Friday
Nov172017

Can a Plane Crash Make You Fall in Love? 

If you have seen an action movie in the last two decades (SpeedMission: ImpossibleJurassic World, Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, any James Bond film) then you know that if two conventionally attractive strangers live through a life-or-death experience together, they are incredibly likely to develop a romance. That’s also the premise of the new Idris Elba and Kate Winslet film, The Mountain Between Us, in which the two Hollywood stars are stranded in a remote wilderness following a plane crash. It’s also the premise of the film’s promotional campaign, which has included commissioning articles quoting psychologists on the various reasons this kind of action movie romance is totally plausible. These films are occasionally echoed by real-life examples of post-disaster romance, as with the “Miracle on the Hudson” Flight 1549 survivors who met after the crash and soon married.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov102017

Some Things You Know You Have Before They’re Gone

A wise man (with amazing hair) once crooned “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. The statement’s intended interpretation is that we often take for granted the positive characteristics of our romantic partners up until the moment the relationship is lost.

But is it possible that there are some things we do know we have before we’ve lost them, and that we go out of our way to hang on tight? In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Joshua Oltmanns, Patrick Markey, and Juliana French hypothesized just that. Specifically, they argued that people in relationships are especially in tune how their own physical attractiveness stacks up relative to their partner.1 And when an individual perceives their partner is the relatively more attractive one, they will do things, subtly and not so subtly, to keep their hotter partner all to themselves.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov032017

Dating Your Boss May Be Bad For Your Career

Getting romantically involved with a coworker is not uncommon; it’s estimated that nearly 10 million workplace romances start each year, and about half of all white-collar workers have been involved in a workplace romance at some point during their careers.1 Among these workplace romances, nearly a third involve relationships between an employee and a coworker with higher status in the organization.1 Although these status differences may result in problematic power dynamics within the relationship, it’s also reasonable to assume dating one’s boss leads to more career opportunities (e.g., benefits of favoritism). At the same time, however, people with knowledge of the workplace tryst might think less favorably of those who become romantically involved with their bosses, resenting them for appearing to use that relationship to advance their careers.

Across two studies1 published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Suzanne Chan-Serafin and her colleagues investigated the effects of subordinate-boss workplace relationships on individuals’ career development. The researchers hypothesized that those who are romantically-involved with a superior at work would receive fewer opportunities for training and promotion by third-party evaluators.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct272017

Better Than You Think: The Impact of TV on Your Relationship

Television often gets a bad rap. If your mom was anything like mine, she often warned that if you sat too long in front of the TV it would “rot your brain.” TV’s potential for brain degradation aside, because watching TV is enjoyable, it feels natural to assume there is a catch. Something we clearly like so much must have detrimental effects, including hurting your relationship, right? Not so fast. A recent article from the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships challenges that assumption and tests whether watching TV with your partner could actually improve your relationship.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct202017

Is There a Gene “for” Divorce?

One of my colleagues has a coffee mug that I think summarizes the whole genes vs. environment debate pretty well: “Nature or nurture, either way it’s your parents’ fault.” Cheeky coffee mugs aside, one of the enduring legacies that our parents give us is their DNA. We know that genes influence all sorts of outcomes—how tall we are, how much we weigh, the color of our eyes, and our likelihood of developing certain diseases and disorders. But, it was only about 25 years ago that researchers started to look at the influence of this genetic blueprint on our relationship outcomes. 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct132017

50 Playful Dates to Keep the Novelty Alive in Your Relationship

A recent discussion in my Psychology of Close Relationships class probed the topic of how relationships transition from hot and heavy to more comfortable and emotionally intimate. As you can imagine, this isn’t always welcome news to an undergraduate and the discussion quickly turned to how to avoid this relationship rite of passage.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that this transition is totally normal and has to do with the diminishing amount of novelty and excitement in the relationship. One way to stave off this transition is by adding novelty back into your partnership. Researchers have examined this phenomenon from a self-expansion standpoint and claim that people have an innate drive to grow, learn, and expand.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct062017

Hopelessly Romantic and Easily Disappointed?

America is a country of romantics: we love our reality dating shows, rom-coms, and Disney princess movies. Romantic beliefs, like the ideas of love at first sight, “love will overcome all obstacles,” and “happily ever after“ are pervasive in our culture. Have you ever wondered whether these idealized beliefs regarding romanticism hurt relationships? The argument that they are harmful goes like this: (1) high romanticism leads to high expectations for your relationships: that you should never fight with your partner, that they will never let you down, and that you will always have amazing sex together. Sounds great, right? The problem is that with such lofty ideal standards for your relationship, (2) you’ve set yourself up to fail because these unrealistic expectations are, well, unrealistic. With such high expectations, your partner and relationship will surely let you down, and (3) this disappointment should cause you to be dissatisfied. But is this 3-step plan to dissatisfaction supported by the data?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep292017

Pumpkin Spice Latte for the Soul

Fall is here and that means one thing…Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte is Back! Have you ever wondered why this annual tradition seems to be such a big deal to the general populace? Sure, the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) is delicious, but how excited should one get about a beverage? It may be that some of the PSL-mania stems from how the drink makes us feel rather than how it tastes.

Relationship science could argue that the pumpkin spice lattes speak to consumers on a number of unconscious levels.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep222017

We Grow Older Together, But Lonely

Loneliness is a particularly negative psychological experience that is linked to poor physical health. Single people and those who live alone are susceptible to loneliness, as are those who have poor quality social relationships. In fact, even those who have long-term relationships, such as married people, can experience loneliness if their marriages are unfulfilling. What is it about a poor quality marriage that results in feelings of loneliness?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep152017

"As Strong as its Weakest Link": How Your Partner's Chain of Events Affects Yours

If you’ve ever listened to Beyoncé you probably understand the importance of having independence in a relationship. On the other hand, relationships in which your partner completely dependent on you are never pretty. But even more important (and less talked about) than these two concepts is the amount of interdependence in your close relationships. As it turns out, interdependence is a major determinant of relational success.1

So what is interdependence? Well, it depends on what type of relationship you’re talking about. Your most intimate relationships are the most entangled, which means that these people have the most influence on your daily goals and activities.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep082017

The Relationship is a Changin’: The Benefits Achieved When Partners Change Together

There is a well-worn saying, often mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein, suggesting “women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not.”1 This statement may or may not be true, but highlights an interesting (and understudied) relationship dynamic: Change plays an important role in relationships. It is natural to wonder how long your relationship will last, whether you will fall out of love, whether you’ll have children and what they’ll be like, how your partner will be as a parent, whether you’ll get a divorce, etc. The common denominator in each of these inquiries is that you and your partner will experience your fair share of change along the way. But is this change good?

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul032017

Infographic: Why Do People Swipe Right (or Left) on Tinder

Thursday
Jun012017

Can Using Hormonal Birth Control Affect the Health of Future Children?

When choosing a partner to have children with, it is only natural to desire “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella,” who may pass on their beneficial genetic qualities to future kids. Given that better genes increase the offspring's survival and reproduction chances, mechanisms that detect “genetic quality” should have evolved to lead people to be sexually attracted to “knights in shining genes.”

One such cue for mate suitability is odor, which signals compatibility between potential mates' immune systems. Specifically, odor indicates the extent of overlapping between potential mates' immune systems, such that more attractive odor signals less overlap between mates' immune systems. The larger the dissimilarity between mates' immune systems, the more threats the immune system can combat.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May162017

Can Random Numbers Affect Our Relationship Judgements? Yes...If We Like What They Imply

What are the odds, from 0 to 100%, that someone will break your heart within the next five years?

How did you answer this question? Maybe you thought about your past relationship experiences, or the person you’re dating right now. Maybe you thought about relevant statistics, like the divorce rate, or the average rate of infidelity. But imagine that just before you read this question, you happened to be checking the weather and saw that the chance of rain tomorrow is 10%. Would that information influence your estimate? What if the chance of rain was 90%?

Arbitrary numbers—referred to by researchers as numerical anchors—can have a surprisingly large impact on people's judgments.1 We often lack the information we need for the judgments we are asked to make. You might be asked to estimate the length of the Nile river, for example, and find that you can only guess at the answer. To make that judgment, research shows that you are likely to grasp at whatever information you happen to have on hand, even if it’s completely irrelevant. If you’ve recently been looking at the prices of new cars, you might guess that the Nile is shorter than if you’ve recently been looking at the prices of new houses. This phenomenon, known as the anchoring effect, has been demonstrated in hundreds of studies on everything from general knowledge to legal sentencing decisions.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May102017

Post-Divorce Dating and Relationships

Unfortunately, every romantic relationship does not end happily ever after. For a myriad of reasons, after people get married the romantic love they feel towards their partners often decreases.1 As a result, those relationships could end in divorce.

To better understand how the experience of divorce affects how individuals’ think about relationships, researchers conducted a series of in-depth interviews with divorced men and women aged 21 to 63.2  The interviews focused on how divorcees interpreted their experiences and used them to redefine how they approached intimacy in their (new) post-divorce relationships. Analysis of the interviews indicated a primary theme of post-divorce relationships was the view of intimacy based on equal friendship, respect for individual differences, and each person having a sense of self-sufficiency.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May032017

More Sex and Happy Relationships: It’s Automatic

When relationship partners have more sex, their relationship satisfaction is higher. Seems obvious, right? Maybe not. Previous research on sexual frequency and relationship quality has not been able to conclusively link these variables. There may be a few reasons for this. For example, quantity of sex may not consistently align with quality. You could have lots of really bad sex or have really amazing sex, but less often. It is also hard to tell what frequency really means, because those numbers may hold different meaning to different people based on expectations. That is, if a couple has sex twice a week, one partner may see that as more than they hoped for, while the other considers it inadequate.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr172017

Romeo and Juliet Would Have Broken up…Quickly

We all have that one friend who is in a terrible relationship with a person whom you simply cannot stand. You know what I mean, the on-again off-again relationship…the one where your friend/family member is WAY too good for the person that they’re dating. The kind of relationship where the couple constantly argues, makes up, then starts another argument as they’re in the middle of making up. As a friend or family member it’s exhausting to watch someone go through that cycle. But even more exhausting is the fact that you have to deal with a person (your friend’s partner) you don’t like! And no matter how many “talks” you have with your friend it feels like they just won’t listen to your advice. Well it might feel that way, but according to the research your disapproval is actually making the relationship worse…which is great if you’re rooting for a breakup.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar282017

Unleash the Tongue: The Effect of Sex on Self-Disclosure

The sexual behavioral system evolved to motivate reproductive acts. The primary strategy for achieving this goal is to approach a potentially fertile partner, convince him or her to have sex, and engage in genital intercourse. However, human offspring are vulnerable throughout an exceptionally prolonged development period. Hence, in ancestral environments, sexual partners needed to stay together long enough to jointly care for their offspring during the period of maximum vulnerability, thereby increasing the offspring’s chances of survival and future reproductive success.

Over the course of human evolution, selection pressures have produced mechanisms that keep sexual partners attached to each other for an extended period, motivate them to remain in a committed relationship and engage in co-parenting behaviors following an offspring’s birth.1 Several characteristics of human sexuality suggest that the sexual system has been “exploited” by evolutionary processes to serve such a function.2 Humans, for example, tend to have sex in private and to sleep together afterwards. Humans also frequently have sex in the “missionary position”, which, by contrast to the typical sex positions of most mammals (e.g., canines), allows partners to maintain face-to-face contact during sexual intercourse. These and other similar behavioral tendencies foster extended close contact between sexual partners and make them feel more intimate with each other, thereby promoting enduring attachment bonds between them.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Mar062017

The Silver Lining to Sacrificing for Your Partner

It is probably easy for most people who have been in a long-term relationship to think of a time (probably many times!) when they gave up something they wanted for their partner. These relationship sacrifices can be quite costly, since they’re often time consuming and undesirable activities, like spending a Saturday night with your partner’s friends instead of your own. In this article, I want to talk about the silver lining of making sacrifices—the benefits that we don’t always think about when we’re stuck in traffic to pick up a partner’s dry cleaning or watching Love Actually for the 12th time.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Feb272017

Your Ideal Marriage Partner: Intelligence Edition

One of the great things about being a relationship scientist is that you get to ask interesting questions and find out the answers to those questions. One question that has always intrigued me is whether people want a smart partner, and if so, how smart? I have also wondered if men and women will differ (i.e., will men be less likely to want a smarter partner?)

On the one hand, an intelligent partner would be more desirable because you may benefit from more insightful conversation, a better sense of humor, and more successful career outcomes. On the other hand, if your partner is smarter than you they may have more power and influence, and thus make more of the decisions and it could make you feel bad about yourself due to social comparison. 

Click to read more ...