Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Closeness communication bias

Closeness communication bias:
Why does it occur, and how can it be overcome?

Overview edit

Communication is an essential part of people's social lives. Effective communication helps us connect with others, build relationships, and can allow us the opportunity to share experiences, interests, and needs (Savitsky et al., 2011). People commonly believe that the closer we are to someone the better we would understand and communicate with them [citation needed]. This can include a romantic partner, friend, or colleague. However, research suggests that closeness can more commonly have a negative impact on the delivery and or the interpretation and acceptance of communication and lead people to overestimating how well they communicate, [grammar?] this concept is known as closeness-communication bias (Ballerstädt, 2022). It is important that more people are aware and understand closeness-communication bias and that they are given an opportunity to reflect and learn about the positive impact knowledge on the topic as well as knowledge on motivational impacts can have in their relationships to overcome this unconscious bias [Overly long?].

Focus questions:  

  • What is closeness-communication bias?
  • Why does it occur?
  • How communication is impacted by the unconscious mind[grammar?]?
  • What theories of motivation link to the closeness-communication bias and how do they apply?
  • How can it be overcome?
  • How can motivational theories and research help?

What is the closeness-communication bias? edit

Closeness-communication bias is the theory that people communicate less effectively with those who they are close to (Van Der Wege et al., 2021). This is thought to occur because of the belief that we know our people we are close to so well our conscious mind looses[spelling?] focus of details during conversations with them and our unconscious mind tends take over not fully listen and make assumptions[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Closeness can lead people to overestimate their communication skills, such that they believe they would communicate better with someone they were in a relationship with compared to a stranger (Dubois et al., 2023). Closeness communication bias often leads to egocentric errors [explain?]. Studies have found that when people interact with those unfamiliar to them they pay more attention whereas when people interact with those familiar and close to them they rely less on paying attention and more on their own perspectives and beliefs [citation needed] . Unfortunately, this often leads to negative outcomes in relationships [Provide more detail] (Young, 2020).

Figure 1. Negative effects of closeness-communication bias on relationships
Case study

In behavioural experiments, researchers first paired individuals with their close friends or partners and then with strangers [source?]. In each scenario, the researchers asked the participants to interpret what their partners were saying. The subjects predicted that they would more accurately understand what their partners were saying than the strangers but the results showed that they understood them no better than the strangers. Often, they understood them less well! (Murphy, 2020)

Why does it occur? edit

When people build close relationships with others, they develop an unconscious tendency to let assumptions and personal perspectives take over. Our brains are influenced by stored information and experience. The brain is wired to simplify information processing, which can lead to errors in communication (Huckle, 2022). When thinking and the process of decision making occur during a conversation with someone close to us our attention whilst the other person is talking is low and our brain tends to go into auto pilot and interpret perceptions of the situation based off external beliefs, preferences, and past personal experiences (Faulmüller, 2012)[Rewrite to improve clarity].

Figure 2. Role of the unconscious mind

Unconscious mind edit

The unconscious mind is responsible for many mental processes that influence feelings, judgments, and behaviours. According to Freud, the primary source of behaviour is the unconscious mind. Our feelings, motives, decisions, and the way in which we communicate, are heavily influenced by our past experiences, which are stored in the unconscious (Mcleod, 2015). An example of this is a Freudian slip when speaking to someone you're close to you may be quite relaxed and not be paying full attention and misinterpret something being said and slip say something incorrect to the conversation (Mcleod, 2015) [maybe highlight how Freudian slips are linked to the unconscious mind] .

Communication and motivation edit

Figure 3. Boy motivated externally vs Boy motivated internally

Motivation is the process that influences, guides, and maintains behaviours that are usually goal orientated (Sands, 2021).

There are two main types of motivation these are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Table 1.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation meanings/examples

Type of motivation Meaning Example
Intrinsic Motivation that is influenced by internal factors 1.Playing a soccer game because you enjoy the sport

2.Studying because you enjoy learning new things

Extrinsic Motivation that is influenced external factors 1.Playing a soccer game because you want to win the trophy

2.Studying because you want to get a good grade

Closeness-communication bias theory suggests that people are have a motivational tendency to pay more attention to details and verbal/nonverbal cues when communicating with strangers. Because we have no previous understanding or assumptions about the person we concentrate and listen more attentively (Cherry, 2022). Study authors [who?] suggest that when being close to someone we are more likely to show the illusion of understanding instead of actually understanding by letting internal perspective guide communication rather than paying attention to what is being said to them and what they are saying in return [Rewrite to improve clarity] (Young, 2020). Motivation is one of the most important factors in guiding behaviour. Understanding and learning to be motivated against closeness-communication bias behaviours is essential in reducing the problem and maintaining positive relationships with healthy communication skills (Sands, 2021). If people understood and were able to process and understand the negative effects of closeness-communication bias in their close social relationships, they might become more motivated during communication [clarification needed] with them.

Theories of motivation edit

[Provide more detail]

Maslow's hierarchy of needs edit

Hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory based off[awkward expression?] human needs displayed as hierarchal[spelling?] levels on a pyramid[Rewrite to improve clarity]. The needs begin from the bottom to the top of the pyramid once the first need is satisfied you then are motivated to progress to the next level. The needs include physiological (food and clothing), safety (job security), love and belonging needs (friendship), esteem, and self-actualization (McLeod, 2010). People who are in the building stages of a relationship and working to become closer with their partners are seeking to satisfy their love and belonging needs. This level of need focuses on connecting with other people to feel a sense of belonging, develop trust, and exchange affection and acceptance. During this stage as you are not close yet people tend to be motivated by their desire to connect and belong with people which influences a person to effectively communicate and get to know one another and their values, beliefs and interests (Sands, 2021) [Overly long?]. Once people's love and belonging needs are met, they move up to the fourth stage of the hierarchy, which focuses on esteem needs. This is where a person is motivated to accomplish personal achievements and build their self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem. During this stage of independence and satisfaction after being out of level three (love/belonging) confidence can build to strong and lead into closeness communication bias which can have a negative impact on your communication skills with people you're close to and have now built relationships with (McLeod, 2010) [Rewrite to improve clarity].

Figure 4. Maslows hierarchy of needs

Pick a response

Maslow's hierarchy of needs example: "Select which need is the focus when closeness-communication bias is present.

Physiological needs
Esteem needs
Safety needs.

Incentive theory edit

The incentive behavioural theory suggests people are motivated by an ongoing desire for incentives and reinforcement (Cherry, 2022). It is the understanding that people are drawn to behaviours that result in reward and discouraged from engaging in behaviours that may lead to punishment. Social, physiological, and cognitive factors play a significant role in what a person finds motivating it could include things such as money in a job and needing to communicate effectively to get paid, or keeping regular communication with a group of friends to not risk losing the friendships (Cherry, 2022). When avoiding closeness-communication bias and wanting to maintain healthy communication and positive relationships with those you're close to it is important to understand their values to understand how to support and motivate them through incentives or reinforcement [Rewrite to improve clarity] .

Table 2.

Strengths and limitations of psychological theories

Theory Strength Limitation
Maslow's hierarchy of needs Provides useful summary of human needs No way to measure satisfaction levels to progress higher
Incentive theory provides common ways to motivate people to create behavioural habits Is not always successful long term

Influence of closeness-communication bias edit

Figure 6. Closeness-communication bias in the workplace

[Provide more detail]

Work relationships edit

People are changing every day through their daily interactions and experiences [explain?]. It is easy for the closeness-communication bias to occur at work, since employees spend significant time with their colleagues. When we begin to assume what someone is thinking or what they are going to say next it creates the risk for miscommunication through closeness-communication bias (Impey, 2022)[Repeated information]. Too often in the workplace do people fall into these habits of assuming you know what they mean and vice versa. This often leads to both people not feeling understood and not feeling confident in understanding what they need to (Young, 2020). This can have some significant negative impacts with motivation and successful performance [Provide more detail] .

Personal relationships edit

The closeness-communication bias has an impact on how people listen to those close to them and how those people listen to them. This tends to become a negative reinforcement of the relationship when not feeling heard or supported (Gagné, 2004) [explain?]. This can often lead to relationships drift or fall apart and pushes people to pull away and communicate their issues with those they are not close to[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Sometimes people can develop an inflated ego and become overconfident in close relationships, which can lead them to avoid vulnerable communication or discussion of topics that may result in criticism or judgement (Van Der Wege et al., 2021).

Figure 7. Romantic/Personal relationships

"accurately understanding another person often requires a second thought to think, wait a minute, is this really what this person meant?.. we just don't do that as much with those we are close to because we assume we know what they are saying and that they know what we are saying". - Nicholas Epley (University of Chicago)

How can it be overcome? edit

[Provide more detail]

Listen edit

This is the most simple but can often be the first thing to be forgotten during communication with those we are close to. It is important to always make a conscious effort to listen to others and display the behaviour you would want in return (Ballerstädt, 2022). By showing full body listening (using eye contact and facing your whole body toward the person you're communicating with) it can help with maintaining focus and attention.

Gottman's 20 minute conversation edit

This[what?] is also known as 'stress reducing conversation'[grammar?]. It is important to maintain healthy relationships and avoid closeness communication bias that there is intentional time talk, listen, and ask questions regularly. By creating a habit of consistent effective communication it helps maintain an understanding of each other build safety and trust (Yoo, 2019). This can look like a meeting at the office regularly, having dedicated time as a couple to talk each night whilst having dinner, or simply going for a walk with a friend and practicing listening and asking questions.

Avoiding assumptions edit

One of the most common issues with closeness-communication bias is the assumptions people create in their head whilst communicating with someone of guessing what they are thinking or going to say next rather than listening and processing the information they are expressing as it comes [Overly long?](Dubois, 2016). It is important to understand that every person is constantly experiencing and learning new things that are going to impact them to be continually changing and growing. It essential that people avoid making and voicing their assumptions and instead listen and ask questions.[factual?]

Increasing awareness of personal biases edit

Humans are faced with many similar and different biases from personal experience whether that is within different aspects of communication or in other areas of their social life (Cherry, 2022). By taking the time to research and increase your understanding and awareness of the many biases that are present in your behaviour in everyday life it can help in working toward controlling those behaviours and minimising them having a negative impact on your communication and interaction with those close to you.[factual?]

Invite feedback/ask questions edit

After expressing information to someone, it is important to pause and provide the person you are communicating with regular opportunities to ask questions to gain a better understanding of what you are trying to communicate. When you have finished speaking during a conversation, it can be beneficial to ask your conversation partner an open-ended question and listen respectfully to their response (Impey, 2022) [for example?].

“the sure thing is that if you don’t work at communication, the relationship will deteriorate over time, just like a car that’s not taken care of will fall apart.” John Gottman

Quiz edit


This is a quiz to conceptual understanding! Select your answer for each question then press submit!

1 Does closeness-communication bias effect relationships in the workplace[grammar?]:


2 which area of the mind influences closeness communication bias behaviour[grammar?]:


3 Which theory of motivation states that "a satisfied need is not a motivator and so once one set of needs has been met an individual is motivated to reach the next level of needs"?

Social exchange theory
expectancy theory
Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory
Incentive theory

4 what are the two main types of motivation?

Physiological and Psychological motivation
Learning and Achievement motivation
Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation

Conclusion edit

Communication is an important part of our everyday lives as social beings. Research suggests when building relationships and becoming close to someone, effective communication skills can often be lost due to closeness-communication bias (Murphy, 2020). Closeness-communication bias occurs due to people becoming overconfident and creating ideas and assumptions of what the other person is thinking or going to say, rather than keeping an open mind and listening carefully as they would with a stranger (Dubois et al., 2016). To overcome this issue it is important people take time to research, learn, and understand biases they may have, as well as motivational theories and their impact. Motivation guides and maintains behaviours and by understanding what motivates you and taking time to understand ask questions to those you are close to on what motivates them (Sands, 2021). It [what?] can support positive interactions and communication with whomever you are close to whether that is someone from work or personal life.

Reflection edit

  1. Has there been a time for you where closeness-communication bias negatively affected communication with a friend?
  2. Has there been a time for you where closeness-communication bias positively affected communication with a friend?
  3. Do you feel more motivated to make a conscious effort into communication with those you're close to? If so, why?

See also edit

References edit

  Check APA style for reference list

Blair, R. J. R. (2004). The roles of orbital frontal cortex in the modulation of antisocial behavior. Brain and Cognition, 55(1), 198–208.

Buckholtz, J. W., & Meyer-Lindenberg, A. (2008). MAOA and the neurogenetic architecture of human aggression. Trends in Neurosciences, 31(3), 120–129.

Eckardt, M., File, S., Gessa, G., Grant, K., Guerri, C., Hoffman, P., & Tabakoff, B. (1998). Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the central nervous system. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 22(5), 998–1040.

Savitsky, K., Keysar, B., Epley, N., Carter, T., & Swanson, A. (2011). The closeness-communication bias: Increased egocentrism among friends versus strangers. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(1), 269-273.

Sedikides, C., Campbell, W. K., Reeder, G. D., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). The self-serving bias in relational context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(2), 378.

Van Der Wege, M., Jacobsen, J., Magats, N., Mansour, C. B., & Park, J. H. (2021). Familiarity breeds overconfidence: Group membership and shared experience in the closeness-communication bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 94, 104097.

}}Faulmüller, N., Mojzisch, A., Kerschreiter, R., & Schulz-Hardt, S. (2012). Do you want to convince me or to be understood?: Preference-consistent information sharing and its motivational determinants. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(12), 1684–1696.

Ballerstädt, J., 2022. 2022 - Closeness-Communication-Bias: That’s why we friends don’t really listen. [online] The Latest News. Available at: <> .

Huckle, B., 2022. How Cognitive Bias Affects Effective Communication | SecondNature. [online] secondnature. Available at: <>

Van Der Wege, M., Jacobsen, J., Magats, N., Mansour, C. B., & Park, J. H. (2021). Familiarity breeds overconfidence: Group membership and shared experience in the closeness-communication bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 94, 104097–.

Dubois, D., Bonezzi, A., & De Angelis, M. (2016). Sharing with Friends versus Strangers: How Interpersonal Closeness Influences Word-of-Mouth Valence. Journal of Marketing Research, 53(5), 712–727.

Yoo. (2019). Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2018). The science of couples and family therapy: Behind the scenes at the Love Lab. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 340 pp., $35. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 45(1), 186–187.

Murphy, K., 2020. Why We Listen Better To Strangers Than Family. [online] Available at: <>

McLeod, S., 2010. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. [online] Available at: <,esteem%2C%20and%20self%2Dactualization.>

Impey, C., 2022. Breaking down communication breakdowns. [online] Available at: <,a%20friend%2C%20or%20a%20colleague.>

Young, A., 2020. Communication Errors and Unconscious Biases: Egocentrism, Overconfidence, and Closeness-Communication. [online] Available at: <>

Career advice and development. 2020. Incentive Theory of Motivation. [online] Available at: <,actions%20that%20may%20entail%20punishment.>

Sands, L., 2021. What are motivation theories? | Breathe HR Australia. [online] Available at: <,productive%20employee%20is%20more%20profitable.>

Mcleod, S., 2015. Unconscious Mind | Simply Psychology. [online] Available at: <>

Gagné, F. M., and Lydon, J. E. (2004). Bias and accuracy in close relationships: an integrative review. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Rev. 8, 322–338. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0804_1

Cherry, K., 2022. The Psychology of What Motivates Us. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: <>

External links edit