While writing last week’s article about the importance of sex in relationships, I started thinking about the taboo nature of sex in North American culture. In the article I mentioned that “North America is arguably a highly sexualized culture, but at the same time, sexuality is rarely talked about in an open, honest way.” Around the time I posted my article, I came across a TED talk that presents a simple way to alter the stigma associated with talking about sex and sexuality.
Partners’ level of similarity in their values, backgrounds, and life goals promotes attraction and relationship success. Although “birds of a feather” may flock together, do those similarly-feathered birds always have the best relationships over the long flight ahead? Recent research on self-control suggests that the answer is both yes and no.
Ladies, would a guy’s car influence whether you give him your number? In a recent study, male confederates (guys in cahoots with the researchers) approached over 500 young women who were walking in a city. To test whether a males’ car affected women’s likelihood of sharing their digits, the male confederates waited in one of three cars (high, medium, or low value) before getting out and approaching the women. Men with a high status car were more likely to get a number (23.3%) than men with middle (12.8%) or low status cars (7.8%). Apparently women use the car that a guy drives as a clue to his income, his status, and to whether he is worth dating.
Guéguen, N., & Lamy, L. (2012). Men’s social status and attractiveness: Women’s receptivity to men’s date requests. Swiss Journal of Psychology/Schweizerische Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Revue Suisse De Psychologie, 71(3), 157-160. doi:10.1024/1421-0185/a000083
In a past article Dr. Dylan Selterman wrote about research that has identified 237 different reasons that people give for having sex. I wonder if this list is based on that research? (from amazon.com)
In a study of 70 undergraduates, researchers tested whether attractiveness and mating strategy (short vs. long term) influence receptivity to pick-up lines. Replicating previous research, women preferred men who took the innocuous “Do you have the time?” route, or those who used direct pick-up lines – e.g., “…I’d like to meet you. What’s your name?” Cute or flippant lines -- “Can I get a picture of you so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?” -- continued to strike out. But women preferred attractive men for short-term relationships, regardless of the type of pick-up line he used. For long-term relationships, women preferred men who used direct or innocuous lines. Even though flippant lines made men seem outgoing and humorous, they also made them seem less trustworthy and less intelligent. Men who used direct lines were seen as the most trustworthy and intelligent.
Senko, C., & Fyffe, V. (2010). An evolutionary perspective on effective vs. ineffective pick-up lines. Journal of Social Psychology, 150(6), 648-667. doi:10.1080/00224540903365539
Last season on How I Met Your Mother, Robin shared a sagely perspective with Ted during a friend’s wedding. She suggested any relationship requires two essential ingredients: “chemistry” (meaning, how compatible people are with each other), and “timing” (basically, whether people meet each other at the right place, right time). As I heard this, I immediately thought how perfectly that sentiment meshes with relationship science.
Scientific American recently reviewed research by Dr. John Gottman and colleagues within the context of Kim Kardashian and her short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries. Gottman's research team can predict divorce with great accuracy by carefully watching short video clips of couples discussing areas of conflict. If given the opportunity, would they have seen the markers of Kim and Kris' marital demise? See more at Scientific American here.
Can you accurately predict how bad you’d feel if your relationship breaks up? To study this question, researchers asked undergraduates to predict how they’d feel if their current relationship ended. Then the research team tracked the undergraduates over several months and waited for those relationships to break-up. The researchers then asked the same participants how they actually felt now that their relationships were over. Turns out people overestimate how bad they will feel following a break-up, especially those who are in love. So if you’re staying in a relationship because you think the break-up will be awful and devastating, you should realize that it may not be so bad. This is especially true if you’re in a bad or abusive relationship (read more here).
Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., Krishnamurti, T., & Loewenstein, G. (2008). Mispredicting distress following romantic breakup: Revealing the time course of the affective forecasting error. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(3), 800-807. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2007.07.001
People often think that successful people are attractive. But what about their less successful counterparts? Are they destined to be seen as less attractive? In a study involving hypothetical job applicants, those candidates described as being “underdogs” -- i.e., they were unlikely to get a particular job due to unfair circumstances beyond their control (e.g., their application had been misplaced by a secretary) -- were rated as especially physically attractive and desirable to date compared to candidates who were (a) unfairly advantaged (i.e., had a friend pressuring the employer to hire them) or (b) were unlikely to get the job due to their own incompetence (i.e., they failed to follow directions on the job application). That’s right…being an underdog can be hot if your failures are not your own fault.
I love making up a good acronym as much as the next relationship researcher, and today I’ve invented one about the top three predictors of a successful relationship: PICL*.
Men’s fascination with women’s butts and breasts is well known. They will often debate the qualities of each feature when together in a locker room or at a bar. But did you know there is actually empirical research on whether men prefer booty or boobs?
In a series of studies, researchers at the University of Buenos Aires recently looked at heterosexual men’s preferences for women’s breasts or women’s butts.
As a parent, how much should you help pay for your child's college education? How much should you help with their homework? The parent-child relationship is based on parent's helping their child. But sometimes parents can help too much. A recent article in the New York Times examines "helicopter parents" and how parents can help so much, that it actually hurts the child.
Of course, those of us here at ScienceOfRelationships.com don't need convincing, but a recent article over at The Atlantic details some of the evidence for the claim that relationships matter more than ambition (and all the good things that come with ambition).
Read our related articles on The Need to Belong here, and what types of regrets tend to hit us the hardest here.
I Dislike the Dog that Likes the Rabbit that I Dislike: Why Do We Like Some People but Dislike Others?
The notion that people prefer similar others is as empirically-validated a research finding as they come in our field (see here, for example). Similar people make us feel better about ourselves, and who doesn’t like somebody that makes us feel better about ourselves? In fact, the preference for similarity is so common that it is considered a general characteristic of the human condition, and it’s not hard to imagine how preferring to hang around similar people, and avoiding dissimilar people, might benefit survival.
Recently, researchers have begun to identify exactly how early this preference for similar others begins to develop. One can’t help but wonder whether this “universal” preference for similar others is nature (i.e., we’re born with it) or nurture (i.e., others, such as our parents, teach us to like similar others and not like dissimilar others).
Should men go for the clean-shaven look, a full beard, or somewhere in between when trying to attract a woman? To answer this question, researchers showed heterosexual women and heterosexual men photographs of men with full beards, heavy stubble, light stubble, or cleanly shaven faces. Importantly, the pictures were the same men but with different facial hair styles. Women found heavy stubble more attractive than the other styles. Interestingly, men thought full beards and clean-shaven were more attractive than women did. A follow-up study focusing on fertility indicated that women’s preference for heavy stubble was the same regardless of menstrual cycle phase.
For more facial hair science, check out this article.
Dixson, B. J., & Brooks, R. C. (2013). The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities. Evolution and Human Behavior, doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003
As someone who takes comfort in reducing highly complex human experiences into single-line mathematical equations, let me share my latest shiny new toy: a formula that predicts the breakup percentage of a given sample of dating folk over a particular period of time.
Isn’t that intriguing?
A recent article in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by Elizabeth Bernstein, How Often Should Married Couples Have Sex? What Happens When He Says 'More' and She Says 'No', created some controversy. The article focused on Chris and Afton Mower, a heterosexual couple who share the details of their previously sexless marriage. At one point in their relationship, the couple went one year without having sex. The husband, Chris, desired more sex, whereas his wife, Afton, had no interest in sex.
Over time, after communicating and reading a self-help book together, Chris and Afton revived their sexual relationship and now both report being satisfied with their sex life. In the article, Bernstein referenced our research on sexual communal strength (discussed here) to suggest that at times a person may prioritize their romantic partner’s sexual needs over their own preferences and that this focus on a partner’s needs can be beneficial (not only for the partner whose needs are being met, but also for the partner meeting the needs).1 Bernstein's article caused quite a stir in the media; a number of news outlets, including Jezebel, The Week, and New York Magazine, published responses. Critics rebuked the article for what they perceived as its focus on the “man’s perspective” and questioned the depression, weight gain and emotional distress that Chris linked to his sexual rejection. Based on some of the responses, it was also controversial to suggest that a person has some responsibility in an ongoing romantic relationship to meet their partner’s sexual needs, perhaps especially when it is the male partner who desires more sex than his wife.
After reading these responses I began to wonder whether (and for whom) we allow sex to be important in a relationship.