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Lydon, J., Jamieson, D., & Holmes, J. (1997). The meaning of social interactions in the transition from acquaintanceship to friendship. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 536-548.



The transition from acquaintanceship (nonunit) to friendship (unit) was conceptualized in terms of a preunit relationship. The authors theorized thai in transitional relationships, discrete interactions are imbued with surplus meaning. Using a mental simulation procedure in 3 studies, participants randomly assigned to focus their attention on an exemplar from their social worlds representing unit, preunit, or nonunit same-sex relationships responded to social exchange scenarios. Preunits intended to act like a friend and not an acquaintance, yet they experienced more discomfort following a communal script than those in a unit relation. Content analyses of open-ended responses revealed that preunits were more likely than units or nonunits to see a nice gesture by the other person as having some social meaning. Failure to reciprocate a favor by either party was deemed more important to preunit than unit or nonunit relations. In Study 4, in which actual interaction records were used, the quality of individual discrete interactions was more highly correlated with momentary, on-line perceptions of relationship closeness for preunit interactions than unit or nonunit interactions.

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