Relational Predictors and Correlates of Humility

An Interdependence Analysis

Authored by: Jeffrey D. Green , Jody L. Davis , Athena H. Cairo , Brandon J. Griffin , Anna Maria C. Behler , Rachel C. Garthe

Handbook of Humility

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138960008
eBook ISBN: 9781315660462
Adobe ISBN: 9781317337164


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Though philosophers, poets, and religious leaders over the centuries have extolled humility as a virtue that plays a central role in human affairs, empirical work on humility in general, and on humility in the context of close relationships in particular, is largely a twenty-first-century phenomenon. Valuable theoretical work on relational humility, which construes humility as a relationship-specific personality judgment, has been developed in recent years and propelled the empirical study of humility forward (Davis et al., 2011). Conceptualizations of relational humility have addressed scholarly concerns about the assessment of humility by associating self- and other-reports of humility and relating humility to various pro-relationship behaviors (Davis, Worthington, & Hook, 2010; Peters, Rowatt, & Johnson, 2011). This innovative work should be complemented by linking humility to existing relationship theories, particularly macro theories such as evolutionary theory, attachment theory, and interdependence theory. Some initial steps have been taken in this regard. For example, the social bond hypothesis of humility (Davis et al., 2013) draws upon selective investment theory (Brown & Brown, 2006) to explain how humility can regulate the strength of social bonds by acting as a cue that a social partner will be unselfish, committed, and likely to reciprocate helping behavior. Regarding attachment theory, correlational research suggests that low avoidant attachment is linked to self-reported humility (Dwiwardani et al., 2014). We propose that one macro theory of relationships that could serve as a framework for contextualizing current humility research as well as guiding future research is interdependence theory (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959) and its generative extension, Rusbult’s investment model of commitment (Rusbult, 1980). Before elaborating on relevant tenets of interdependence theory, we briefly discuss definitions of humility.

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