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Anticipating Social Pleasure with Family, Friends, and New People: Conceptualization, Measurement, and Implications for Personality and Psychopathology


Individual differences in anticipatory pleasure have been studied primarily in physical or sensory domains, such as anticipating eating tasty food or the anticipating the excitement of riding a rollercoaster. The present studies were designed to extend this research to the social domain. We propose that, just as in nonsocial domains, people in social situations will orient and move toward those experiences they expect and predict will be pleasurable for them. Current self-report measures of social pleasure or its absence (i.e., anhedonia) tend to assess consummatory (in-the-moment) pleasure across one global, social domain. The current studies sought to define and assess individual differences that distinguish anticipatory pleasure in different kinds of social relationships. Conceptual, item-analytic, and factor-analytic work provided consistent evidence that self-reports of social pleasure anticipation can be distinguished across three relationship domains: Friends, Family, and New People. The Social Pleasure Anticipation (SPA) scales showed internal consistency and retest reliability, convergent and discriminant validity evidence when related to measures of social and nonsocial pleasure and to measures of personality and social functioning, as well as external validity based on peer reports. The SPA scales differentially predicted unique and replicated patterns of personality traits, psychological symptoms, and well-being. Discussion focuses on the implications of this tripartite taxonomy of the social domain for theories and measures of social functioning that so far have been conceptualized only at the global, undifferentiated level.

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