Exploring the “Aha” Moment: The Process of Conscious Awareness During the Early Stages of Relationship Development
AuthorDavis, Bret A.
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The early stages of romantic relationships can be filled with uncertainty. One major cause of uncertainty in the early stages of relationship development is whether or not one has entered into an actual relationship. Furthermore, people who experience uncertainty are generally motivated to engage in information seeking to reduce it. Given the importance of romantic relationships in people’s lives, the overarching question this dissertation sought to answer is: “How do people become aware that they have entered into a romantic relationship?” Relationship awareness was defined as a process of information seeking by an individual to come to a judgment to determine if he or she has entered into a relationship. Previous research has found that people seek information from four sources: cognitive, emotional, social network, and behavioral information. This study surveyed emerging adults (ages 18-25) and adults (ages 26 and up) to test a proposed model of relationship awareness. SEM results revealed that relationship awareness is a process of information seeking and uncertainty management, and confirmed that people generally rely on the four aforementioned information sources to become aware of the status of their relationship. Furthermore, the results revealed that information seeking mediates the relationship between relationship uncertainty appraisals and relationship awareness, and each mediated path seems to affect relationship awareness fairly equally. Lastly, the results suggest that the relationship awareness process may be adaptive to changes from one developmental life stage to another. Study limitations and implications for future research are discussed.