Saturday
Feb262011

Who Has the Upper Hand? Power, Sex, and Seinfeld

A recent article on Slate.com, by sociologist Mark Regnerus at The University of Texas at Austin, discusses how males are becoming underrepresented on many college campuses and in the workplace, and are thus likely to call the shots in their (heterosexual) relationships when it comes to sex. The author’s basic argument, which draws from his book entitled Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying, is that good men are becoming hard to find. High-quality men are are in short supply, and, as a result, in high demand. Therefore, they are able to exert more power over women in their relationships. Female partners need to go along with guys' wishes because there are plenty of female fish in the sea for the guys, whereas the women have relatively fewer good alternatives. Although the main area of conflict described in the article is sex, it stands to reason that the logic could be applied to other decisions in relationships, such as what movie to see, which friends to hangout with, or how much Xbox should be played.

This idea is known to close relationships researchers as the “principle of least interest”1—that when there is an inequality in the desire to maintain the relationship between the partners, the person least into the relationship has the power to call the shots. For the Seinfeld fans out there, you might remember the episode The Pez Dispenser (1992) when George laments about his relationships by stating “I have no power. Do you understand? I need hand. I have no hand.” Kramer and Jerry advise George to threaten to break up with his girlfriend, which effectively turns the table in the relationship and subsequently gives George the "hand” he so desperately wanted.

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Friday
Feb252011

Hall Pass: She's Hot...Well, Maybe Not

 

This isn't just a movie preview, it is also a great example of relationship science. In the trailer for the new movie Hall Pass, the guys are out at a club when they see a seemingly attractive woman (@2:14 in the clip). Jason Sudeikis’ character Fred gestures to a group of women and says “tall blonde, right here.” Another guy then points out “she surrounds herself with less attractive women to make her look like a 10.” This same guy goes on to demonstrate this idea by putting his hands up to frame the whole group, “hot…” Next, he moves his hands so that you can’t see the blonde’s friends and says “not…” as you see the woman get visibly less attractive. Fred: “that’s amazing, you’re like a Beautiful Mind.”

This is a fantastic example of the contrast effect.

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Wednesday
Feb232011

Why Do Celebrities Seem to Cheat So Much? 

Quick, in 10 seconds think of as many celebrities as you can who have allegedly been caught cheating. Go! Tiger Woods, Jude Law, Bill Clinton, Dave Letterman, Kobe Bryant, Eliot Spitzer, LeAnn Rimes, Hugh Grant, Bill Clinton some more, Jon Edwards, that guy Sandra Bullock was married to, and Brett Favre. Why is this so easy? Either you have an extraordinary knowledge of celebrities' love lives, or it really is a common phenomenon. So, why do they do it? Because they can.

Everyone may not be created equally when it comes to their opportunities to be unfaithful. In the case of celebrities, they have a high mate value due to their physical attractiveness, money, power, notoriety, or combination thereof. As a result, potential interlopers (i.e., home wreckers) find them highly desirable and are willing accomplices in the affair (because even D-list celebrities are still celebrities).

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Wednesday
Feb232011

What You See vs. What You Get - Can Support Be Invisible?

Maryhope Howland and Professor Jeff Simpson of the University of Minnesota talk about their recent research on "invisible support" in relationships.

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Wednesday
Feb232011

Sustainable Marriage Quiz

Previously we posted about the self-expansion model and relationship development. How does your relationship stack up?

Not Very Much     1    2    3    4    5    6    7     Very Much

  1. How much does being with your partner result in your having new experiences?
  2. When you are with your partner, do you feel a greater awareness of things because of him or her?
  3. How much does your partner increase your ability to accomplish new things?
  4. How much does your partner help to expand your sense of the kind of person you are?
  5. How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?
  6. How much do your partner’s strengths as a person (skills, abilities, etc.) compensate for some of your own weaknesses as a person?
  7. How much do you feel that you have a larger perspective on things because of your partner?
  8. How much has being with your partner resulted in your learning new things?
  9. How much has knowing your partner made you a better person?
  10. How much does your partner increase your knowledge?

__________________________________

Scores

60 and above — Highly Expansive. You are gaining a lot of new experiences and reaching new goals as a result of your relationship. Chances are you have a happier, more sustainable relationship as a result.

45 to 60 — Moderately Exciting. Your relationship has led to moderate improvements in your life and some new experiences. But there’s definitely room for improvement.

Below 45 — Low Connection. Your relationship is not creating opportunities that help expand your knowledge and make you feel better about yourself. Make an effort to share new experiences with your partner to improve your relationship.

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Tuesday
Feb222011

Ovulating Women: Hot or Not?

We're big fans of John Tierney at the New York Times, and in a recent post he discusses new research by Saul Miller and Jon Maner at Florida State University.1 Their work indicates that single men are more attracted to women who are ovulating, but that men in committed relationships are actually less attracted to those same ovulating women. In short, it's adaptive for males to want to mate with fertile females, but the motivation to protect one's current long-term relationship can counteract this effect as committed men downplay the attractiveness of others as a means of protecting their current relationship.2

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Tuesday
Feb222011

Where's the Best Place to Meet Someone?

Rather than simply giving a top ten list of where individuals meet, we're arming you with the basic principles at play during initial encounters:

(1) Physical closeness leads to psychological closeness. You have to interact with a person to have a relationship with him or her, and being around each other ups the chances of having an interaction. Potential partners are all around-- in your neighborhood, in one of your classes, in your church, or in a cubicle down the hall. Not only does physical proximity increase the odds of meeting and interacting with someone, but just seeing a person a lot can lead you to like them more (known as the “mere exposure effect”).1 The girl (or guy) next door will have an advantage in winning your heart because you see that person more often. Like a fungus, she (or he) is going to grow on you whether you realize it or not. 

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Monday
Feb212011

Cold Feet?

A few days ago I received a call from a CNN reporter. This particular reporter had interviewed me previously, and she thought I might be able to help her out with a story she was producing. What follows is an abbreviated transcript of our conversation:

CNN reporter: I’m doing a story on how women in relationships tend to be colder than men, and how that affects relationships. Do you do any research that speaks to that finding?

Me: (doing my best to stifle a chuckle) No, I don’t do any work that is remotely related to that topic, and to be perfectly honest, I question the generalization.

CNN reporter: Well, it’s mostly anecdotal, but there was a study on it.

Me: (now a bit intrigued) Oh, really, what study was that?

CNN reporter: Thanks anyway. <click>

After getting off the phone, I dug around a bit on the internet and found that there had been some recent stories about differences in cold sensitivity between men and women (see here for one example).

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Monday
Feb212011

Facebook Notifications or Your Crystal Ball?

Are you itching to know when your friends' relationships crash and burn? Rather than waiting for them to tell you about it, a new Facebook app will notify you when they've become single. It's just what all you stalkers were waiting for.

Of course, you probably could have guessed that these relationships were doomed. There's research showing that friends are actually more accurate in predicting breakup than are the members of the relationship itself.1 Thats right-- friends seem to know best; even better than the couple. In addition, friends' approval for a relationship is as good of a predictor of breakup as is the satisfaction level of the people in the relationship.2 So if you want to know if a relationship will break up, it's just as useful to know what the friends think about the relationship as it is to ask the couple members if they are happy in their relationship.

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Saturday
Feb192011

The Jersey Shore: Ronnie & Sam’s Break-Up (Gottman Saw It Coming)

It took a lot longer than it probably should have, but the turbulent relationship between Ronnie and Sammie on The Jersey Shore has come to its inevitable end. Finally. The Situation best summarized their relationship when he basically said “I like both of them, but I just don’t them together.”  But really…who didn’t see this coming?

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Friday
Feb182011

“He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not ...”: Uncertainty and Attraction

Are you more likely to be attracted to someone who is into you? Or do you like those that don’t reciprocate your interest? This is one of those cases where your intuitions might be wrong. You need to be cool and downplay your interest in someone to get them to like you, right? Nope; it turns out that there’s a lot of research showing that we tend to like those people who like us right back.

That’s all well and good, but in the real world sometimes it’s not clear how someone feels about you. Maybe they are sending mixed signals or you’re getting conflicting information about their interest from your mutual friends. Or you might not have any idea how they feels about you because you’re too scared to even talk to them. Essentially, what happens when you are uncertain about their feelings about you? Do you like them less or more?

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Friday
Feb182011

How Do I Access Journal Articles?

Okay, this isn't the normal sort of Q&A that we'll be doing, but I wasn't sure how to categorize this one, and technically it is a question you may have, so I've labelled it as such.

One thing that I felt compelled to do in my previous entries is include a handful of citations for relevant journal articles and/or book chapters. I suppose you can't beat the teacher and researcher out of me; it's just second nature. My guess is that other contributors will also provide references with their entries.

So maybe you, the reader, are interested in learning more about the particular topic that we've written about and actually want to read one or more of the papers we've cited. Good for you! But you may wonder how to get your hands on those articles. For those who haven't accessed journal articles before, I thought it might be useful for me to give some tips: 

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Friday
Feb182011

Self-Expansion: Personal Growth through Relationships

In the past few months, research conducted by my friend and fellow ScienceOfRelationships.com contributor Dr. Gary Lewandowski and his colleagues has been featured across a number of media outlets, including the New York Times and CNN. He's much too modest to promote his own work, so I'll take the liberty of posting about it.

Click here for a link to the NYT piece about his work and here's a recent interview with Dr. Lewandowski on CNN, although he has to share time with a "non-relationship scientist" (trying to be nice here).

What I love about this work is that it is has much empirical support, and also that it is tied into the larger psychological literature on self-identity.

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Friday
Feb112011

What Do You Mean by "Relationship Science"?

As the first post to the site, I figured it would be a good idea to talk a little bit about what we mean by the scientific study of relationships, and why this might be a good approach for learning about relationships.

Who are the first people that come to mind when you think about "relationships experts"?

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