This study extends Baxter and Wilmot's (1984) work on the secret tests couples use to acquire information about the state of their relationships. No gender differences were found in levels of testing or in the use of specific tests in our sample of 226 romantically-involved individuals, who reported on 1025 instances of testing. The effects of commitment, perceptions of partner's commitment, courtship progress, and jealousy on testing were also examined. Overall amount of testing was inversely correlated with courtship progress, suggesting that such tests characterize the earliest stages of courtship, and positively correlated with jealousy. In addition, females who perceived that their partners were less committed to their relationships were slightly more likely to engage in relational information-seeking. Reliance upon specific tests was associated with several of the relationship measures. For instance, Endurance tests were best predicted by perceptions of high partner commitment; Separation tests were used when commitment by self and partner was low, when the relationship had not advanced much, and when the information-seeker was jealous; and use of Triangle tests was associated with jealousy. Several significant contingencies were found among dimensions of the testing situation. The type of test used was associated with what respondents learned about their partners' commitment, with the probability of engaging in state-of-the relationship talks, and with the deliberate versus accidental nature of the testing episode. It was also found that deliberate tests were more likely than accidental ones to lead to feelings that the future course of the relationship was predictable and to open communication about the relationship. Finally, tentative support was found for a confirmatory bias in testing in which testers set themselves up to learn that their partners value the relationship.
- secret tests
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