You just don’t get it: The impact of misunderstanding on psychological and physiological health

Erin Crockett*, Monique Pollmann, Ana Olvera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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We examined the effects of felt (mis)understanding on satisfaction, stress, and motivation in two different studies. In Study 1, we used an experimental design in which 72 participants (54 women, 18 men) engaged in understanding or misunderstanding interactions. Afterward, we measured their satisfaction with the interaction and their motivation for and performance on a subsequent task. Consistent with our hypotheses, we found that people who had a misunderstanding interaction reported lower interaction satisfaction, motivation, and poorer performance than those who were given no instructions. In Study 2, we used diary methodology and measured diurnal cortisol slopes (N = 86; 63 women, 21 men) to determine how day to day fluctuations in understanding and misunderstanding were associated with daily feelings of motivation, satisfaction, and perceived stress. Consistent with our hypotheses, the results found that feeling misunderstood predicted higher perceived stress, lower life satisfaction and motivation as well as less healthy cortisol slopes. Felt understanding predicted higher life satisfaction and higher motivation in Study 2 (not Study 1). Similar to other relationship constructs, our findings suggest that the physical and psychological impact of misunderstanding is important to consider distinct from understanding. Further, they suggest that not feeling misunderstood by our close others may matter more than feeling understood by them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2847-2868
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2022


  • (Mis)understanding
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Motivation
  • Stress


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