The role of rapport in satisfying one’s basic psychological needs

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Psychological need satisfaction is essential for daily human functioning and one of its sources is high quality interactions. Rapport is essential to high quality interactions and may be one way that various relationships types can provide the nutriments of healthy functioning. We hypothesized that when people perceive interactions to be higher in rapport, they will experience greater satisfaction of their needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We also explored whether this would be a basic process that would be altered by the relationship between interactants, testing this with multiple operationalizations. We conducted an event-contingent diary study in which participants (nparticipants = 124) responded to items at baseline, each time they experienced an interaction (ninteraction = 1293), and at two-week follow-up. Supporting hypotheses, rapport in interactions was positively associated with need satisfaction within-persons, between-persons, cross-sectionally, and when examining temporal change. Moreover, rapport tended to predict the satisfaction of one’s needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness independently. Finally, relationships between interactants did not moderate these associations.

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  1. 1.

    Ideally, there might be reports from both interactants. This is an issue we return to in the discussion.

  2. 2.

    Controlling for both satisfaction and intimacy did not alter the results of our cross-sectional, lagged, or chronic rapport- > follow-up need satisfaction analyses.

  3. 3.

    For psychometric information pertaining to the rapport items within different kinds of relationships and for all measures included in this study including measurement occasions and exact scale and text of those measures please visit

  4. 4.

    We repeated our tests of temporal precedence with need satisfaction entered as predictors of rapport (see supplemental tables). The lagged models revealed that each need was a statistically significant predictor of rapport controlling for the rapport of the previous interaction. The between-persons models of baseline need satisfaction predicting chronic rapport did not provide converging evidence in that none of the needs were statistically significant predictors of rapport.


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Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers F31AA026195. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


This study was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (F31AA026195). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Zachary G. Baker.

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Zachary Baker declares that he has no conflict of interest. Emily Watlington declares that she has no conflict of interest. C. Raymond Knee declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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Baker, Z.G., Watlington, E.M. & Knee, C.R. The role of rapport in satisfying one’s basic psychological needs. Motiv Emot (2020) doi:10.1007/s11031-020-09819-5

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  • Rapport
  • Self-determination
  • Need satisfaction
  • Interaction