I’ve kicked off this year’s SPSP in N'awlins by attending the close relationships preconference – an all-day relationship research extravaganza that precedes the official conference. One of my favorite aspects of this event is its signature “data blitz,” in which ten up-and-coming relationship researchers are each given just three minutes (!!!) to quickly tell us about their most exciting, hot-off-the-presses data. Here are some of this year’s highlights:
Negativity in Relationships
Amanda Forest from University of Waterloo talked about her work on “negativity baselines.” When we express negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, frustration) to our partners, we generally want our partners to be responsive (i.e., react with understanding and concern). However, she found that partner responsiveness is affected by one’s own negativity baseline: how frequently one tends to express negative emotions in general. People tend to receive the most concern from their partners in response to their negative emotions if they rarely express such negative emotions (i.e., if they have a low negativity baseline), compared to if they tend to express negative emotions frequently. In other words, this research suggests that it’s probably best to “pick your battles” wisely when voicing negative emotion to your partner if you want to garner the most sympathetic response.
Bonnie Le, a good friend of mine from University of Toronto and a guest contributor to our site, talked about her findings on parental caregiving goals. She found that while parents often care for their children out of a genuine concern for their wellbeing, parents also sometimes care for their kids out of other (less altruistic) motives, such as not wanting to look bad in the eyes of other parents, or wanting approval from their kids. Her evidence suggests that parents tend to be happier with themselves and with their relationships with their children when they give care for more altruistic reasons. This research adds to an increasing body of work suggesting that giving genuine care is not only good for others – it’s also good for the self.
Finally, Dr. Gregory Webster from the University of Florida found evidence to support the idea that in romance, men regret the things they haven’t done (errors of omission). Specifically, Dr. Webster found that on the “missed connections” section of Craigslist, men are the most likely to lament their failure to pursue potential partners. In contrast, women regret the things they have done (errors of commission). Specifically, women are more likely to post regrettable relationship behaviors they have engaged in on the website fmylife.com. As Webster explains, “’F my life’ stands for ‘fuck my life,’ which is a modern colloquialism for ‘woe is me.’"
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Samantha Joel - Science of Relationships articles
Samantha's research examines how people make decisions about their romantic relationships. For example, what sort of factors do people take into consideration when they try to decide whether to pursue a potential date, invest in a new relationship, or break up with a romantic partner?