Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Lorne Campbell


Two preregistered studies examined the interplay between directional bias and tracking accuracy in perceptions of relationship triggers, partner-enacted irksome or hurtful behaviors that elicit immediate negative emotions (e.g., clinginess). Study 1 identified 24 relationship triggers that the general public considered to be important for predicting relationship outcomes. Study 2 used recently developed statistical techniques to simultaneously test (a) whether partners were able to track the unique pattern of each other’s triggers and (b) if they overestimated or underestimated the extent to which a given behavior irked one another. Study 2 additionally explored attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance as potential moderating influences on bias and accuracy, as well as the implications of partners’ biased and accurate trigger knowledge for relationship outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, conflict management). Results revealed that partners, indeed, were able to correctly detect the pattern of each other’s triggers, though they did not demonstrate directional bias. Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance moderated bias and accuracy in different ways; however, a common theme emerged such that more securely attached persons were better “trackers” and were more easily “tracked.” Finally, biased and accurate trigger perceptions predicted relationship satisfaction, negotiating strategies during conflict, and overall conflict management for the partner for whom judgments were being made. Implications of these findings for theory and relationship dynamics are discussed.