The Michelangelo phenomenon is a phenomenon observed by psychologists in which interdependent individuals influence and "sculpt" each other (opposite of Blueberry phenomenon, in which interdependent individuals bring out the worst qualities in 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.
The Michelangelo Phenomenon describes how pairs in close relationships can sculpt one other, gently shaping each other’s selves and guiding one another toward the desired vision of the self. This sculpting is an ongoing process; every time a pair interacts, they can serve to propel one another closer to or farther away from their ideal selves. In relationships that affirm the self, individuals come to mirror the vision that their partner has of them or inspires in them that is consistent with their own personal goals for the self. In other words, the way our partners think about and act toward us can, under the right conditions, help make us better versions of ourselves. Receiving affirmation of our ideal selves from our partners is associated not only with our personal well-being, but also with our well-being as a couple – including the quality and stability of our relationship. When we find someone with whom we truly resonate – our “Resonant Pair” – that person should have the right “tools” to help sculpt us into a version of ourselves with which we are most satisfied – to “bring out the best in us” – and we should be empowered to do the same in return.
- 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. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2063.
- Rusbult, Caryl; Kumashiro, Madoka; Kubacka, Kaska; Finkel, Eli (2009). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96 (1): 61–82. doi:10.1037/a0014016.
- Rusbult, Caryl; Finkel, Eli; Kumashiro, Madoka (2009). "The Michelangelo Phenomenon". Current Directions in Psychological Science 18 (6): 305–309. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01657.x.
- 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.
- Resonant Pair - Online Dating
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