The Michelangelo phenomenon is a phenomenon observed by psychologists in which interdependent individuals influence and "sculpt" each other. Over time, the Michelangelo effect causes individuals to develop toward what they themselves consider as their "ideal selves." For example, in a close relationship, "because John affirms Mary’s ideals, Mary increasingly comes to resemble her ideal self."
The phenomenon was named after the Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet and engineer Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) who is said to have thought of sculpting as a process of revealing and uncovering the figures hidden in stone. The term was introduced in 1999 by the US psychologist Stephen Michael Drigotas (et al).
The Michelangelo phenomenon is related to the looking-glass self concept introduced by Charles Horton Cooley in his 1902 work Human Nature and the Social Order, and is referred to in contemporary marital therapy. Recent popular work in couples therapy and conflict resolution points to the importance of the Michelangelo phenomenon. Diana Kirschner reported that the phenomenon was common among couples reporting high levels of marital satisfaction.
- Drigotas, Stephen; Rusbult, Caryl; Wieselquist, Jennifer; Whitton, Sarah (1999). "Close Partner as Sculptor of the Ideal Self: Behavioral Affirmation and the Michelangelo Phenomenon". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (2): 293–323.
- Rusbult, Caryl; Kumashiro, Madoka; Kubacka, Kaska; Finkel, Eli (2009). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96 (1): 61–82.
- Rusbult, Caryl; Finkel, Eli; Kumashiro, Madoka (2009). "The Michelangelo Phenomenon". Current Directions in Psychological Science 18 (6): 305–309.
- Cooley, Charles H. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, revised edition 1922.
- Kirschner, Diana. Sealing the Deal: The Love Mentor's Guide to Lasting Love. Hachette.
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