PhD Candidate

Mariko Visserman

PhD Candidate

Phone: +31 (0) 20 598 9053
Room: 1B-33

Personal webpage

Research interests and Projects

Research interests

  • Personal-relational balance
  • Self-control
  • Sacrifice detection and biased perceptions
  • Motives for sacrifice
  • Gratitude
  • Relationship protection

My PhD project

In my PhD project, under supervision of Dr. Francesca Righetti and Prof. Dr. Paul van Lange, we mainly focus on how romantic couples deal with situations in which their interests diverge – and may call for one of them (or both) to sacrifice.

In a first project, we studied how romantic couples maintain a balance between their personal and relational goals and needs, as these may often compete for limited time and energy. More specifically, we examined the role of self-control (the ability to behave in a goal-directed manner) in maintaining this balance. As people do not always succeed in maintaining personal-relational balance, they may need the ability to successfully maintaining this balance. Our research shows that self-control provides such ability. Importantly, our results show that successfully balancing dedication to personal and relational needs is an important – and unrecognized – key to well-functioning relationships as well as to well-functioning people.

Furthermore, we study how perceptions of one's romantic partner's sacrifice motives relate to gratitude in the perceiving partner. Interestingly, our results show that people only feel more grateful (than they usually feel) when they perceive their partner to have sacrificed to benefit them specifically (e.g., to make them happy; i.e., partner-focused motives); whereas perceiving a partner to have sacrificed to benefit the relationship (i.e., relationship-focused motives), or to benefit themselves (self-focused motives) seems unrelated to gratitude. Moreover, perceptions of partner responsiveness mediate the association between partner-focused motives and gratitude; thus people feel more grateful when perceiving their partner to sacrifice to make them happy, at least in part because they perceive their partner as more responsive to their goals and needs.

Most recently, we have also started to examine how accurately people perceive their partner's sacrfices, using a quasi-signal detection analysis approach. When a partner sacrifices, how likely are people to actually "see" this sacrifice? And how is this related to how grateful they feel toward their partner? Morover on the topic of accuracy and bias in perceptions of partner's sacrifices, we are investigating how accurate and how biased people's perceptions are of the costs that the partner occurs when making a sacrifice.

Other topics that I am interested in include:

  • How do romantically involved individuals protect their relationship from the threat that attractive alternative dating partners may pose to the maintenance of the relationship?
  • How does male status affect women’s self-presentation: do women dress to impress when interacting with a high status man, as compared to a man with lower status?


My fascination for why people behave the way they do drove me to study Psychology, at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. Next to the Bachelor Psychology I followed an Honors Program every year (Cum Laude). I completed the Research Master Behavioural Science at the same university (8.3 average grade), under supervision of Dr. J. C. Karremans. During this time I started to realize that I can turn my passion into work: studying romantic relationships. I am very interested in what determines relationship happiness, e.g., what factors contribute to relationship success and individual well-being of romantic partners. I am very grateful for being able to study parts of this puzzle in my PhD project here at the VU, which I started in October 2013.

Curriculum Vitae


Google Scholar

Recent publications

ML Visserman, EA Impett, F Righetti, A Muise, D Keltner & PAM Van Lange (2018) To “See” Is to Feel Grateful? A Quasi-Signal Detection Analysis of Romantic Partners’ Sacrifices. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1948550618757599
ML Visserman, F Righetti, EA Impett, D Keltner & PAM Van Lange (2017) It’s the Motive That Counts: Perceived Sacrifice Motives and Gratitude in Romantic Relationships.. American Psychological Association
F Righetti & M Visserman (2017) I Gave Too Much: Low Self-Esteem and the Regret of Sacrifices. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1948550617707019
ML Visserman, F Righetti, M Kumashiro & PAM Van Lange (2017) Me or us? Self-control promotes a healthy balance between personal and relationship concerns. Social Psychological and Personality Science 8 (1), 55-65
F Righetti, J Gere, W Hofmann, ML Visserman & PAM Van Lange (2016) The burden of empathy: Partners’ responses to divergence of interests in daily life.. Emotion 16 (5), 684
F Righetti, D Balliet, M Visserman & W Hofmann (2015) Trust and the suppression of emotions during sacrifice in close relationships. Social Cognition 33 (5), 505-519
ML Visserman, F Righetti, EA Impett, D Keltner & PAM van Lange (2015) Thanks for making me happy! Perceived partner’s sacrifice motives and gratitude..
ML Visserman, F Righetti, M Kumashiro & PAM van Lange (2015) Me or Us? Controlling the balance between personal and relationship concerns.
ML Visserman & JC Karremans (2014) Romantic relationship status biases the processing of an attractive alternative's behavior. Personal Relationships 21 (2), 324-334
ML Visserman, F Righetti & PAM van Lange (2014) Me or us? Controlling the balance between personal and relationship needs.
ML Visserman & JC Karremans (2014) Beautiful, but not so Nice in Memory: Romantic Relationship Status Biases the Processing of an Attractive Alternative’s Behavior.
ML Visserman & J Karremans (2013) Een aantrekkelijk alternatief in een negatief daglicht: Een vertekening in het verwerken van gedragsinformatie bij mensen in een relatie. Dotsch, R.; Papies, EK; Pronk, TM; Rutjens, BT; Toorn, J. van der; Ufkes, EG …

View full list of publications on Google Scholar