Friday
Feb072014

On Valentine Street, Chivalry Isn’t Dead

Researchers examined whether subtle reminders of love increase men’s willingness to help. Men who had been approached by a woman asking for directions to Valentine Street were willing to help a different woman retrieve her cell phone from “thieves”, helping her almost 37% of the time. Men asked for directions to Martin Street only helped 20% of the time. The simple mention of “Valentine” unconsciously motivated men to behave in a more chivalrous manner.

Lamy, L., Fischer-Lokou, J., & Guéguen, N. (2010). Valentine Street promotes chivalrous helping. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 69, 169-172.

Thursday
Feb062014

Bad Valentine’s Day Gifts: Do They Hurt Your Relationship?

Now that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, you may be worried about picking out the perfect gift for your partner. Is it something he will like? Will she be disappointed by your efforts? And how is a partner’s response to your Valentine's Day gift related to thoughts about the future of your relationship?

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Thursday
Feb062014

Valentine’s Day: A Chance to Make You and Your Relationship Better 

It is customary to do something special with your partner on Valentine’s Day to celebrate your relationship. Have you planned what you are going to do? You can go with the standard commercialized gifts like chocolates, lingerie, or overpriced roses. Or, perhaps you plan on simply spending some time with each other. If you go that route, rather than the trite dinner and a movie, you may want to consider doing something together that will actually make you and your relationship better.

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Wednesday
Feb052014

ScienceOfRelationships.com Survey: The Dos And Don’ts of Valentine’s Day

In conjunction with “Relationship Science Month”, we surveyed over 1,000 adults in the United States, representing 49 states (Alaska, step it up next time!), to learn more about what people really think about Valentine’s Day. Over the coming week, we’ll be sharing our results with you, our readers, including answers to the following questions:

  • Do people love, hate, or view Valentine’s Day as “just another day”?
  • Would people prefer to spend Valentine’s Day alone, in a bad relationship, or on a bad first date?
  • Is it okay to go on a first date on Valentine’s Day? Is it okay to pop the question on Valentine’s day?
  • Who should be responsible for planning Valentine’s Day festivities?
  • Do people prefer to receive Valentine’s Day gifts publically (e.g., at work) or privately?
  • What are the top ranked gifts for men and women on Valentine’s Day?
  • What are the most preferred types of flowers to receive on Valentine’s Day? The least preferred?
  • Do people expect sex on Valentine’s Day?
  • What’s an acceptable amount to spend on Valentine’s Day gifts?

We’ll start rolling out the results very soon. In the meantime, we have provided a description of our study sample below so that we can focus on results in upcoming posts.

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Wednesday
Feb052014

ScienceOfRelationships.com Mission Statement

“True intimacy with others is one of the highest values of human existence; there may be nothing more important for the well-being and optimal functioning of human beings than intimate relationships” (p. 42).1

Why Relationships Are Important

Take a moment to think about the most meaningful events in your life-- the experiences that have brought you the greatest joy and perhaps the greatest pain. Your close and intimate relationships are likely central to each of these experiences and help make you the person you are today. Put simply, forming lasting intimate relationships is a defining feature of the human experience.2 Years of research, and volumes of data, make it very clear that we each have a fundamental need to connect with others,3 and if we are unable to fulfill that need, there are serious negative consequences. Consider, for example, that those who are socially isolated experience more disease4 and that divorce is a risk factor for early death.5 On the positive side, high quality intimate relationships reduce risk for negative mental health (e.g., clinical depression),5 and frequency of sexual activity predicts overall life happiness even more so than making more money.6 If our relationships suffer, we lose a part of what it means to be a human. But when our relationships thrive, we are able to fulfill our true potential.  

Why Science is Important for Relationships

At ScienceOfRelationship.com we understand the importance of relationships and know that increasing knowledge is a key way to help people improve their relationships and their lives. But all information isn’t created equal. The important things in life deserve data, and nothing is more important than relationships. As scientists and educators we believe that if you really want to know the truth about something, you need research. When we say "research" we simply mean that the best information comes from careful observations and measurements, systematic collection of information from lots of people, and carefully drawn conclusions based on the available evidence. It’s a labor-intensive process, but relationships are too important to take shortcuts; we don't make statements about how relationships work based on conjecture, hunches, folklore, or idiosyncratic personal experiences.

At ScienceOfRelationships.com we base every article in the ever-growing scientific literature on relationships. There's so much bad information out there, and the key is getting high quality information out to the broadest possible audience in an interesting and useful way so that people start to ignore and/or question the bad information that is out there. Our #1 goal when we started this site was to do just that: communicate scientific information in a way that can help readers make informed decisions about the most important parts of their life. After 3 years, and over 2.5 million page views later, we’re very proud to say that we’re on our way to doing just that.

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Wednesday
Feb052014

Happiness at the Misfortune of Mate Rivals

Have you ever seen something bad happen to someone and felt just a little bit happy about it?  Or even laughed a little (think Tosh.0 or America’s Funniest Home Videos submissions)? Click here to watch an example from the Simpsons. That’s called schadenfreude, which occurs when you experience happiness because of the misfortune of others. Seems kind of mean, doesn’t it? So, why do we experience schadenfreude, and what purpose might it serve in relationships?

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Tuesday
Feb042014

Manly Men’s Potential Negative Effects on Daughters

Men with chiseled chins and other manly facial features are thought to appeal to women as long-term mates, partly due to the potential benefits for their children. Using data from over 1,000 individuals who have a twin and over 100 of their brothers/sisters, researchers assessed the masculinity and attractiveness of participants’ faces. While attractiveness and facial masculinity were unrelated for men, women with more masculine brothers were rated as less attractive. This suggests that would-be moms mating with masculine men for genetically superior children should be aware of the potential negative impact on their daughters.   

Lee, A. J., Mitchem D. G., Wright, M. J., Martin, N. G., Keller, M. C., & Zietsch, B. P. (2013). Genetic factors that increase male facial masculinity decrease facial attractiveness of female relatives. Psychological Science (OnlineFirst). doi: 10.1177/0956797613510724 

Monday
Feb032014

Making Friends: Do Their Sexual Experiences Matter?

 

When it comes to making same-sex friends, we tend to like others who are similar to us. For example, we’re more likely to be friends with people who share our personalities, values, and interests. But what about sexual history? When evaluating potential friends, we could look for someone whose sexual experience matches our own values and past, or we could avoid those with lots of previous partners. And would you want your new friend hanging out with your romantic partner, or would that be a threat to your relationship? Of course, much of this may depend on whether you are man or a woman. 

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Saturday
Feb012014

The Worst Way to Say "I Love You"

Friday
Jan312014

Marriage-Free, Not Fancy-Free

As a relationship scientist, I frequently consider research findings when making personal decisions in my life. The most recent personal decision I’ve made was to move in with The Consultant, a man I have been dating for some time now. Unfortunately, most of the research out there about cohabiting doesn’t quite map onto my particular situation. Although some research findings do seem to apply to us, such as cohabiters being more liberal, less religious, and more egalitarian compared to their married peers,1 other findings do not apply so clearly. 

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Wednesday
Jan292014

Building a Lasting Relationship: The Three Pillars of Commitment

When it comes to understanding the fate of any given relationship, I’d argue that knowing something about a couple’s commitment level, or their attachment to each other and long-term perspective on the relationship, is critical (see our previous article on predicting breakup here). Beyond predictions about staying together versus breaking up, commitment is also associated with all sorts of positive relationship outcomes (see our previous article on 5 Reasons Commitment is Good For Your Relationship). But how is commitment built in a relationship? More than 30 years of research on this topic has identified three pillars that form the foundation of commitment in relationships.

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Monday
Jan272014

(Mother’s) Milk: It Does a Body Good and Bad?

We are what we eat, but are we also what we drink? When it comes to breast-feeding infants, we very well may be. Researchers are increasingly studying the links between the early environment of a child’s life and later life outcomes for that child, with a particular focus on how mom’s biology and behavior can influence the way that children ultimately respond to stress (which has enormous implications for health across the lifespan). In a recent study, researchers tested what they refer to as “lactational programming,” which is fancy science talk for the idea that a mom can influence her child’s biological development, for better or worse, through her breastmilk. Think of it as secondhand hormones – if mom experiences stress, she’ll have higher levels of stress hormones, some of which will be passed along to her breastfeeding infant. And because infants’ bodily systems are still developing, those secondhand hormones influence the infants’ own biology and behavior.

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Friday
Jan242014

Caring is Not Sharing: How To Be a Good Friend on Facebook

People use Facebook for a lot of things, but keeping in touch with (so-called) “friends” has to be near the top of the list. There are lots of ways to use Facebook, but it’s possible that some ways of maintaining friendships are better than others. For example, you can simply keep tabs on your friend’s activities by stalking his or her Facebook wall. Though a bit passive, monitoring your friend has the benefit of keeping you informed and allows you to have things to talk about the next time you are both together.1 Another, less passive, option is to engage in maintenance behaviors,2 like posting something on a friend’s wall that offers positive encouragement and support, being open and showing empathy, or generally letting your friend know you’re thinking about him or her. On the surface these all seem like good options, but let’s see what the research says…

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Wednesday
Jan222014

Communication Strategies In Relationships: What Are They, and Which Is Best?

Communication is an important part of romantic relationships, especially when navigating conflict or when trying to change a partner’s behavior. Although dealing with these issues can sometimes be distressing, it can also serve as an opportunity for you and your partner to learn about each other and improve your relationship.1 Indeed, by the end of this article, I hope it is clear that what matters most is not the presence of conflict itself, but rather how you and your partner handle the conflict (i.e., the communication strategies you use). 

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Monday
Jan202014

Cool Things Down to Keep Your Relationship Hot: The Importance of Conflict Recovery

Steve and Sarah – a hypothetical married couple – don’t argue often; however, when they do, they can’t seem to “forgive and forget.” In dwelling on their relationship conflicts and dissatisfactions, negativity colors their interactions and their relationship suffers. Tom and Tricia, on the other hand, have disagreements quite a bit. But unlike Steve and Sarah, Tom and Tricia are able to express their feelings constructively and, at the end of the day, put their problems aside and show their love for one another. As these scenarios suggest, it’s not just whether conflicts happen that affects how we feel about our relationships; rather, partners’ ability to recover from such negative experiences may most powerfully impact relationship functioning. 

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Saturday
Jan182014

Lost in Translation

Effective communication is key in every relationship (read more about communication here).

Friday
Jan172014

Pretty, and Fertile, in Pink

Ovulating women report increased sexual desire and preference for wearing sexy clothing compared to non-ovulating women.1,2 But does ovulation impact the color of clothing she chooses? A survey of “regularly ovulating” women (i.e., not on birth control pills, pregnant, etc.) reported their menstrual cycle’s timing and noted the color of the shirt they were currently wearing.3 Those ovulating and at their most fertile (6-14 days following the start of her last period) were more likely to wear red or pink compared to other colors, and of those wearing red or pink, nearly 80% were ovulating.

Read more about wearing red herefertility here, and behaviors related to ovulation here.

1Haselton, M. G., & Gangestad, S. W. (2006). Conditional expression of women’s desires and men’s mate guarding across the ovulatory cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 49, 509–518.

2Durante, K. M., Li, N. P., & Haselton, M. G. (2008). Changes in women’s choice of dress across the ovulatory cycle: Naturalistic and laboratory task–based evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1451–1460.

3Beall, A. T., & Tracy, J. L. (in press). Women more likely to wear red or pink at peak fertility. Psychological Science.

Thursday
Jan162014

Conquering Contrast Effects: The Strong Survive and the Weak Shall Perish 

Ever catch your partner checking out an attractive stranger on the street? Ever notice all of the good-looking opposite-sex friends your partner has accumulated on Facebook? Such things might seem harmless, but these “beautiful” people may actually make us less appealing to our partners, due to what researchers refer to as contrast effects. Contrast effects occur when something looks better or worse depending on what we compare to it. In this case, you could look less attractive to your partner when compared to someone else that is more attractive, whether that person is a sexy passerby, a good-looking co-worker, or even someone featured in erotic material. (Read more about contrast effects here.) 

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Tuesday
Jan142014

The Biology of Cheating

In the movie Unfaithful, Diane Lane’s character seems to have it all: a nice house, kids, and a hunky husband to boot (played by Richard Gere). Yet, following a chance encounter with an attractive younger man, she finds herself being, well, unfaithful. Why would she risk all of the nice things in her life by cheating? There are several reasons why she would take such a risk. It could be something about her (her personality or self-esteem), something about her relationship (not satisfying or unfulfilling), or something about the situation (she just had the chance). However, infidelity or cheating could also result from, at least partially, underlying biological and hormonal influences.

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Monday
Jan132014

The Things You Do for Me: How Your Partner’s Investments Make You More Committed 

Imagine that you get a great job offer, complete with an excellent salary, flexible hours and numerous promotion opportunities. The only problem is that this job offer is in a city far away from where you and your partner currently live. Thus, your partner has to choose whether or not to uproot for you, leaving her or his own job and friends behind and starting over with you in this new city. What would be the consequences of your partner making this choice? In particular, beyond the consequences this would have for your partner, how would you feel about your partner making this sacrifice for you? 

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