AskDefine | Define complementary

Dictionary Definition

complementary adj
1 acting as or providing a complement (something that completes the whole) [syn: complemental, completing]
2 of words or propositions so related that each is the negation of the other; "`male' and `female' are complementary terms"
3 of or relating to or suggestive of complementation; "interchangeable electric outlets" [syn: interchangeable, reciprocal] n : either one of two chromatic colors that when mixed together give white (in the case of lights) or gray (in the case of pigments); "yellow and blue are complementaries" [syn: complementary color]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. acting as a complement
  2. of the specific pairings of the bases in DNA and RNA


acting as a complement
of the specific pairings of the bases in DNA and RNA

Usage notes

  • Complementary and complimentary are frequently confused and misused in place of one another.

Extensive Definition

Complementarity is a concept in a number of fields:
  • In economics, it may refer to either
  • In physics, it may refer to either
  • In molecular biology, it is a property of nucleic acid molecules. See Complementarity (molecular biology)
  • In systems thinking, it is a principle concerning the observability of system behaviour. In systems theory, any description of a system reflects the point of view of a particular observer. The principle of complementarity states that, for any reasonably complex system, the views of any two observers will be complementary – it will be impossible to derive all the observations of one of the observers from the other. The principle applies whenever we have partial descriptions of the world from our observers, and may disappear if we ask the observers to make increasingly detailed observations.
  • In social psychology, it is the idea that people seek others with characteristics that are different from and complement their own , aka the idea that opposites attract.
  • In international law and international jurisprudence, the principle that the higher (supranational) judicial body can only take prosecutorial jurisdiction or authority in cases where the lower (national) judicial system is not investigating or prosecuting or has not been investigating or prosecuting a crime. “It ensures that the [international] authority does not supplant the role of national authorities in the administration of criminal justice.” “The exception to this rule should be where the national proceedings are ‘ineffective’ or ‘unavailable,’ rather than where the state is ‘unwilling’ or ‘unable.’” It is intended to “assure that national authorities will remain the first line of investigation and prosecution” and not be usurped by international judicial authorities. Its particular relevance is to the functioning of the International Criminal Court [ICC].

Complementarity (in social psychology)

Complementarity in social psychology is defined on the basis of the interpersonal circle (Carson, 1969), according to which, interpersonal behaviors fall on a circle with two dimensions, namely dominance (i.e. dominant-submissive) and warmth (i.e. hostile-friendly). It states that each interpersonal behavior invites certain responses of another interactant. The behavior and the response it invites are said to be complementary (Horowitz, Dryer, & Krasnoperova, 1997) when friendly behavior begets friendly behavior, and dominant behavior begets submissive behavior. When people fail to give the invited response, it is said to be a non-complementary interaction. If the first person’s behavior invites a reaction from the second person that matches the second person’s goals, then the second person is satisfied; otherwise, the second person is frustrated (Dryer & Horowitz, 1997)

Factors affecting complementarity

  • Setting i.e. in work, at home, in recreation and others
High complementarity in agentic behaviors is found in office settings whereas high complementarity in communal behaviors is found in non-office settings (Moskowitz et al. 2007). In an office setting, dominant agentic behaviors such as setting goals and making suggestions may be complemented with submissive agentic behaviors like avoiding taking the lead and not expressing their own views. At home, recreation and others, on the one hand, friendly communal behaviors such as smiling may invite similar behaviors like compromising about a decision. On the other hand, hostile communal behaviors like showing impatience may beget similar behaviors like showing no response to partners (Moskowitz et al. 2007).
  • Social Role Status e.g. supervisors, coworker and supervisee
High complementarity is found in supervisors (high-status, high powered), they can act freely in their own way. Less complementarity is found in supervisees (low-status, low-powered), as they are normally guided by social norms which mold their behaviors. (Moskowitz, 2007; Locke, 2007).
  • Time e.g. strangers, old friends
High levels of complementarity are presumed to be stable over time than those low levels of complementarity (Tracey, 2004). Greater levels of complementarity are developed when people have known each other for a long time than when they are newly acquainted (Tracey, 2004; Markey, Kurtz, 2006 stated in Moskowitz, 2007). However, contradictory result is also found in a study conducted by Ansell (2008). Moderating effect of gender difference in complementarity Complementary can be influenced by different relationship styles on male and female. Girls in general love communal behaviors such as social conversation and self-disclosure whereas boys love dominance behaviors such as competitive, organized or rough-and-tumble play. These developmentally differences can result in different peer relationships. A study by Ansell (2008) among 120 college students found that women reported significantly more complementarity than men among roommate dyads. The higher level of complementarity on dominance behaviors such as setting goals and making suggestions as found in both men and women dyads, the more cohesive the relationship was reported (Ansell, 2008).


  • Action G. Scott (2001), The Interpersonal Principle of Complementarity:A Meta-Analysis, Retrieved Apr 2, 2008, from
  • Ansell, E. B.; Kurtz, J. E.; Markey, P. M. (2008) Gender Differences in Interpersonal Complementarity Within Roommate Dyads, Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 4 pp. 502-512, April 2008
  • Carson, R. (1969). Interaction concepts of personality. Chicago: Aldine.
  • Dryer, D. C.; Horowitz, Leonard M. (1997) When Do Opposite Attract? Interpersonal Complementarity Versus Similarity, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol 72 No. 3, 592-603, 1997
  • Horowitz, L. M., Dryer, D. C., & Krasnoperova, E. N. (1997). The circumplex structure of interpersonal problems. In R. Plutchik & H. R. Conte (Eds.), Circumplex models of personality and emotions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Locke, Kenneth D.; Sadler, Pamela (2007) Self-Efficacy, Values, and Complementarity in Dyadic Interactions: Integrating Interpersonal and Social-Cognitive Theory, Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 94-109, January 2007
  • Moskowitz, D.s.; Ho, Moon-ho Ringo; Turcotte-tremblay, Anne-marie (2007) Contextual Influences on Interpersonal Complementarity, Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 33, no. 8, pp. 1051-1063, August 2007
  • Tracey, Terence J. G. (2004) Levels of Interpersonal Complementarity: A Simplex Representation, Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 30, no. 9, pp. 1211-1225, September 2004
complementary in Czech: Komplementarita

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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