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University of Vermont Theses & Dissertations

Huneke, Mark
Making I-Contact: Fostering Shared, In-the-Moment Subjective Experiences
Numerous research studies have offered evidence that I-sharing (perceived subjective similarity) facilitates interpersonal connection (e.g. Huneke & Pinel, 2016; Pinel, Long, Landau, Alexander, & Pyszczynski, 2006; Pinel & Long, 2012). Despite this research, no interventions currently exist to foster I-sharing between individuals, thereby leaving interventionists and others unable to utilize I-sharing to nurture authentic connections. The current dissertation takes an important step in the direction of developing usable interventions based on I-sharing research. Specifically, I examine the effectiveness of a technique designed to foster I-sharing genuinely between individuals. Building on I-sharing theory, which specifies that people most confidently believe that they I-share when they react simultaneously and identically to the same stimulus (Pinel et al., 2006), I randomly assigned participants either to experience novel, emotionally-arousing stimuli that provoke predictable reactions in a context in which participants could also experience each other’s in-the-moment subjective experiences (the Fostered I-sharing condition), or in a condition in which they could not fully experience each other’s experiences (the comparison condition). To investigate whether I-sharing also proves effective for people who see themselves as dissimilar on an important self dimension, I also manipulated perceived value similarity of the other participant prior to the I-sharing intervention. Participants either learned of an unshared value, learned of a shared value, or did not receive any value information. Results showed that the I-sharing intervention significantly increased feelings of subjective similarity, but only increased liking and interpersonal behavior when participants also initially learned that they shared a similar value. I discuss potential explanations for results, and means of intervention improvement.

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