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Taking turns: Reciprocal self-disclosure promotes liking in initial interactions ☆

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Prior research has provided evidence for the self-disclosure reciprocity effect: self-disclosure promotes fur-ther self-disclosure. In this study, we examined a related but distinct issue about self-disclosure reciprocity: the effects of self-disclosure reciprocity (vs. non-reciprocity) on affiliative interpersonal outcomes (e.g., liking) in ini-tial encounters. We manipulated disclosure reciprocity in an experiment that involved pairs of unacquainted indi-viduals participating in a structured self-disclosure activity. Participants in some pairs took turns asking and answering questions in two interactions (reciprocal disclosure). In other pairs, participants either disclosed or lis-tened in an initial interaction (non-reciprocal disclosure) and then switched disclosure roles in a second interaction. Participants who disclosed reciprocally reported greater liking, closeness, perceived similarity, and enjoyment of the interaction after the first interaction than participants who disclosed non-reciprocally. These differences remained after the second interaction, even though participants in non-reciprocally disclosing dyads switched roles (i.e., dis-closers became listeners) and therefore experienced extended reciprocity. We concluded that turn-taking self-disclosure reciprocity in the acquaintance process increases the likelihood of positive outcomes (e.g., liking).
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Taking turns: Reciprocalself-disclosure promotes liking in
Susan Sprecher
,Stanislav Treger
,Joshua D.Wondra
,Nicole Hilaire
,Kevin Wallpe
DepartmentofSociology & Anthropology,Illinois State University,Normal,IL,61790-4660,USA
DepartmentofPsychology,Illinois State University,Normal,IL,61790-4660,USA
University of Michigan,USA
Kansas State University,USA
Self-disclosure reciprocity leads to p ositive outcomes in initialin teraction s.
Turn-takin g self-disclosure reciprocity is particularly benecial.
Long-turn taking disclosures lead to less likin g th an immediate tu rn-taking.
Receiving d isclosures leads to more liking than d isclosing in imbalanced disclosures.
a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t
Article history: Prior research has provid ed evidence for th e self-disclosure reciprocity effect:self-disclosure promotes fur-
Received 4 September 2012 ther self-disclosure.In this stu dy,we examined a related but distin ctissu e aboutself-d isclosure recip rocity:
Revised 21 March 2013 the effectsofself-disclosure reciprocity (vs.non-reciprocity)on afliativeinterpersonaloutcomes(e.g.,liking)in ini-
Available online 9 April2013 tialencounters.We manipulated disclosure reciprocity in an experimentthatinvolved pairs ofunacquainted indi-
viduals participating in a structured self-disclosure activity.Participants in some pairs took turns asking and
Keywords: answering questions in two interactions (reciprocaldisclosure).In other pairs,participants either disclosed or lis-
Liking tened in an initialinteraction (non-reciprocaldisclosure)andthen switched disclosure rolesin a second interaction.
Reciprocity Participants who disclosed reciprocally reported greaterliking,closeness,perceivedsimilarity,and enjoymentofthe
Self-disclosure interaction afterthe rstinteraction than participants who disclosed non-reciprocally.These differencesremained
Socialinteraction afterthe second interaction,even though participants in non-reciprocally disclosing dyadsswitched roles(i.e.,dis-
closers became listeners) and therefore experienced extended reciprocity. We concluded that turn-taking
self-disclosure reciprocity in the acquaintance process increasesthe likelihood ofpositive outcomes (e.g.,liking).
© 2013 ElsevierIn c.Allrights reserved.
Intr oduc t ion
Self-disclosure,the processby which people revealpersonalinforma-
tion aboutthemselvesto others,is importantin alltypesand stages ofso-
cialrelationships (Altman & Taylor,1973;Greene,Derlega,& Mathews,
2006).Self-d isclosure may be especially importantduring in itialin terac-
tions because it likely determines whethertwo people willdesire to in-
teract again and develop a relationship (Derlega,Winstead,& Greene,
2008).In this study,we examined whether self-disclosure reciprocity
in initial interaction leads to more positive afliative interpersonal
outcomes than non-reciprocity.Self-disclosure reciprocity refers to the
process by which one person's self-disclosure elicits another person's
self-disclose (e.g.,Jourard,1971) and also to whether disclosures are
equivalent(e.g.,in breadth,depth;Hill& Stull,1982).
The self-disclosure reciprocity effect
Beginning with Jourard (1971),considerable research has shown
that self-disclosure is reciprocalin existing relationships.Evidence for
both perceived reciprocity (positive correlations between self-reported
disclosure and perceived partner disclosure) and actual reciprocity
(correlations between each partner's self-reported disclosure)hasbeen
found (forreviews,see Dindia,1988,2002).Furthermore,experimental
research has demonstrated thatself-disclosure reciprocity characterizes
initialinteractions between strangers.In a typicalexperiment,partici-
pants receive a high or low levelofdisclosure from a confederate,and
the dependentvariable is the levelofparticipants'reciprocaldisclosure
JournalofExperimentalSocialPsychology 49 (2013)860866
Allco-authorswere graduate students atIllinoisState University when the research was
conducted.The authors would like to thank Jace Cosentino,Jackie Gray,Michelle McCabe,
Stacey McClellan,Cathy Merrick,Ilyce Miller,Dave Williamsand Jackie Wroblewskiforserv-
ing as research assistantson the project.
Corresponding authorat:Departmentof Sociology & Anthrop ology,Illinois State
University,Normal,IL,61790-4660,USA. (S.Sprecher).
0022-1031/$ see frontmatter © 2013 ElsevierInc.Allrights reserved.
Contents lists available atSciVerse ScienceDirect
jo u rna l h o m e p a g e : w w w .els e v ie r.c o m /lo c a te/je s p
(e.g.,Cozby,1972;Derlega,Harris,& Chaikin,1973;Ehrlich & Graeven,
1971;Rubin,1975).Participants generally reciprocate the confederate's
levelofdisclosure,including the levelofintimacy.Likewise,experimen-
talevidence also supports the notion that disclosure promotes further
disclosure (Dindia,2002).
Past experimental research on self-disclosu re reciprocity has fo-
cused on reciprocity asthe outcome variable.Alth ough reciprocity gen-
erally characterizes self-disclosure during socialinteractions (Jourard,
1971),disclosure may notalways be equal(i.e.,one person may engage
in more listening than disclosing) and self-disclosure may be reward ing
regard less ofthe d egree ofreciprocity.Therefore,an empiricalquestion
is: Does reciprocaldisclosure lead to more positive interpersonalout-
comes(e.g.liking)than spending the same amountoftime eitherdisclos-
ing aboutoneselforlistening to the otherdisclose?To ourknowledge,no
prior experiments h ave manipulated reciprocal self-disclosure between
interacting participants and examined post-disclosure impressions.Our
laboratory experimentwasdesigned to examine the effects ofreciprocal
disclosure versus one-sided disclosure on severalbasic interpersonalout-
comesexperienced in initialinteraction:liking,closeness,perceived sim-
ilarity,and enjoymentofinteraction.
Differentialeffects ofturn-taking versusextended self-disclosure reciprocity
Two types ofdisclosure reciprocity can be considered in examining
the effects ofself-disclosure reciprocity:turn-taking reciprocity,in which
disclosure partners immediately take turns disclosing,an d extended reci-
procity,in which disclosure reciprocity occurs over a longer period of
time (Dindia,2002;Hill& Stull,1982).In fact,some have proposed that
self-disclosure is rarely non-reciprocalifthe time frame under consider-
ation isextended (e.g.,Hill& Stull,1982).Although disclosure in relation-
sh ipsmay notalways be equivalentwithin a single in teraction,itislikely
to be equivalentover time (e.g.,Altman,1973; Won-Doornink,1979).
Extended reciprocity in self-disclosure can also occur when people are
becoming acquainted.For example,Person A may disclose to Person B,
butPerson B may notdisclose in return untillater in the conversation
or the next time they meet.This may be common when relationship
initiation occurs on the Internet,including at dating websites, where
persons may often engage in asynchronous forms ofcommunication to
become acquainted (Finkel,Eastwick,Karney,Reis,& Sprecher,2012).
In the present study, we not only compare reciprocal versus non-
reciprocal self-disclosure,but also consider the different outcomes of
turn-taking versus extended self-disclosure reciprocity.
Why isself-disclosure reciprocaland why doesitlead to positive outcomes?
Researchers have offered severaltheoretical explanations for the
occurrence ofreciprocity in self-disclosure;these theories also explain
why self-disclosure reciprocity,especially turn-taking reciprocity,should
lead to positive interpersonaloutcomes.First,the socialattractiontrust
hypothesis (e.g.,Dindia,2002) arguesthatpeople reciprocate disclosure
because they inferthatanotherwho hasdisclosed likesand trustthem.
This iterative process builds mutualdisclosure,trust,and liking.Second,
socialexchange theory (Archer,1979)argues thatpeople strive to main-
tain equality or reciprocity in their relationsh ips.Self-disclosure reci-
procity is more rewarding than non-reciprocity because people are
uncomfortable with the imbalance in non-reciprocaldisclosure.Relat-
edly,a third explanation is the norm of reciprocity (Gouldner,1960).
This norm may be such a basic human motive (e.g.,Whatley,Webster,
Smith,& Rhodes,1999) that violations make interactions feeluncom-
fortable.Based on these theoreticalframeworks,we predicted that
self-disclosure reciprocity would be more rewarding than non-
reciprocity in in itialinteractions and therefore lead to more posi-
tive interp ersonalou tcomes in the interaction.
The processes suggested by these theoriesmay have differentim-
plications for turn-taking versus extended self-disclosure reciprocity.
The norm ofreciprocity and socialexchange perspectivessuggestth at
by the end of a get-acquainted interaction that is characterized by
extended reciprocity (one partner takes a long turn,and then the
second partner reciprocates later in the interaction),both partners
should experience th e relief of the balance achieved. However,the
iterative process and build up oftru st and liking suggested by th e so-
cialattractiontrust hypoth esis may lead those who are engaged in
turn-taking reciprocity in an initialinteraction to continue to experi-
ence more positive outcomes than those engaged in extended reci-
procity,even atthe end ofthe interaction.
The currentstudy
In this study,dyads ofunacquainted individuals engaged in a two-
interaction structured self-disclosure task. In the reciprocal condition,
dyad members immediately took turn s asking questions and disclosing.
In the non-reciprocalcondition,dyad members engaged in sequentialin-
teractions ofone-sided self-disclosure.One person asked questionsin the
rstinteraction while the otherperson disclosed;then,the two switched
roles forthe second interaction.Thus,extended reciprocity occurred by
the end ofthe two interactions.Aftereach interaction,we assessed liking,
closeness,perceived similarity,and enjoymentofthe interaction.
Following are the hypoth esesand research questions ofthe study:
Hy pot he s is 1. Dyads in the turn-taking reciprocity condition willexpe-
rience greater liking,closeness,perceived similarity,and enjoyment of
the interaction afterthe rstinteraction than the dyadsin the one-sided
disclosure condition.
Re s e a rc h Que s tion 1. Do turn-taking and extended reciprocity equally
affectinterpersonaloutcomesduring th e extended initialacquaintance?
That is,willthe (predicted) differences in liking,closeness,perceived
similarity,and enjoymentofthe interaction between the reciprocaland
non-reciprocalconditions in our study disappear afterthe second inter-
action? Alternatively,doesturn-taking reciprocity lead to more afliative
interpersonaloutcomes th an extended reciprocity i.e.,do the differ-
encesbetween conditionsremain afterthe second interaction?
The nalissue we consideristhe differentialeffects ofreceivin g ver-
sus giving disclosure in the non-reciprocalconditions on th e afliative
interpersonaloutcomes (e.g.,likin g).In a prior experiment(Sprecher,
Treger, & Wondra,in press), in which the two nonreciprocal roles
were compared, we found evidence that receiving disclosure led to
more likin g,closeness,and enjoymen tth an giving disclosure.Although
there are theoreticalreasons foreach side ofdisclosure (giving and re-
ceiving) to lead to likin g and other positive outcomes (e.g.,Collins &
Miller,1994),the theoreticalarguments are strong forthe effects ofre-
ceiving disclosure: it leads to positive beliefs and impressions of the
other,enhanced familiarity,and the reduction ofuncertainty (Collins &
Miller,1994;Reis,Maniaci,Caprariello,Eastwick,& Finkel,2011;Tamir
& Mitchell,2012). We attempted to replicate our prior experimental
ndings with a new sample.The second h ypoth esis was:
Hy pot he s is 2. Participantswh o in itially receive disclosure willreport
more liking,closeness,perceived similarity,and enjoyment ofinter-
action than p articipants who initially disclose.
Me thod
The p articipants were 156 undergraduate stu dents (82.2% female;
86.0% White), recruited from th e psychology participant pool at a
The mean age of the participants was 19.58
We removed 12 participants who had to be paired with a confederate because the
second particip antdid not arrive and six particip ants (three pairs) who indicated that
th ey had interacted previously.
861S.Sprecheret al./JournalofExperimentalSocial Psychology 49 (2013) 860866
... e rule of reciprocity pervades human interactions [78]. Research on topics as varied as attitude change, marketing, economic behavior, political behavior, self-disclosure, and close relationships have all demonstrated that individuals in dyads follow the rule of reciprocity [78,[80][81][82]. e persuasion literature, for example, has demonstrated that an individual is more persuaded by someone who earlier conceded to the individual's persuasive argument than by someone who did not concede [81]. ...
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There is a long-standing debate in philosophy and the social sciences about how selfishness and cooperation function in dyadic social exchanges. Dyads are the foundation of our social lives, and reciprocity has long been considered the dominant strategy for dyadic interactions. We will argue the repertoire of human behavior during social exchanges ranges from punishment to generosity, and that the nuances of the relationship and interaction will dictate which behavior is likely to occur. We will examine emotional consequences of punishment, reciprocity, and forgiveness in long-term dyadic social exchanges. Finally, we argue that dyads move beyond reciprocity to a more forgiving, generous strategy to reestablish cooperation, and continue the relationship when noncooperation arises, once the motivations shift has occurred.
... As the relationship matures and grows, the breadth and depth of disclosures become wider and greater. As such, self-disclosure has been found to play a critical role in the development and maintenance of social relationships (Collins & Miller, 1994), fostering trust, intimacy, closeness and mutual liking, all leading to more satisfying social encounters (Altman & Taylor, 1973;Collins & Miller, 1994;Cozby, 1973;Sprecher, Treger, Wondra, Hilaire, & Wallpe, 2013). ...
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... Indeed, work drawing on these theories finds that self-disclosure is positively associated with interpersonal liking (Hays, 1985;Sprecher et al., 2013;Yum & Hara, 2005). Relatedly, theory on disclosure reciprocity posits that the receipt of disclosure is inherently rewarding and in some cases normatively expected (Altman, 1973). ...
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Communication refers to users' opportunity to use various forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC) to interact with specific potential partners through the dating site before meeting face-to-face. Matching refers to a site's use of a mathematical algorithm to select potential partners for users. Regarding the uniqueness question, the ways in which online dating sites implement these three services have indeed fundamentally altered the dating landscape. In particular, online dating, which has rapidly become a pervasive means of seeking potential partners, has altered both the romantic acquaintance process and the compatibility matching process. For example, rather than meeting potential partners, getting a snapshot impression of how well one interacts with them, and then slowly learning various facts about them, online dating typically involves learning a broad range of facts about potential partners before deciding whether one wants to meet them in person. Rather than relying on the intuition of village elders, family members, or friends or to select which pairs of unacquainted singles will be especially compatible, certain forms of online dating involve placing one's romantic fate in the hands of a mathematical matching algorithm. Turning to the superiority question, online dating has important advantages over conventional offline dating. For example, it offers unprecedented (and remarkably convenient) levels of access to potential partners, which is especially helpful for singles who might otherwise lack such access. It also allows online daters to use CMC to garner an initial sense of their compatibility with potential partners before deciding whether to meet them face-to-face. In addition, certain dating sites may be able to collect data that allow them to banish from the dating pool people who are likely to be poor relationship partners in general. On the other hand, the ways online dating sites typically implement the services of access, communication, and matching do not always improve romantic outcomes; indeed, they sometimes undermine such outcomes. Regarding access, encountering potential partners via online dating profiles reduces three-dimensional people to two-dimensional displays of information, and these displays fail to capture those experiential aspects of social interaction that are essential to evaluating one's compatibility with potential partners. In addition, the ready access to a large pool of potential partners can elicit an evaluative, assessment-oriented mindset that leads online daters to objectify potential partners and might even undermine their willingness to commit to one of them. It can also cause people to make lazy, ill-advised decisions when selecting among the large array of potential partners. Regarding communication, although online daters can benefit from having short-term CMC with potential partners before meeting them face-to-face, longer periods of CMC prior to a face-to-face meeting may actually hurt people's romantic prospects. In particular, people tend to overinterpret the social cues available in CMC, and if CMC proceeds unabated without a face-to-face reality check, subsequent face-to-face meetings can produce unpleasant expectancy violations. As CMC lacks the experiential richness of a face-to-face encounter, some important information about potential partners is impossible to glean from CMC alone; most users will want to meet a potential partner in person to integrate their CMC and face-to-face impressions into a coherent whole before pursuing a romantic relationship. Regarding matching, no compelling evidence supports matching sites' claims that mathematical algorithms work-that they foster romantic outcomes that are superior to those fostered by other means of pairing partners. Part of the problem is that matching sites build their mathematical algorithms around principles-typically similarity but also complementarity-that are much less important to relationship well-being than has long been assumed. In addition, these sites are in a poor position to know how the two partners will grow and mature over time, what life circumstances they will confront and coping responses they will exhibit in the future, and how the dynamics of their interaction will ultimately promote or undermine romantic attraction and long-term relationship well-being. As such, it is unlikely that any matching algorithm that seeks to match two people based on information available before they are aware of each other can account for more than a very small proportion of the variance in long-term romantic outcomes, such as relationship satisfaction and stability. In short, online dating has radically altered the dating landscape since its inception 15 to 20 years ago. Some of the changes have improved romantic outcomes, but many have not. We conclude by (a) discussing the implications of online dating for how people think about romantic relationships and for homogamy (similarity of partners) in marriage and (b) offering recommendations for policymakers and for singles seeking to make the most out of their online dating endeavors.
This article reports the results of a study that compared several statistical tests of reciprocity of self-disclosure (SD): the correlation between a subject's perception of his or her SD to the partner and the partner's SD to the subject, the correlation between a subject's perception of his or her SD to a partner and the partner's perception of his or her SD to the subject; the correlation between objective observations of partners' SD and the sequential analysis of partners' SD. The results of the study were as follows. In 30 dyadic conversations between strangers, a subject's perceptions of his or her SD to the partner was positively related to the subject's perceptions of the partner's SD to the subject; a subject's perception of his or her SD to the partner was not positively related to the partner's perception of his or her SD to the subject; there was no positive relationship between partners' observed SD; and one person's SD did not increase the probability of the partner's subsequent SD, and vice versa. Thus little evidence for reciprocity of SD was found.