David A. Kenny
April 5, 2021


Appendix A of the 2019 book Interpersonal Perception: The Foundation of Social Relationships for a technical description of the model, as well as Chapter 2 of Interpersonal Perception: A Social Relations Analysis. See the acknowledgments of the 1994 book for more details on the history of the model.

In the Social Relations Model, a perception that a perceiver has of a target is separated into three components: perceiver, target, and relationship. The perceiver effect reflects how the person tends to see others; the target effect reflects how a person is seen in general by others; and the relationship effect reflects how a perceiver uniquely sees the target. These components are used to answer the nine basic questions of interpersonal perception. So if we have how much much Mary likes her little lamb, the perceiver effect would represent how much Mary on average likes little lambs, the target effect reflects how much the little lamb is liked by others, and the relationship effect is how much Mary likes her little lamb.

The model also accounts for correlations in dyadic relations. There are two such correlations. The first is the correlation between the perceiver effect with the target effect: If John generally likes others and others generally like John, there is what is called generalized reciprocity. If John especially likes James, and James especially likes John, there is what is called dyadic reciprocity, a correlation between relationship effects.

The Social Relations Model was developed by Larry La Voie and myself in the late 1970s and named after the interdisciplinary social science department at Harvard University that no longer exists. The model describes dyadic relationships when variables are measured on a continuous scale. Back and Kenny (2010) provide a relatively non-technical introduction to the model.


Round robin: Each person in the group rates or judges everyone else in the group. Most studies of interpersonal perception use this design

Block: The group is divided into two subgroups, and each person rates everyone who is in the other subgroup.

If each person is a member of one only dyad (e.g., married couples outside of places in Utah), then the Social Relations cannot be used.  However, sophisticated analyses of such designs are possible (see Dyadic Data Analysis).

Back, M. D., & Kenny, D. A. (2010). The Soial Relations Model: How to understand dyadic processes. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4, 855-870.

Kenny, D. A., & La Voie, L. (1984). The Social Relations Model. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 18, pp. 142–182). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

To go to the page that describes the model in more detail

To go to the page that describes the mathematics of the model.

Go to the page that contains a bibliography of Social Relations Model studies: pdf

Go to the next Interpersonal Perception page.

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