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Sunday
Dec212014

Reading Between The Lines: Bringing Your Partner Home For The Holidays

Saturday
Dec202014

Infographic: The 10 Most Interesting Dating Studies of 2014

We’re always looking for fun new ways to share relationship science with our readers. So when the folks at DatingAdvice.com contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in helping them create an infographic that highlights some of the great relationship science about dating that’s come out recently, we were more than happy to oblige. Admittedly, identifying the best empirical studies on relationships is a monumental feat. Simply put, relationship scientists all across the world produce so much great research that it’s hard to narrow the list. So we (the ScienceOfRelationships.com team) combed through hundreds of articles and chose a handful that highlight some interesting findings about dating, with an eye towards those studies that we could translate into fun graphics. The folks at DatingAdvice.com did the same, added some graphic design magic, and put them all together for the infographic below. If you’re dating now, have dated in the past, or plan on dating in the future, you might be surprised by some of these findings. Share widely.

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Friday
Dec192014

Are Americans Becoming Less Secure?

We’ve written extensively about attachment styles1 in romantic relationships (for example, read here and here for more on this topic). In a nutshell, people who are anxious tend to intensely desire connections with other people and are worried that their partners will abandon them whereas those who are avoidant tend to be wary of closeness to others and often feel that their partners want to be closer to them than they would like. Anxiety and avoidance are forms of insecure attachment, and those who do not have these characteristics have a secure attachment

Research on attachment styles in romantic relationships began in the late 1980s; more than 25 years of research on the topic has shown the importance of attachment for many aspects of relationship functioning. And now two decades of data on attachment researchers can ask, and answer, interesting questions about whether adult attachment styles have changed at the population-level over time. In other words, have American young adults become more or less secure since the late-1980s?

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Friday
Dec192014

This Holiday Season, Get Your Romantic Partner Exactly What He or She Wants

As the gift giving swings into full gear, the pressure is on to find that perfect gift for your significant other. But what sort of present will best communicate your affections? Should you scour the mall (or internet) in search of new gift-giving inspiration? Or should you “stick to the list”, and just give your partner what he or she wished for?

In a study on gift-giving, participants imagined1 either that they were trying to find a present for their romantic partners or that their partners were trying to find a present for them. When participants took the role of the “gift giver”, many believed that they should try to find a gift that was not on their partner’s wish list.  By ignoring the list and finding an alternate present, participants seemed to believe the rogue gift would communicate thoughtfulness and effort. But when participants took the role of the “gift receiver” they were actually more appreciative, and saw their partners as being more thoughtful, when their partners gave them a gift from their wish list rather than an alternative present.  The researchers also found similar effects for non-romantic relationships (e.g., friendships, parents): regardless of how close the gift recipient felt to the gift giver, wished-for gifts were always preferred. This effect held even when there was only one item on the wish list. So it would seem that surprises are over-rated!

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Thursday
Dec182014

Moral Boundaries in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 41

Consider the following (probably fictional) scenario, described in detail by pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman1 and paraphrased here: Jack and Jane are in a happy romantic relationship for 2 years. One day Jack receives an invitation from another woman living in his building to watch her masturbate in her apartment (with absolutely no physical contact and no emotional intimacy). Intrigued, he goes to her apartment to watch her masturbate, then returns to his room and goes to sleep. Jack believes this episode to be weird/strange, but not unethical. He innocently mentions it to Jane, who upon hearing this, becomes extremely upset and ends the relationship, cutting off all contact with Jack. 

What do you think about this situation? Did Jack do anything unethical? Is accepting an invitation to watch someone masturbate (while in a relationship with someone else) a moral violation?

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Wednesday
Dec172014

All I Want for Christmas is You: The Science of Gift Giving

Each year around mid-November, business owners begin to lick their chops: the next month will arguably be their busiest and most profitable. Last year, for example, Americans spent over $52 billion during the Thanksgiving weekend alone.1 Although large portions of these purchases are surely self-indulging, people also make a lot of purchases to take care of gift shopping for the upcoming holiday season.

Gift giving seems to be a biologically natural phenomenon across a range of species and targets – even organisms as simple as insects feel the need to get in on the giving. Male crickets, for example, gift their sexual partners with a nutritious treat to prevent them from prematurely consuming their sperm ampulla—essentially a big bag of sperm—after mating.2 Insect gift giving extends beyond sexual partners as well: burying beetles provide their young larvae with a tasty carcass to feed on and live in.3

Similarly, humans often provide their loved ones—children, mates, or otherwise—with an assortment of presents. Thankfully, these gifts tend to be less disgusting than those given by our insect counterparts. Although you may look forward to exchanging gifts with your loved ones this time of year, it’s worth asking: is gift giving good for relationships, or is it possible for gift giving to somehow harm close relationships?

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Wednesday
Dec172014

‘Tis the Season: 5 Principles For Spending Your Money Wisely During Holiday Gift Shopping

The holiday season is full of things that will test your relationship, like navigating office holiday parties, having to be friendly with the in-laws, managing your credit card balance, and dealing with kids’ unreasonable demands. Any of these can put stress on your relationship, but perhaps the biggest relationship challenge is picking the right gift for your partner. As we’ve discussed before, there is a science to gift-giving, but fundamentally, as the giver, you must decide on the best way to spend your money. When your partner unwraps your present (or, for the gift-wrapping challenged like me, simply lifts it out of a bag), how can you assure you’re getting your money’s worth?

Data from a large-scale national survey shows that we generally overestimate money’s effect on most people’s life satisfaction and happiness.1 Given that money doesn't buy happiness to the extent that most people believe, what should you spend your hard-earned-cash on this holiday season when buying a gift for your partner? A team of researchers reviewed previous studies on this topic to determine how to spend money to maximize happiness.2 Several of their principles provide insight into the best gifts to buy this holiday season.

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Tuesday
Dec162014

Dieting With Your Partner: Competition Is Futile

After gorging on a holiday meal and leftovers recently, the Consultant and I have completely obliterated our pre-holiday dieting goals. I generally do well with controlling my food portions, which is admittedly hard to do given the fact that food portion sizes have increased 700%1 inside and outside the home over the last 30 years. During the holidays, however, I give myself license to eat a little more because the extra serving of sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie is just too good. It is just once (or twice) a year, right? The holiday meal may not have been the real problem though; the main culprit for me was likely the larger portion sizes consumed on leftovers while family was still visiting.

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Monday
Dec152014

Sponsored: Free Online Dating in the US and Australia

Today we'd like to bring your attention to one of the booming internet markets that's changing the face of how people are connecting far and wide. Fuller Enterprises P/L has released two online dating platforms for the Australian and American matchmaking space. It is an absolutely free service which connects single men and women via various modules and functionalities including powerful zip code search tools, category matching and live chat rooms. Freedatingamerica.com and Freedatingaustralia.com.au is a local dating and friend finder service focused on fun and is attracting plenty of attention for thousands of enthusiasts who are looking for ways to date better and expand their circle of friends within their hometown.  

Thursday
Dec112014

How Relationships Change Us Over Time: Relationship Matters Podcast 40

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out! In this edition, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Kevin McIntyre (Trinity University) discusses research regarding how being in a relationship changes who we are as a person.  

Together with Dr. Bent Mattingly (Ursinus College) and Dr. Gary Lewandowski (Monmouth University), McIntyre studied the different ways people change when in a relationship. Specifically, they looked at four different types of changes we experience: (a) Self-expansion refers to people gaining positive personal traits from being in a relationship (e.g., gaining a new hobby one is pleased about), (s) self-adulteration refers to gaining negative personal traits (e.g., gaining a new bad habit one doesnt want), (3) self-contraction refers to losing positive personal traits (e.g., discontinuing a favorite activity), and (4) self-pruning reflects losing negative personal traits (e.g., losing a bad habit one is pleased to be rid of). 

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Tuesday
Dec092014

Can You Spot The Cheater? It Should Only Take You a Few Minutes

The next time you see a couple together, take a few minutes to observe how the partners interact with each other. Based on what you see, consider what you might be able to determine about their relationship. It seems reasonable that you could tell whether they enjoy spending time together or if they’re fighting. But based on your brief observation, could you pick out a cheater? It may sound implausible that anyone could accurately and quickly determine whether someone is cheating on a partner based on a quick observation like this. But researchers from Brigham Young University and Florida State University thought it may be easier than we might think and conducted a series of two studies to get some answers.

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Thursday
Dec042014

How Sweet Food Affects Our Romantic Interests: Relationship Matters Podcast 39

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out! In this installment, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dongning Ren (Purdue University) discusses her fascinating research on how the taste of food affects romantic perceptions.

People commonly refer to those with whom they are romantically involved as “sweetie”, “honey”, or “sugar.” It’s a nice sentiment, but could there be more underlying such labels  – i.e., are these words linked to our actual romantic perceptions? Ren, along with colleagues Kenneth Tan and Ximena Arriaga (both from Purdue University) and Kai Qin Chan (Raboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands), conducted three experiments to test the hypothesis that tasting something sweet increases the extent to which individuals judge relationships and potential partners positively.

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Tuesday
Dec022014

Love or Lust?: Follow the Eyes

What can you learn from a person’s gaze? Apparently, a lot. Researchers asked male and female participants to look at photos of couples or opposite-sex individuals and indicate whether the photos elicited lust (i.e., sexual desire) or love. Eye tracking software determined exactly what parts of the photos participants focused on when making their lust vs. love judgments. When deciding whether a given photo portrayed love, male and female participants focused on the faces depicted in the photos, but very little attention was paid to the individuals’ and couples’ bodies. In contrast, when looking for signs of lust, both males and females generally focused more on the bodies in the photos. The researchers suggest this work could inform interventions for therapists who want to identify how couple members view each other.

Bolmont, M., & Cacioppo, J. T., & Cacioppo, S. (2014). Love is in the gaze: An eye-tracking study of love and sexual desire. Psychological Science, 25, 1748-1756.

Tuesday
Nov252014

Four Things You Need to Consider When Deciding to Get Married

In a survey of over 1200 adolescents, 95% of them said that they would get married some day. But, I’m willing to bet that they weren’t ready to get married at the time they answered that question. Why? Likely because they’re young, and when you’re young it feels like you have a million things to take into account before you make a major life decision like getting married. In this post I discuss four things that people take into consideration when deciding whether or not to get married.

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Monday
Nov242014

What If Drivers Ed Was Taught Like Sex Ed?

Read our articles about sex education here.

Thursday
Nov202014

Social Influence and Teen Sex: What Matters and What Doesn’t

American parents often worry that their adolescent children are susceptible to their friends’ influence and will be pressured into having sex before they are ready to do so. Are these worries justified? 

Past research has found that social influence is associated with behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use among teenagers. A recent study extended this work and investigated whether three types of social influence predict adolescent sexual behavior...

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Tuesday
Nov182014

“Are You Listening?!” Cold-Shouldering a Partner’s Successes Leaves Relationships On Ice

When something great happens in our personal lives, it’s exciting to share the event with people close to us.  But at one time or another, you’ve probably disclosed some good news that wasn’t met with the degree of excitement or encouragement you had hoped for. It can be disappointing – even irritating – to get a lukewarm response when you expected the other person’s ardent interest. The process of telling others about our successes and getting a positive reaction is called “capitalization,” and research suggests it has benefits for romantic relationships. 

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Thursday
Nov132014

Stress & Conflict in Relationships: Relationship Matters Podcast 38

A new edition of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast is out. The podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, brings you the latest from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this edition, Dr. Gwendolyn Seidman (Albright College) discusses how the ways we view our partner affects how our partner reacts to conflict.

Seidman and her colleague, Dr. Christopher Burke (Lehigh University), tracked 264 couples over five weeks during which one member of the couple (i.e., the studier) was studying for the Bar Examination (a highly stressful test lawyers must pass to have the right to practice law in a given jurisdiction).

The research team was especially interested in how the studiers reacted to conflict given the high amount of stress they experienced while preparing for the Bar. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know whether the way partners viewed the studiers – i.e., did the partner see the studier more or less positively than the studier viewed him- or herself -- influenced how the studier felt and reacted when conflict occurred within the relationship.

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Wednesday
Nov122014

Men With Babies: Getting Women’s Phone Numbers is Child’s Play

Are males seen as more attractive if they’re good with babies? To answer this question, a male confederate sat near college-aged women who were alone in public. His “sister” (a female confederate) and her baby then joined him. The male either interacted with the baby by talking, playing, smiling and giving kisses, or ignored the baby. After his sister left, the male struck up a conversation with the female participants, complimented them, and then asked for her digits. When the male played with the baby, 40% of the women gave him their phone numbers compared to only 12% who gave him their phone numbers when he ignored the baby. 

Guéguen, N. (2014). Cues of men's parental investment and attractiveness for women: A field experiment. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 24(3), 296-300. doi:10.1080/10911359.2013.820160

Monday
Nov102014

“Will You be My Bonus Wife?” The Practice of Marrying Sisters in Malawi

Recently I was in Malawi to train a team of field workers to conduct a large-scale survey on HIV prevention behavior. Before such an international trip, I often get a lot of questions regarding the landscape or local culture of my destination from people who are not familiar with my work or the part of the world I happen to be visiting. Most recently, an acquaintance asked me several questions about multiple sexual partnerships and polygamy in Malawi. “Are people really okay with having multiple partners? Even the women? Even married people?” So during my uneventful nights in a remote hotel on top of a mountain in Malawi’s southern region, I did some reading on local marriage customs. Almost as if thoughts were planted by my acquaintance, I came across a concept I was unfamiliar with—the “bonus wife” (mbirigha or nthena in Chichewa, the local language).

In several Malawian cultures, a man acquires a “bonus wife” when he marries the younger sister or niece of his current wife.

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