Close partner as sculptor of the ideal self: behavioral affirmation and the Michelangelo phenomenon

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Aug;77(2):293-323. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.77.2.293.


This work incorporates concepts from the behavioral confirmation tradition, self tradition, and interdependence tradition to identify an interpersonal process termed the Michelangelo phenomenon. The Michelangelo phenomenon describes the means by which the self is shaped by a close partner's perceptions and behavior. Specifically, self movement toward the ideal self is described as a product of partner affirmation, or the degree to which a partner's perceptions of the self and behavior toward the self are congruent with the self's ideal. The results of 4 studies revealed strong associations between perceived partner affirmation and self movement toward the ideal self, using a variety of participant populations and measurement methods. In addition, perceived partner affirmation--particularly perceived partner behavioral affirmation--was strongly associated with quality of couple functioning and stability in ongoing relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires