I’m completely obsessed with The Hunger Games. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I have visited North Korea, a real country where millions of people really are dying of hunger. Maybe it’s the ironic meta-experience of watching the movie’s violence on a huge screen, when the movie’s point is that people shouldn’t watch violence on a huge screen. Regardless, The Hunger Games is chock-full of possible psychological analysis. Today I’m focusing on the fascinatingly weird emotions that spark between the The Hunger Games’ two main protagonists, Peeta and Katniss.
Michelle Kaufman is a researcher who focuses on sexual behavior in the developing world. She globetrots regularly, engaging in ethnographic work along the way in order to inform the quantitative and qualitative research she conducts. Recently, Michelle visited Malawi to start a research study on condom use and accessibility.
I recently returned from a research trip to Malawi where I was training a data collection team on the procedures and questionnaires for two small studies, one focused on condom use and accessibility, and the other on male circumcision. The team with which I work—from the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Malawi—is in the midst of conducting a 10-year-long program called BRIDGE, which focuses on HIV prevention through the provision of services such as voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC), getting pregnant women to enroll in treatment for prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, and, most relevant to this article, condom distribution.
After a successful first year, we're thrilled to announce that we have renewed our partnership with Guokr Media, who translate and distribute our articles in China, helping us accomplish our mission of sharing relationship science with the world.
Scott Jones. Marc Carson. Michael Felenchak. Peter Nortman. Nick Porto. Kevin Atkins. Jacqueline Clarke. Ali Matson. Kerry Tyler. Ben Stoviak.
These names represent just a handful of individuals who have recently been physically attacked because of their actual or perceived sexuality. There has been an apparent surge in violent responses to same-sex couples who display affection in public (such as holding hands or kissing). Two women were attacked in Vancouver after holding hands and kissing on a public transit bus. A number of male same-sex couples have been attacked in NYC while holding hands, some even in broad daylight in areas of the city known to be gay-friendly. Yet another gay couple is launching a human rights case against a taxi cab company whose employee tried to force the couple out of his cab on a busy expressway after the couple shared a kiss in the back seat of their cab.
One of the more surprising things about the scientific literature on dating and marriage is that there are very few studies of the events that signify the “beginning” of dating and marriage relationships. For example, we still know fairly little (on the scientific front) about how relationships form in the real world. We can look at processes in the lab, and even simulate events (e.g., speed dating studies) that should, presumably, lead to relationship formation. But, for all our efforts, capturing real relationships as they develop has proven a formidable challenge.
Semi-renowned armchair relationship expert Sir Mix-a-Lot once said, “So Cosmo says you're fat, well I ain't down with that! 'Cause your waist is small and your curves are kickin' …To the beanpole dames in the magazines: You ain't it, Miss Thing!” What Mr. Mix-a-Lot so melodically points out is that women’s attractiveness does not rely on thinness, but rather the kickin’ nature of her curves. In fact, for women there’s a universal formula -- the waist-to-hip ratio -- that contributes to how attractive males find females’ bodies.
Relationship Rules: Honesty, Deception, and Relationship Satisfaction - Relationship Matters Podcast 26
In the 26th installment of SAGE's Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Katlyn Gangi (formerly Roggensack) talks about her research on honesty in relationships.
Gangi, now a PhD student in the Department of Communication at the University of California in Santa Barbara, conducted the research with Dr. Alan Sillars while at the University of Montana.
The researchers were interested in the assumptions people have regarding what honesty and deception means to romantic partners. Gangi explains on the podcast,
We don’t go into relationships blindly without any expectations of how others will act...we have rules for all sorts of things...and these rules help create structure and predictability in our relationships...Rules about honesty and deception though are kind of in a class of their own…Often people only start talking about these things once a rule is perceived to be broken...Somebody does something that doesn’t meet up to your expectations or surprises you or upsets you and then you say, ‘Hey, why did you do that? I thought that these were the expectations in our relationship and it seems like you think something different’.”
Do romantic couples adjust their walking speed when walking together? Researchers timed how long it took 11 heterosexual couples (22 total participants) to walk around a track by themselves, next to their romantic partners, holding their partner’s hands, with same-sex friends, and with opposite-sex friends. Regardless of hand-holding, men significantly slowed their pace when walking with their romantic partners, whereas women did not adjust their pace. When walking with opposite-sex friends, men slowed their pace and women increased their pace, though neither changed pace for same-sex friends, suggesting that when the walking partner was not a romantic partner, individuals compromised in their walking speeds.
Wagnild, J., & Wall-Scheffler, C. M. (2013). Energetic consequences of human sociality: Walking speed choices among friendly dyads. PLoS ONE, 8(10): e76576.
Classic research on jealousy in heterosexual couples tells us that women are more concerned about men’s emotional infidelity, because if a man is emotionally attached to a rival woman, this undermines the closeness in the original relationship. Evolutionary theorists believe this is upsetting because the man may spend his time, money, or other resources on the rival, instead of on the original woman and her children. However, men tend to be slightly more concerned about women’s sexual infidelity, possibly to rule out paternity uncertainty if the couple has a child.1 But does jealousy occur the same way in bisexual individuals?
It may be hard to believe, but I was once in a relationship for nine years where I was so unhappy, I cried nearly every day. A decade later, with a Ph.D. in Psychology under my belt and an intellectual obsession with how and why humans attach themselves to one another and form relationships, I am finally beginning to understand the mysterious crazy glue that keeps people in bad relationships. It often boils down to commitment level, attachment style, and a strange ability to distort the future.
This month is “Movember,” an international movement to raise awareness about men’s health, particularly prostate and testicular cancer. Men participating in “Movember” grow moustaches and raise money to fund cancer education and research.1 Yet, Movember may have an added benefit for relationships: women rate men with a full beard as more masculine, socially mature, dominant, and aggressive than they rate clean-shaven men. However, men with light stubble fare best on ratings of attractiveness and desirability for short-term and long-term relationships.2 Historically, men tend to grow facial hair during years that competition for mates is more intense (for example, moustaches were particularly popular in the early 1900s, based on images in the Illustrated London News),3 suggesting that facial hair fashion trends are attuned to the effect facial hair has on women’s judgments.
Most people generally believe that they are moral and good and that cheating on a partner is wrong. So how do cheaters live with themselves after their infidelity? Understanding how they reconcile their indiscretions with their beliefs about themselves can help us figure out why “good people cheat.”
Dissonance theory1 predicts that when individuals’ thoughts and behaviors are inconsistent, something has to give. Have you ever wondered why anyone would be a smoker these days, given what we know about the link between “cancer sticks” and cancer? A smoker knows that smoking causes cancer, but might rationalize it by saying “I don’t smoke very much” or “My grandma smoked two packs a day and lived to be 90 years old!” By coming up with these rationalizations, people are able to preserve the impression that their behaviors and attitudes are consistent.
Similarly, cheaters might minimize the significance of their infidelity as a way to cope with knowing they did something wrong. The authors of a new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships2 propose that cheaters feel bad about their indiscretions but try to feel better by reframing their past infidelities as uncharacteristic or an out-of-the-ordinary behavior.
MTV recently reached out to us to help them with casting for their new True Life: I Can't Cut Off From My Ex episode. No, there isn't science involved, but this is a great way for ScienceofRelationships fans to get some air time. If you are selected for the show, we suggest you do a little homework and read our articles on ex-partners here before making a fool of yourself on television.
Here's what MTV is looking for:
Have you broken up with a significant other, but you just can't seem to stay broken up? Does your ex constantly come in and out of your life? Are you constantly reminded of your ex on social media? Has it become impossible to unfollow/unfriend your ex? Or do you try to keep up with your ex, even if your ex doesn't want you to? Does a single past relationship keep affecting your life in ways you never expected?
If you appear to be between the ages of 18 and 28 and you have an ex who doesn't stay in your past, MTV wants to hear your story. Please reply to email@example.com with "True Life" in the subject line. Give us your name, location, phone number, a picture and tell us why you should be on True Life: I Can't Cut Off From My Ex."
The average woman will have 500 menstrual cycles throughout her lifetime.1 Although menstruation typically doesn’t win the “favorite days of the month award,” the actual purpose of a woman’s cycle is to prepare her body for conception and procreation. Yet, the irony in Mother Nature’s plan is that the actual window of potential conception only lasts for roughly 2-4 days throughout the 28 day cycle. Among researchers, we call these few days the “period of high fertility,” or the time when women are most likely to conceive.
Many women (and probably even some men!) may have noticed that the days leading up to menstruation can be accompanied by mood swings (you’ve heard of PMS – right?). Yet, there’s a bundle of evidence showing that women’s moods, behaviors, and interpersonal styles actually change during that small window of high fertility as well. For example, during those few days (compared to other days in the cycle) women are more likely to dress sexy,2 they are more accepting of men’s advances,3 they prefer the scent of symmetrical4 and dominant men,5 and they’re even more likely to fantasize about someone other than their current boyfriend or spouse!6
Imagine that Blake is tempted from time to time to snoop on his partner Taylor (for example, he sometimes desires to go through her phone or email to see who she’s been talking to). What might determine whether or not he intrudes on Taylor’s privacy? We already know that people are more likely to engage in intrusive behavior, such as snooping on their partner, when they have low trust. Basically, distrustful people need reassurance that everything is fine in their relationships, so they sometimes invade their partners’ privacy to make sure everything is indeed fine. People who have high trust, on the other hand, don’t worry about their relationships, so they don’t tend to snoop. But high trust may not be the only thing a person needs to avoid intruding on others’ privacy. One potential contender that could help someone fight the urge to snoop is high self-control