- Close Relationships
- Emotion, Mood, Affect
- Interpersonal Processes
- Personality, Individual Differences
My research interests fall in the areas of close relationships, emotion, and the intersection of those two areas.
I've long been interested in the normative nature of interpersonal processes as they occur within family relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. Much of my early work was devoted to demonstrating that the norms governing the giving and receiving of benefits in such close relationships are distinct from those governing the giving and receiving of benefits in other relationships. In particular, I have proposed and shown that it is normative (and beneficial) for people who desire and who have intimate relationships to attend to others' needs, desires and welfare and to give benefits, non-contingently to promote partner welfare (Clark, Ouellette, Powell & Milberg, 1987; Clark & Taraban, 1991; WIlliamson & Clark, 1989; 1992). They do this, I've suggested and shown, while eschewing keeping track of individual inputs and outcomes and resisting calculating fairness on an exchange basis in these relationships (Clark & Mills, 1979; Clark, 1984; Clark, Mills, & Corcoran, 1989).
More recently, I've studied factors influencing people's ability to adhere to communal norms while establishing and then engaging in established ongoing, intimate, relationships -- including marriages, romantic relationships, friendships and family relationships. People do, overwhelmingly, follow communal norms not only when establishing but also within established intimate relationships and they and their partners feel best when they do so (Clark et al., 2010). In high quality intimate relationships they express emotion, which conveys need states, as they do (Clark & Finkel, 2004) and they give and receive responsive care and feel good when they do. However, people low in trust of others experience many difficulties including: reluctance to enter socially diagnostic situations (which is crucial in order to start such relationships) (Beck & Clark, 2009), biases against perceiving that partners truly do care for them (Beck & Clark, 2010) as well as an absence of biases favoring perceptions that partners care when one desires communal relationships( Lemay & Clark & Feeney, 2007; Lemay & Clark, 2008). They also experience difficulties in responding to partner's negative emotions constructively (Yoo, Clark, Lemay, Salovey & Monin, 2011), harmful tendencies toward idealizing or villifying partners rather than seeing them in the more balanced, ways that form a necessary base for giving and seeking responsiveness (Graham & Clark, 2006) and difficulties in resisting shifts to more exchange oriented ways of interacting during troubled times (Grote & Clark, 2001; Clark, Lemay, Graham, Pataki, & Finkel, 2010). .
Another recent and active research focus is on the nature of relationship initiation (Clark & Beck, 2011; Beck & Clark, 2009; 2010).
In particular I am interested in how people negotiate their way from initial attraction to a potential romantic partner or friend to the existence of an established, committed relationship with such a person. In studying this process I have focused on the nature and roles of self-presentation, self-protection, and partner evaluation during the initiation of close relationships.
My current views on the nature communal responsiveness (and factors that promote interfere with responsiveness and the initiation of relationships) a a review of much relevant research are covered in a number of recent review articles (Clark, 2011; Clark, 2012, in press; Clark & Lemay, 2010; Clark & Reis, in press; Reis, Clark & Holmes, 2004).
I have had a long term and continuing interest in the nature of emotion, emotion regulation and links between emotion and social behavior. I am especially interested in how relational context shapes people's willingness to express emotions indicative of needs (Clark, Fitness & Brisette, 2001; Monin, Matire, Schulz, & Clark, 2009) and responsiveness to partners who express emotions (Clark, et al., 1987; Clark & Taraban, 1991; Clark & Finkel, 2005). I am also interested in the ways in which willingness to express emotions elicits responsiveness in partners and builds relationships (Graham, Huang, Clark & Helgeson, 2008) as well as in the nature of "relational emotions" such as embarrassment, gratitude, hurt, guilt, empathic happiness and empathic distress, and, most recently, on how relational context can shape the likelihood of experiencing emotion and it's very nature (Lambert, Clark. Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham, 2010). Finally, I am interest in ways in which relational context and the social functions of relationships shape the very nature of emotion perception and experience.
Other, related, interests
Other current research pursuits (in collaboration with graduate students Oriana Aragon, Erica Boothby, Kate Von Cullin, Becca, Lauren Ruth, & Jacqueline Smith) include automatic emotion regulation, how relationship attitudes influence tendencies to suppress and amplfy expressions of emotion, cognitive factors that interfere with reading partner emotion, the impact of sharing experiences with others on cognition and emotion, and relational foci of attention.
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|Photo of Margaret Clark
Department of Psychology
New Haven, CT 06520
Phone: (203) 432-4500