The Dynamics of Implicit Motives in Intimate Relationships

DFG Project by Birk Hagemeyer, Sebastian Pusch, Caroline Zygar & Felix D. Schönbrodt

The Project

The research project aims at an extensive examination of the relevance of implicit motives for (a) long-term developmental trajectories and (b) short-term regulatory processes in intimate couple relationships. Implicit motives are defined as dispositional needs which, despite their non-conscious representation, energize and direct subjective experience and behavior towards specific classes of affectively valued goal states. In the domain of couple relationships, such goal states can be classified as communal (i.e., related to intimacy and closeness with one's partner) or agentic (i.e., related to independence, mastery, and dominance). Communal and agentic motives are distinct need dimensions which have been shown to be valid predictors of relationship quality in cross-sectional and prospective studies. However, longitudinal studies with repeated motive assessments that allow for analyses of the dynamic transactions between motives and couple relationships are missing. Moreover, the motivational processes and mechanisms that underly the observed associations between motives and relationships are largely unknown.

The proposed research project aims to fill these gaps in our knowledge about the role of motives in couple relationships. First, we intend to assess implicit motives in a subsample of the pairfam panel study three times in time intervals of one year. This design allows for (a) the prediction of long-term developmental trajectories in couple relationships and (b) analyses of the dynamic transactions between relationships and implicit motives. Second, we intend to implement an extensive experience sampling study to investigate (a) individual short-term processes of motivation and (b) dyadic patterns of coregulation that mediate the influences of implicit motives on couple relationships.


Pusch, S., Schönbrodt, F. D., Zygar-Hoffmann, C., & Hagemeyer, B. (2020). Truth and wishful thinking: How inter-individual differences in communal motives manifest in momentary partner perceptions. European Journal of Personality, 34, 115-134. link

Zygar-Hoffmann, C., Pusch, S., Hagemeyer, B., & Schönbrodt, F. D. (2020). Motivated behavior in intimate relationships: Comparing the predictive value of motivational variables. Social Psychological Bulletin, 15(2), 1-37. link

Zygar, C., Hagemeyer, B., Pusch, S., & Schönbrodt, F. D. (2018). From motive dispositions to states to outcomes: An intensive experience sampling study on communal motivational dynamics in couples. European Journal of Personality, 32, 306-324. link