ACTIVATING MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS OF ROMANTIC PARTNERS INCREASES CURIOSITY AND EXPLORATORY BEHAVIOR
Although a key proposition of attachment theory is that security-providing attachment figures enhance individuals' curiosity and exploration , the normative effects of adult attachment on exploration have hardly been studied. According to the theory, romantic partners are potential attachment figures in adulthood and adults rely heavily on the mental representation of their partner in addition to face-to-face interactions to regulate felt security . Therefore the aim of the present project was to investigate whether mental representations of romantic partners foster individuals' curiosity and exploratory behavior. In three experiments, we asked participants to complete a supraliminal priming task designed to activate the mental representation of either their romantic partner or social or nonsocial control topics. Following this task, we assessed participants' feelings of curiosity (Study1) and actual exploratory behavior (Studies 2 and 3). Across the three studies, activating the mental representation of the romantic partner, as compared to control topics, resulted in higher curiosity and exploratory behavior. Moreover, in Study 1 (but not 2 and 3), the effects of the partner prime were only observed for participants who were strongly attached to their partner. Finally , individual differen ces in adult attachment style did not significantly moderate the effect of the prime in any of the studies. Findings are discussed in terms of the role of mental representations in adult attachment and directions for future research on the adult attachment-exploration link are suggested .
dissertation or thesis