Through the eyes of others: The role of relational value cues and self -regulatory resources in monitoring one's social environment
A working premise of the present research asserts that to effectively monitor the social environment for relational value cues requires people to exert controlled self-regulatory efforts. Thus, it was hypothesized that monitoring for such relational cues would consume the self's regulatory resources, consequently leading to an impairment of people's ability to engage in subsequent regulatory activity. Moreover, it was predicted that when regulatory resources become depleted because of recent acts of self-regulation people would be less effective at monitoring the environment for relational cues. In line with predictions, the data from the first two experiments indicated that self-regulatory resources are depleted when people monitor the social environment for cues that connote their relational value. In addition, consistent with the second hypothesis, the results from Experiment 3 showed that the capacity to monitor the social environment for complex compared to simple forms of relational value cues is negatively impacted by the prior depletion of the self's regulatory resources. To extend Experiment 3's findings, Experiment 4 was designed to directly examine monitoring capacity in the context of a social interaction, with the results showing that insofar as the self's limited resources become depleted by recent acts of self-regulatory activity, people are less effective at monitoring the environment for relational value cues. The findings from across the 4 studies suggest an important mechanism that relates broadly to the effective functioning of interpersonal processes and specifically, to the capacity to successfully navigate social relations. More precisely, these studies provide consistent evidence that establishes an integrative relationship between the self's regulatory resources and people's capacity to accurately monitor the social environment for cues that indicate their relational value to others. Ultimately, the current evidence sheds light on research that relates to people's metaperceptions of how they are viewed by others, and it may help to partially explain prior research that shows people are less effective at self-presentation when regulatory resources are depleted.