@coll.mpg.de