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date: 25 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Mental representations of personal relationships or relational schemata strongly influence the interactions with the relationship partners and, in turn, relationship success. Since the beginnings of relationship research, scholars have postulated that important features of relational schemata may not be accessible to introspection. The present chapter reviews the literature on such implicit cognitions and their consequences for relationship processes. After discussing the term implicit and its relation to the concepts unconscious and automatic, the chapter focuses on empirical research using different methods to investigate implicit relational schemata reaching from early interview techniques to the whole arsenal of mostly latency-based methods used in contemporary implicit social cognition research. The most important theoretical framework in this field is attachment theory, which led to numerous predictions on the relation between mental representation, behavior, and relationship functioning. The literature review covers empirical research on the content and structure of relational schemata, individual differences in mental models of relationships, their relation to numerous associated concepts including motivation, goals, attention, and self-esteem, and finally the relation between implicit cognitive processes and relationship outcomes such as relationship satisfaction, stability, and life satisfaction. The chapter concludes with a discussion of unsolved problems, open questions, and possible future venues for implicit relational cognition research.

Keywords: implicit cognition, personal relationships, relationship research, attachment theory, relational schemata, relationship outcomes

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