Agitation and despair in relation to parents: Activating emotional suffering in transference

Inga Reznik, Susan M. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Affect and motivation are known to arise in the social-cognitive process transference, which occurs when a new person minimally resembles a significant other, implicitly activating the mental representation of this significant other (Andersen, Reznik, & Manzella, 1996) and indirectly, the relational self (i.e. Andersen & Chen, 2002). Triggering the significant-other representation should also indirectly activate any self-discrepancy held from this other's perspective, resulting in shifts in discrete affect and self-regulation. Participants (n = 110; 34 men, 76 women) with an actual-ideal or actual-ought self-discrepancy from their parent's perspective (Higgins, 1987) learned about a new person who did or did not minimally resemble this parent. As predicted, this evoked positive evaluation of the new person, that is, a positive transference, and yet, as a function of self-discrepancy, also increased discrete negative mood with ideal-discrepant individuals becoming more dejected and ought-discrepant individuals more hostile and less calm. Self-regulatory focus shifted as well in terms of motivation to avoid emotional closeness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-301
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Depression
  • Hostility
  • Relational self
  • Self-discrepancy
  • Self-regulatory focus
  • Significant others
  • Transference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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