Revealing personal info

Romantic partners reveal more about themselves as relationships develop

Strengthen relationship if used appropriately

Vital role beyond intial attraction

1 of 8

Social penetration theory

Altman and Taylor (1973)

Gradual process of revealing inner self

Reciprocal exchange of info between partners

2 elements: breadth and depth

Onion metaphor to explain - increasingly disclose more info

Breadth - low risk info at start of relationship, superficial, narrow because many subjects are off-limits

Depth - self-disclosures becomes deeper, reveal true selves, eventually reveal high risk info

'Depenetration' - describe dissatisfied partners self-disclose less as they gradually disengage from the relationship

2 of 8

Onion metaphor






3 of 8

Reiss and Shaver (1988)

Must be reciprocal element to self-disclosure for relationship to develop

Should both reveal intimate thoughts and feelings

Tends to be balance of self-disclosure in successful romantic relationships - creates intimacy and deeper understanding

4 of 8

Shaver et al (2013)


Investigate role of reciprocal self-disclosure

METHOD: 156 uni students in America - paired in female-female or male-female pairs - engaged in skype convo

One condition - self-disclosure in a reciprocal manner, each take turns to ask the other partners

Second condition - self-disclosure was not reciprocal - took individual turns

Assessed pairs for liking of the other, how close they felt to each other, percieved similarity and enjoyment of interaction

RESULTS: Self-disclosed in reciprocal manner - greater liking, closeness and similiarity and more enjoyment

5 of 8

Shaver et al (2013) Conclusion

Reciprocity of self-disclosure, turn taking, more positive outcome for attraction in relationships than one sided self-disclosure

6 of 8

Research support

Hass and Stafford: gay men and women, discover how they sustained and  developed romantic relationships

57% of gay men and women - open and honest self-disclosure was most important

Shows importance and real-world application - relationship counselling to help partners develop self-disclosure as a stratgey to improve relationships and improve satisfaction

7 of 8

Cultural differences

Not true for all cultures that increasing depth and breadth of self-disclosures leads to a more satisfying relationship

Tang et al reviewed research into sexual self-disclosure - men and women in the US self-disclose more sexual thoughts and feelings than men and women in China

Despite lower levels of disclosure in China, levels of satisfaction were not different from US

Self-disclosure is limited as it based on findings from individualist cultures - not necessarily generalisable to other cultures

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »See all Relationships resources »