Validation of negativity: Drawbacks of interpersonal responsiveness during conflicts with outsiders

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2020 Jul;119(1):104-135. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000214. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


The current research included 7 studies testing a model of interpersonal processes when people disclose to their close relationship partners ("confidants") about their conflicts involving adversaries outside the dyad. The model posits that confidants who feel close to disclosers tend to adopt goals to be responsive to disclosers during these interactions, which motivates them to validate disclosers' negativity toward their adversaries. Disclosers interpret this validation of negativity as responsive, which motivates them to continue confiding in these confidants, but also respond to this behavior with more negative moral evaluations of their adversaries, reduced willingness to forgive their adversaries, and reduced commitment to maintaining a relationship with their adversaries. Results of 3 cross-sectional studies, 3 experiments, and a behavioral observation study support this model. This research suggests potential drawbacks of partner responsiveness during discussions of conflicts, and suggests processes through which people reward, draw closer to, and depend on partners who validate negativity and, consequently, undermine conflict resolution with others. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disclosure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male