In a survey of over 1200 adolescents, 95% of them said that they would get married some day.1 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.
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...
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.
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.
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
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.
SofR contributor Melssia Schneider was recently on the Freakanomics Radio podcast talking about predictors of breakup, or what she calls the "awesomeness factor" (see her SofR post on this research here).
Online daters aren’t really that different from offline daters. I often hear my students claim that people who use online dating are “weirdos” or “that’s for people who can’t get dates in real life.” But the idea that people who prefer online dating are somehow different than offline daters is not supported by science. First of all, different how, exactly? In terms of general personality traits (e.g., openness to new experiences, neuroticism), online and offline daters are not significantly different from each other.1
One study did find that people who have used online dating (ever in their lives) were more sensitive to rejection compared to non-users—but this was a general “have you ever used online dating in your life” question and did not differentiate between one-time users and regular users.
Think about the last time you were on Facebook. You probably noticed “that couple” – the person who always posts pictures of himself with his girlfriend, or the one who claims that she has “the best boyfriend ever” in her status updates. And then there are the people who you know are in relationships, but there’s no trace of it on Facebook. No “in a relationship” status, no pictures together, maybe no mention of the relationship at all.
My colleagues and I were curious about what drives these decisions – what leads some people in relationships to post profile pictures with their partners and others to not share relationship-relevant information? We examined a concept that we called relationship visibility, which occurs when people make their relationships a central part of the images of themselves that they convey to others.
Are life’s experiences better when shared with another person? Participants at Yale University tasted chocolate in a room either (a) along with another person tasting their own chocolate, or (b) with another person who looked at a book of paintings. Participants who ate chocolate with a fellow taster thought the chocolate tasted better than those who tasted chocolate alone. To determine others’ influence on unpleasant experiences, a follow-up study used a similar procedure, but had participants taste a highly bitter chocolate. As before, having a fellow taster present intensified the experience, in this case making the chocolate taste worse.
Boothby, E. J., Clark, M. S., & Bargh, J. A. (2014). Shared experiences are amplified. Psychological Science. (Online) doi: 10.1177/0956797614551162
Recently, salon.com ran this article (click here) that tells the story of a lesbian who fell in love with a man. Although this isn't a scientific study, it's consistent with the article that Dr. Dylan Selterman wrote a couple weeks ago, Debunking Myths About Sexual Fluidity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.