shutterstock_151809131People’s perceptions of others’ emotions, thoughts and behaviour are critical in determining how people react within interpersonal contexts. However, our perceptions of others are often biased. Our research examines the predictors and consequences of biased perceptions in relationships and has shown that biased perceptions can have important implications for relationships and psychological wellbeing.

For example, people with elevated depressive symptoms tend to underestimate their partner’s commitment and overestimate their partner’s negative behaviour, which leads them to feel more insecure and depressed. Similarly, people who are high in attachment avoidance and distrust their partner’s intentions, judge their partner’s emotions to be more negative than is warranted, and this triggers more hostile behaviour during conflict and daily life.

And, men who are scared that women will use men’s relationship needs to manipulate them (i.e., endorse hostile sexism) perceive their female partner’s behaviour to be more negative than is justified, which leads to more aggressive relationship behaviour. This research illustrates the importance of targeting biased perceptions to counteract the destructive impact depression, attachment avoidance, and sexist attitudes can have on relationships.

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Relevant Publications:

Waddell, N., & Overall. N.C. (online advance). Bias, accuracy, and assumed similarity in judging intimate partners’ sexist attitudes. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi/10.1177/02654075221118546

Chang, V.T., & Overall, N. C. (2022). Biased memories contribute to the links between stress and depressive symptoms. Emotion, 22, 227-243.

Chang, V.T., & Overall, N.C. (2022). Attachment anxiety, tracking accuracy, and biased memory of prior relationship evaluations. Personal Relationships, 29, 262-282.

Hockey, A., Donovan, C., Overall, N.C., & Barlow, F. K. (2022). Body image projection bias in heterosexual romantic relationships: A dyadic investigation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 48(7), 987-1004.

Cross, E.J., Overall, N.C., Low, R.S.T., & Henderson, A.M.E. (2021). Relationship problems, agreement and bias in perceptions of partners’ parental responsiveness, and family functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 35(4), 510–522.

Hammond, M.D. & Overall, N.C. (2020). Men’s hostile sexism and biased perceptions of partners’ support: Underestimating dependability rather than overestimating challenges to dominance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 46, 1491-1506.

Overall, N.C., Clark, M.S., Fletcher, G.J.O., Peters, B.J., & Chang, V.T. (2020). Does expressing emotions enhance perceptual accuracy of negative emotions during relationship interactions? Emotion, 20, 353-367.

Peters, B.J., & Overall, N.C. (2020). Perceptions of romantic partners’ emotional suppression are more biased than accurate. Emotion, 20, 1485-1489.

Cross, E.J., Overall, N.C., Low, R.S.T., & McNulty, J.K. (2019). An interdependence account of sexism and power: Men’s hostile sexism, biased perceptions of low power, and relationship aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117, 338-363.

Chang, V.T., Overall, N.C., Madden. H., & Low, R.S.T. (2018). Expressive suppression tendencies, projection bias in memory of negative emotions and wellbeing. Emotion.

Overall, N.C., Fletcher, G.J.O., Simpson, J.A., & Filo, J. (2015). Attachment insecurity, biased perceptions of romantic partners’ negative emotions, and hostile relationship behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 108(5):730-749. Download PDF

Hammond, M.D., & Overall, N.C. (2013). Men’s hostile sexism and biased perceptions of intimate partners: Fostering dissatisfaction and negative behavior in close relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1585-1599.  Download PDF

Overall, N.C. & Hammond, M.D. (2013). Biased and accurate: Depressive symptoms and daily perceptions within intimate relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 636-650. Download PDF

Overall, N.C., Fletcher, G.J.O., & Kenny, D.A. (2012). When bias and insecurity promote accuracy: Mean-level bias and tracking accuracy in couples’ conflict discussions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 642-655.  Download PDF

Friesen, M.D., Fletcher, G.J.O., & Overall, N.C. (2005). A dyadic assessment of forgiveness in intimate relationships. Personal Relationships, 21, 61-77. Download PDF