Convergence of naïve coders and participant report ratings of attachment to a former partner: When we should be me

Jessica L. Borelli, David A. Sbarra, Matthias Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Using a Brunswik lens framework, this study examined whether lay observers could accurately detect participants’ attachment to a former partner following romantic breakup or divorce. We predicted that the ratings of post-breakup attachment (completed after reading participants’ transcribed stream-of-consciousness discussions of the recent separation) would be associated with participants’ self-reported ratings of attachment to a former partner and that participants’ natural language use in their narratives would act as the behavioral residue explaining these associations. To enhance the generalizability of our findings, we explored our hypotheses in two samples of adults who had recently undergone romantic relationship dissolutions—people experiencing non-marital breakups (N = 161) and divorce (N = 132). Consistent with hypotheses, in both samples, naïve judges generated assessments of participant attachment that were (a) reliable, (b) strongly associated with participants’ own attachment ratings, and (c) associated with participant breakup-related distress. Of the linguistic cues we examined as behavioral residue, only we-talk (first person plural pronoun use) operated indirectly to link rater and participant attachment scores. We discuss the implications of this work for a deeper understanding of attachment to former romantic partners and for using person-perception paradigms to study attachment relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-999
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Attachment
  • behavioral residue
  • breakup
  • divorce
  • we-talk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Convergence of naïve coders and participant report ratings of attachment to a former partner: When we should be me'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this