As a relationships researcher, a question that I get a lot from my single friends is, “What should I look for in a partner?” Of course, a complete answer to this question can take a while and is largely dependent on who is asking the question. Are you the kind of person who loves to party? Your relationship will go more smoothly if you find someone who is similarly outgoing. Are you an animal rights activist? You should probably find a partner who doesn’t wear a fur coat. But regardless of who is asking me this question, there is one particular trait that always comes to mind – something that I think absolutely everyone should look for in a partner: responsiveness.
Sometimes people’s eyes get wide when I tell them that I’m a psychologist who studies dreams, and they immediately start confiding in me about their “weird/crazy/strange/vivid” dreams that often include similar themes (like their teeth falling out). Then they ask me what it means, and to their disappointment, I tell them that based on the limited scientific data on dreams, we just don’t know. Despite what some artists, philosophers, or “psychics” might tell you, there’s no universal codebook that helps you translate content from a dream into direct meaning. Instead, the human mind constructs dreams based on unique experiences (some psychologists have said that dreams are like mental fingerprints). Perhaps someone had their teeth painfully pulled at the dentist or wore braces at a young age, and perhaps another person got a tooth chipped (or knocked out) while playing sports. Those two people with different “teeth experiences” could form dreams with very different meanings, even if they both contain teeth as a central image. The dreams you have likely represents your unique conception rather than some universal symbolic meaning.
But what about relationship dreams?
I was recently talking to a (male) friend from college, reminiscing about how all the guys in the dorms wanted to learn how to play guitar because we thought that it would increase our odds of landing a lady. Is it really true that women find guitar players attractive? Two recent studies have attempted to answer this question.
The first study, conducted in France, enlisted a young male research assistant who was highly attractive.1 He was not aware of the study’s hypotheses. His task was to systematically approach 300 similarly-aged women who were walking alone across a particular walkway and passing him (that is, he was told not to select only women he was attracted to). When a woman walked by, he asked for her phone number, saying that he would like to call her later so that they could go out and get a drink together.
Clinical psychologist and guest contributor, Dr. David Sbarra, recently wrote a great piece on how "Our Brains are Built for Friendship". Follow this link for the full story over on YouBeauty.com.
image source: sarahrosecav.wordpress.com
A recent Twitter post by Nathan Fielder asked his followers to text their partners and say “I haven’t been fully honest with you.” If that isn’t anxiety provoking enough, they also weren’t supposed to respond to any reply sent by their partner for one hour. Not only is this a brilliant comedic premise, but it also provides a great example of an “interpersonal dilemma.” Interpersonal dilemmas are situations where people face competing motives such that they can either respond in a way that harms the relationship or in a way that benefits the relationship.
Guess who is numero uno? That's right, in rankings published yesterday, DatingAdvice.com named www.ScienceOfRelationships.com one of the year's "10 Best Relationship Blogs."
Does internet dating really work?
The answer to your question really lies in how you define “work.” If your goal is to meet new dating partners, then on-line dating services can help put you in touch with a large number of other eligible singles. Services like Plentyoffish.com and Match.com have a large pool of individuals looking to date, hook-up, and marry. The problem is that there are oftentimes so many profiles to sort through that the choices are overwhelming, which causes you to miss out on people who actually might be good matches.
Other dating services, such as eHarmony, propose that matching dating partners based on similarity will lead to better pairings. They accomplish this (allegedly) by analyzing responses to a lengthy survey using a proprietary algorithm, or in less fancy terms, a formula they use make money (consider it the KFC secret recipe of matching partners). In another SoR story, Paul Eastwick wrote a summary of a paper he co-authored,1 essentially showing that the algorithms used to match people don’t work the way that they are supposed to, and you are no better off relying on the matches made for you than if you were just meeting someone cold in the library or at a sporting event. He and his co-authors recommend that dating sites change the algorithms to match on factors demonstrated by research to be more effective at predicting long-term compatibility.
After a breakup, should you wallow in your misery by listening to sad music, or should you try to lift your spirits by listening to happy music? Across three experiments, people who had recently experienced interpersonal loss, like a breakup, preferred music that reinforced their current mood (sadness) rather than elevated it.1 For example, in their third study, the researchers randomly assigned half of the participants to write about an interpersonal loss, like a lost love, breakup, or death of a loved one, while the other half of participants wrote about a non-interpersonal loss (like an academic or career-related loss). After thinking about a non-interpersonal loss, people preferred cheerful music (click here for a feel-good tune), but following interpersonal losses, participants preferred sad music (click here if you were just dumped). So it seems that sometimes we use music to raise our spirits, but when it comes to breakups and lost relationships, we surround ourselves with more sadness.
Read more about music and relationships here:
- "Soul Meets Body" - How Music and Relationships are Connected
- I Need to See Your iPod Before We Can Go Out
- The Music of Relationships
Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on Science of Relationships. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get our articles delivered directly to your NewsFeed.
1Lee, C. J., Andrade, E. B., & Palmer, S. E. (in press). Interpersonal relationships and preferences for mood-congruence in aesthetic experiences. Journal of Consumer Research.
Most people will tell you that a woman's ability to get pregnant declines considerably after age 30. After age 35? Thank goodness for fertility clinics! But are these beliefs justified by the data? Turns out the link between female age and fertility isn't as clear-cut as some would have you believe. In a fascinating new article published in The Atlantic, social psychologist Jean Twenge breaks down what the data do -- and don't --- tell us about female fertility across the life-cycle. Yet another example of how it is important to rely on science, rather than prevailing public opinion, when making key life decisions.
Several years ago I received a Facebook message from a stranger. After exchanging a few innocuous messages with him, he invited me to lunch and—partly because I was recently single, partly because I had never gone on a formal date with someone I met online, and partly because I enjoy the excitement of a potential kidnapping—I agreed. Over the course of the meal he peppered me with a series of questions that I thought were somewhat atypical for a first date (“How many children do you want?” “How soon can I meet your family?”). Eventually, I set my fork down and said, “Not to be rude or anything, but it feels like you’re auditioning me to be your wife.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Kind of, yeah.”
Despite my adventurous spirit, I had enough sense to not marry the guy. But a growing number of individuals are meeting their future spouses online. In fact, results of a recent nationally representative study suggest that over one-third of individuals who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met their partners on the Internet.1 What is particularly compelling about this study, however, is that it tackled a previously overlooked question that many dating websites (e.g., eHarmony) claim to know the answer to: Do individuals who meet their partners online or offline have more successful marriages?
If your relationship doesn't have chemistry or has lost it's spark, check out this post on rekindling the romance.
Image Source: George Takei's Facebook
Someone innocently created a chart so that people could determine how common their birthday is (click here to see that chart). Then someone came along and thought, "huh, what if I shift all of those dates by 9 months?" Thus, through the magic of the internet, there is now a chart depicting the most common dates for people to make babies.
Click here for our article about the seasons when people have the most sex (not necessarily for the purposes of procreation).
image source: ilovecharts.tumblr.com
The sexual double standard refers to the general perception that males who engage in casual sexual exploits are studs whereas women who do the same are sluts. Where does this double standard come from? Past work pinned it on females, who are responsible for protecting their "mate value" in the "mating marketplace." However, new research by Dr. Laurie Rudman, Janell Fetterolf, and Dr. Diana Sanchez (Rutgers University) indicates that male's perceptions of sexually permissive women are the primary contributor to this persistent sexual double standard.
Talking about one’s sexual history is an important part of new partners’ communication with each other. After all, they say that you’re not only having sex with this new person, but with everyone he or she has had sex with too (sort of a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” game with a sexual twist). But how do you know your partner is being truthful when informing you that he or she has had three, thirteen, thirty, or three hundred past partners? People certainly have reasons for being less than honest (like you don’t want others to judge you based on your busy, or not so busy, bedroom), so when they self-report about their sexual behaviors, how do we know they are not lying? People often fudge their responses about things like how much they recycle and go to the gym because those lies make them look better, and researchers need ways to get participants to tell the truth when reporting about all sorts of “socially desirable” behaviors.