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Friday
Oct312014

The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Motivates Users and Companies

Read Part 1 of this series here: The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real

People are shallow. Psychological science has demonstrated that people often use a “what is beautiful is good” mental shortcut.1 People tend to assume positive characteristics about others based on physical attractiveness, even though these perceptions are not accurate. This bias for beauty has been shown in all types of contexts that are not limited to online dating. A classic study from the 60s on in-person dating found that a date’s hot body/face predicted romantic attraction more than personality traits, intelligence, popularity/charisma, mental health, and self-esteem.

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Thursday
Oct302014

Oxytocin – The Love Hormone: Relationship Matters Podcast 37

The new season of SAGE’s “Relationship Matters” podcast has begun! Hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, “Relationship Matters” brings you the latest from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. In this season’s premier, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad (Brigham Young University) discusses her research on the link between relationship quality and oxytocin.

Researchers have long been interested in the hormone oxytocin’s role in inducing labor in mothers and in promoting healthy bonding between mothers and newborn infants. Over the past decade, however, oxytocin’s role in adult romantic functioning has received increasing empirical attention. Some studies find that couples with higher relationship quality show higher oxytocin levels. Explanations for this association include (a) higher levels of oxytocin lead to lower levels of disagreement, (b) lower levels of disagreement lead to higher level of oxytocin, (c) both a and b, or (d) none of the above – some other variable is responsible. Interestingly, other studies find that those higher in distress have increased oxytocin – perhaps as a function of trying to promote or recapture relationship harmony. 

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Wednesday
Oct292014

What Happens When Relationship Researchers Fall Short?

We have been a romantic couple for almost 20 years, married for 13 years, produced two wonderful children, moved across the country for academic jobs, conducted numerous scientific studies examining romantic couples, and…will soon be divorced. How could two people who study why romantic couples fail or succeed be such utter failures themselves? The answer is easy: we are human. Like everyone else we have faults. We argue. We disagree. We neglect. We make bad choices. In the past, we have always been able to survive these shortcomings.

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Monday
Oct272014

A Flirter’s Dilemma: Subtlety vs. Success

Flirting comes in many forms: a casual gaze that lingers a half second longer than necessary, a light touch, an amorous expression, an overenthusiastic laugh during conversation, or even some playful or overtly sexual banter.

Regardless of the technique employed, flirting aims to fulfill one purpose: stimulate sexual interest. To be clear, though, flirting may not have the explicit goal of having sex or even physical intimacy of any kind. A person may flirt simply to pass the time, to feel close, to see if they’ve still got it or because it’s fun. Flirting motivations differ by gender. Big surprise: men’s flirting is more motivated by sex, while women’s flirting is more motivated by having fun or becoming closer to another person.

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Saturday
Oct252014

How Love Usually Goes...

Friday
Oct242014

The Truth Behind Online Dating: What Is and Isn’t Real

Though still quite new (relatively) in our culture, and a bit daunting, more and more people are venturing into the online dating world for romance and sex. Below, I’ve compiled some evidence-based tips to help you navigate online dating websites and, hopefully, find what you’re looking for. 

People aren’t always what they seem. Deception is common in online dating—and I’m not talking about Catfishing, I’m talking about people presenting themselves as somewhat better than they actually are (taller, thinner, smarter, sexier, wealthier, fewer cats, etc.). This type of self-enhancement is a subtle form of deception, but deception all the same.1 Most people who make an online dating profile do this, which makes sense because pretty much everyone fudges a little bit. This strategic self-presentation is not limited to online dating; it happens in a lot of different social contexts (consider how we portray ourselves on resumes).

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Wednesday
Oct222014

Breaking-Up Bad: Break-Ups, Crime, Drug Use, and Drinking

Break-ups are difficult and can lead a person to engage in a variety of negative behaviors designed to help get over an ex. While coping by avoiding others, eating too much (or too little), or writing a song (we’re looking at you Taylor Swift) might be common, others may turn to more extreme, and even criminal, behaviors following the end of their relationships. 

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Monday
Oct202014

How Do Important Relationship Events Impact Our Well-Being?

Perhaps no life events fill us with more joy or sadness than those that involve important relationship partners. Whether we are committing to lifelong partnerships with someone we love, bringing a new addition to the family, leaving a bad relationship, or losing a loved one, relationship events may have different effects on how satisfied and happy we are with our lives. 

How do important relationship events impact our well-being over time? In a recent meta-analysis (a research paper that combines results from similar studies), researchers examined this very question. Specifically, they studied how our cognitive and emotional well-being change over time in response to four important life events: marriage, divorce, bereavement, and the birth of a child.

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Saturday
Oct182014

15 Bisexual Girl Problems

Warning...This video is slightly NSFW.

 

Friday
Oct172014

Diamonds Aren’t Forever: Expensive Rings and Weddings May Lead to Relationship Problems

My husband and I got hitched this past June, which I can honestly say was one of the happiest and most transcendent experiences of my life. However, we both agree that whereas the wedding was awesome, the wedding planning process was decidedly not awesome. Navigating the wedding industry can be quite frustrating, in part because of the relentless pressure to spend fantastic amounts of money on anything and everything wedding-related. As a relationships researcher, I was particularly interested in, and baffled by, the rhetoric that many vendors use in order to sell wedding services and products.

Many of the sales pitches boil down to the idea that couples in love should want expensive weddings. Vendors will argue that if you truly love your partner, you should be willing to go to any lengths (at least monetarily) to properly celebrate that love on your “special day”. For example, maybe you want to show your love for your partner by getting a fancy gilded guestbook for your guests to sign, or personally monogrammed hand towels for the reception bathroom. Sometimes the rhetoric even goes so far as to suggest that an expensive wedding guarantees you true love. With a perfectly straight face, some vendors will tell you that your wedding day will “set the tone” for your marriage, and you should be willing to do anything it takes to start your marriage off “on the right foot”. For example, perhaps you should set the right tone by hiring a 20-piece orchestra for your ceremony, or limos to transport all your guests to the reception.

Examples of this sort of advertising can be traced back to the 1940s, when De Beers diamond company launched their infamous “Diamonds are forever” campaign. Indeed, many of the social norms around marriage proposals—such as the arbitrary benchmark of two months’ salary that men should spend on an engagement ring—come from De Beers’ successful advertising efforts. Like the wedding industry more broadly, the diamond industry relies on the premise that spending a great deal of money shows love for your partner and predicts relationship success. This idea is widespread in our culture, likely because it is a marketer’s dream: who wouldn’t pay any price to ensure marital bliss? What’s less clear is how accurate these notions are. To what extent do high levels of spending actually predict marital bliss?

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Wednesday
Oct152014

Your First Date: Make Sure Your Genes Fit

Getting ready for a first date involves preparations to look and feel good. It might involve a new ‘do,’ a clean shave, or fresh new outfit with a great pair of jeans that fit perfectly. But great-fitting jeans are not the only thing that people are making sure fit before their first date. People can now check that their genes fit. Yep, genes -- as in our DNA -- before going on a first date. 

Love Is In the Air

Our body smell is an important determining factor of whether someone else finds us attractive or not. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know who is really attracted to someone they think smells bad. If anything, people remark at how good the person smells. In fact, smell is so important that a huge industry making perfumes and colognes thrives off our desire to smell good to one another. Smell is so important that women rank it higher than appearance when asked what they consider to be the single most important variable in mate choice!

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Monday
Oct132014

Debunking Myths About Sexual Fluidity

I’m a huge fan of Slate Magazine (I read it almost daily). But recently they ran a piece that portrayed sexual fluidity in a way that was less than accurate, and perhaps ideologically biased. In the interest of scientific accuracy, I wanted to set the record straight.

What is sexual fluidity?

The Slate article contained a bold claim that, “there's absolutely no scientific evidence that female sexuality is fluid—at least not in any novel way.” This is incorrect—scientists have found a lot of evidence to support the claim that female sexuality is fluid.

But what exactly is sexual fluidity? It’s a fairly simple concept: people’s sexual responses are not set in stone, and can change over time, often depending on the immediate situation they’re in.

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Saturday
Oct112014

xkcd.com: Marriage Approval vs. Legal Status

Friday
Oct102014

Date Night Done Right: How To Maximize the Effects of Spending Time Together

There’s a lot of evidence from research over the past 20 years that supports the conclusion that engaging in new and fun activities with one’s romantic partner enhances relationship quality. Recent work by researchers in New Zealand has identified when shared activities are most beneficial.1 

Across two studies of more than 350 people in long-term romantic relationships, the researchers found that spending time doing “shared relationship activities” (for example, taking trips, exercising, going out, and engaging in hobbies together) is in fact associated with more satisfaction and closeness, and less stress, in those relationships.

Perhaps more importantly, the research demonstrated that these positive effects are greatest when couples purposefully engage in shared activities.

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Thursday
Oct092014

Announcing The 2nd Annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference!

I have attended a lot of psychology conferences over the years and, after many of them, I often thought to myself: “What would have made this conference even better? More sex talks!” I'm far from the only one who has had this thought, though. Several of my colleagues have noticed that many of our major conferences are lacking when it comes to sexuality programming, so we took matters into our own hands and, earlier this year, we put on the first ever Sexuality Pre-Conference prior to the 2014 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). The Pre-Conference was a huge success--it was very well-attended and received rave reviews. As a result, turning this into an annual event seemed like a no-brainer!

The next SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference will be held on Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at the Convention Center in Long Beach, California. Our current line-up of speakers includes: Meredith Chivers, Justin Garcia, Gurit Birnbaum and Eli Finkel, Monique Ward, and yours truly. Presentations will cover a wide range of topics, including female sexual arousal patterns, sexual desire and relationship development, media influences on sexual behavior, evolutionary perspectives on human sexuality, and teaching considerations for college sexuality courses. There will also be a sex data blitz highlighting some of the latest findings in the field, as well as a roundtable discussion at the end of the day.

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Wednesday
Oct082014

Two Key Ways That Stress Undermines Your Relationship

You experience stress nearly every day of your life. Stress can come from your job, your coworkers, fellow commuters, and generally from having too much to do without enough time to do it. And anyone in a relationship knows how easy it for that “external” stress to find its way into their romantic relationship.

Researchers followed 80 couples’ over 4 years and found that when couple members reported more stress outside of their relationship, they also reported feeling less comfortable depending on their partners and felt less close and more unsure about their relationship compared to couple members who were less stressed.1 This type of stress “spillover” may also occur on a daily basis. In a study of 165 newly married couples, individuals who reported more daily stress also reported more negative relationship behaviors such as criticizing their partners.2 These results indicate that stress from outside a relationship can spillover and cause more negative relationship behaviors. But, it’s also possible that those more prone to stress are also more prone to having poor relationships. An experiment would be needed to determine if stress directly affects relationships. 

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Monday
Oct062014

His New iPhone May Signal He’s Single and Looking to Hook-Up

Expensive smartphones are more desirable to men who are single and seeking a hook up, according to researchers from Germany.1

When the iPhone 6 hit the market last month, it made headline news. That’s not unusual, as every iteration of Apple’s popular smartphone has fanboys lining up around the block. But not even the casual consumer has been deterred by the rumor that the iPhone 6 Plus is so slim and streamlined that, after 30 minutes stuffed in the pocket of your skinny jeans, it comes out bent as a boomerang. In fact, despite ‘bendgate’, the new iPhone is hot and expected to sell up to 80 million units in 2014 alone.2 Clearly, everybody wants one. But new research suggests that some men are more keen than others to fork out the cash for a high status smartphone.

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Friday
Oct032014

Kids vs. Attractive Alternative Partners: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

(Editors' note: We're rerunning today's post with an alternate title. Apparently Facebook decided that our original title, which included the phrase "scantily clad women", was just too hot to handle and would upset the masses. Never deterred, we have revised the title in hopes it will not trip up the Facebook censors).

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Friday
Oct032014

Kids vs. Scantily Clad Women: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Wednesday
Oct012014

Parental Alienation and the Fight for Children’s Hearts and Minds

Parental alienation involves one parent spoiling the relationship between a child and the other parent in the absence of actual abuse or neglect. In both my personal and professional lives, I have seen many parents actively turn their children against the other parent in an effort to “keep them (the child) close,” and to undermine their child’s loving bond with the other parent. Although research has demonstrated that parental alienation has very negative effects on children (e.g., depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders), few researchers have examined empirically how exactly parents engage in this alienation behavior.

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