I attended an interesting talk yesterday by Dr. Edward Lemay and his colleagues about how people use deception in their relationships. He wanted to know what motivates people to lie when their girlfriend or boyfriend asks how they look. For example, if you don’t think they look very physically attractive, do you tell the truth?
As someone who is fascinated by all things “decision making-y” in relationships, I was really excited to attend a symposium this morning on how people’s commitment to their relationships can change over time. One talk in particular, by Sara Blanch and colleagues, was about how people make that critical, early relationship choice to agree to be exclusive with their partners.
Today I kicked off the IARR conference and my first full day in Chicago by participating in a symposium (a collection of related presentations on the same topic) about sex in relationships. My co-presenter, Jimmie Manning from the Northern Kentucky University, talked about people’s motives for sexting with relationship partners.
It’s hard to believe, but it has been over a decade since I attended my first conference as a student. Now as a professor, when my student who is presenting for the first time, asked me for some tips, I had to think back and put myself in his shoes. I figured I’d pass along the following handful of suggestions to any readers who are attending their first conference or just curious about what an academic research conference involves.
A striking feature of human beings is our lack of a thick coat of body hair. Since all other primates have such fur this suggests the primate ancestors of human beings likewise had fur and that, for some evolutionary reason, lost their body hair. But what could this reason be? There are various theories but none is fully adequate.
In a new attempt to explain this loss of body hair I argue that human hairlessness had its origin in the ancestral mother-infant relationship. In the “naked love theory”, as I call it, this hairlessness is ultimately the result of bipedalism or the ability to walk on two feet.
Greetings from The Windy City. Many of us at Science of Relationships are part of an organization known as the International Association for Relationships Research (IARR), which is a community of scholars who study relationships. Every 2 years, IARR holds a conference that unites relationship scientists worldwide (this year, we’re gathering in Chicago).
When I was in college, credit card companies would lure students into opening accounts by giving away t-shirts or 2-liters of Coke in exchange for signing up for a new card. Nearly 20 years later I still have one of those accounts, although the t-shirt is thankfully long gone. I attended an engineering school that had nearly a 2-to-1 male to female sex ratio; there were twice as many young men on campus than women. Did this imbalance affect the likelihood that my fellow single men would get into trouble with their new credit cards? Could it be because of “intrasexual competition” (i.e., competing with other men) for relatively few available females?
Rejecting attractive alternatives (as Homer and Marge Simpson have done over the years) is one factor that predicts longevity and commitment in relationships. In committed relationships, choosing to limit attention to other attractive partners is beneficial for the relationship. What happens though if you impose limitations on a partner’s attention to attractive alternatives?
We're headed to the International Association for Relationship Research conference in Chicago. See some of you there, and we'll be back next week.
While we're away we are going to revisit a few posts from the vaults. Enjoy!
Social networking has fundamentally changed how we interact with one another. For example, researchers find, time and again,1,2 that interactive networking sites are helpful in maintaining relationships with our close friends and family as well as with our acquaintances. But these sites have also changed how we end our relationships. The best example of this is the ability to “unfriend” someone on Facebook. With the click of a button, you are able to terminate your Facebook relationship with anyone you had previously friended. However, when a friend decides to cut you off, you receive no notification that you have been unfriended. In fact, you’re likely to only notice the change in friendship status when your total number of Facebook friends goes down or if you search for the person who unfriended you and notice they are no longer listed as one of your friends.
In case you missed any of them, here are links to our articles from this week:
- Dan Ariely on Cheating and Infidelity
- Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (Book Review)
- "Conflict Avoidance": Relationship Matters Podcast #13
- How To Fill Your Relationship With Fireworks
- Does “Romantic Compatibility” Actually Matter?
- Can What He Does Tell Me About Who He Is?
Here's what we've been reading this week:
- How to Mold Your Mate into a Masterpiece (Dr. Dave Sbarra's blog at youbeauty.com)
- What's Better Than Sex? Surveys Say, Just About Everything (alternet.org)
- Secret Relationships Are Far Less Exciting Than They Sound (lemiller.com)
- Math Nerd Announcement: A Breakup Equation For Lovers (blog.whereisthisgoing.us)
- Rings, Signals, Sex, and Babies (slidingvsdeciding.blogspot.com)
We're big fans of Dan Ariely. His new book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-- Especially Ourselves, focuses on many ways that people lie, cheat, or are otherwise dishonest in their lives. We are honored that he's offered to share an excerpt from his new book with ScienceOfRelationships.com. Enjoy!
Of course, no book about cheating would be complete if it didn’t contain something about adultery and the kinds of complex and intricate subterfuges that extramarital relationships inspire. After all, in the popular vernacular, cheating is practically synonymous with infidelity.
In fact, infidelity can be considered one of the main sources of the world’s most dramatic entertainment. If modern-day adulterers such as Liz Taylor, Prince Charles, Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many others hadn’t cheated on their spouses, the tabloid magazine and various entertainment news outlets would probably go belly-up (so to speak).
In terms of the fudge factor theory, infidelity is most likely the prototypical illustration of all the characteristics of dishonesty that we have been talking about. To start with, it is the poster child (or at least one of them) of a behavior that does not stem from a cost-benefit analysis. I also suspect that the tendency toward infidelity depends to a great extent on being able to justify it to ourselves. Starting with one small action (maybe a kiss) is another force that can lead to deeper kinds of involvement over time. Being away from the usual day-to-day routine, for example on a tour or a set, where the social rules are not as clear, can further enhance the ability to self-justify infidelity. And creative people, such as actors, artists, and politicians—all known for a tendency to be unfaithful—are likely to be more adept at spinning stories about why it’s all right or even desirable for them to behave that way. And similar to other types of dishonesty, infidelity is influenced by the actions of those around us. Someone who has a lot of friends and family who have had affairs will likely be influenced by that exposure. With all of this complexity, nuance, and social importance, you might wonder why there isn’t a chapter in this book about infidelity and why this rather fascinating topic is relegated to one small section. The problem is data. I generally like to stick to conclusions I can draw from experiments and data. Conducting experiments on infidelity would be nearly impossible, and the data by their very nature are difficult to estimate. This means that for now we are left to speculate—and only speculate—about infidelity.
You can get The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-- Especially Ourselves here, and check out Dr. Ariely's blog here. His other books include Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic.
All group-living nonhuman primates, such as chimpanzees and the lesser known bonobos, are polygamous. Perhaps not coincidentally, researchers have documented infidelity in every human culture. Yet, most evolutionary biologists agree that monogamy is natural to humans and that it has evolved to assure the survival of our species through guaranteed paternal child support. In other words, without monogamy there is no guarantee a guy would stick around to invest in his offspring. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, authors of Sex at Dawn,1 argue that a driving force behind this assured “male parental investment” is the certainty that it’s the particular male’s genes that are passed on to any offspring in which he invests. A monogamous bond insures a man will not accidentally support another man’s child, while it simultaneously assures the female that her male partner will not share resources with another woman’s offspring.
If monogamy is so natural, however, then why is it that cultures need to sanction monogamy?
A new Relationship Matters (the official podcast of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships) has just been released. Dr. Tamara Afifi (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) talks about why women find (conflict) avoidance more dissatisfying than men. Check it out here.
“Romantic compatibility theory”—it has a nice ring, doesn’t it? This theory suggests that relationship success is a function of the unique combination of two individuals’ qualities. He appreciates her art, they both love cycling, and her positivity keeps him motivated when he needs a boost. Obviously, such similarities and connections between partners impact romantic outcomes—right?