Entries by Dr. Helen Lee Lin (23)

Monday
Apr072014

Time Flies When Your Partner Is Cute…At Least for a While

Have you ever had a lunch date that just seemed to fly by? Or a coffee date where you were counting the minutes until you could make an excuse and leave? You might guess that conversing with someone attractive can make a difference in whether or not time seems to drag. However, attractiveness may not play the role you expect!

Researchers tested the role of attractiveness in time-perception with a series of experiments.1 In one of the experiments, strangers were asked to converse freely (unscripted) over Skype, an application that allows text, voice, and video chatting over the Internet. For brevity, we’ll focus only on this Skype experiment below.

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Friday
Mar282014

Grammarly: An Online Dater’s Secret Weapon

Joe Romance scratches his head. Online dating profile questions are the worst. I never know what to write, he muses. He decides to write just the basics: general hobbies and interests without many distinctive details. His “matches” will be able to tell he’s a good guy, right? Then, he can work on impressing them later, once he connects with someone he really likes.

He taps out the following: I have two dogs. We go jogging in the park every morning. If your a Dog Lover like me, maybe we’ll get along. One’s a Labrador, the others a Dalmatian. And, I like stargazing. I studied Astronomy in highschool and could of been an astonomer. If you want to know how to find Orion in the sky, well I can be your Star Hunter ha ha. Normally I like to go to the observatory alone, it’s kinda my Fortress of Solitude (Superman fan, don’t judge), but for the right person, I’ll make room on my stargazing blanket. I also like concerts and going to the movies.

Satisfied with his self-description, Joe Romance submits his bio, uploads a few photos, and waits for his dating luck to change. Over the next few weeks, his number of profile views goes up, but he only gets a few messages.

What went wrong?

If Joe had thought to use it, leading automated proofreading site Grammarly could have offered a few suggestions. The global service has helped over two billion native and non-native English writers with common grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, and lack of originality through its signature Grammarly Editor. Beyond the automated proofreader’s obvious utility for school assignments and business communication, the folks at Grammarly believed their service could boost its users’ romantic prospects, too, by helping people make good first impressions with their online dating profiles.

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Thursday
Jan022014

Longer Commutes Linked to Higher Likelihood of Divorce

Commutes. They’re dull; they’re stressful. They’re even hilariously frustrating, if you’re Ron Livingston in the movie Office Space. But could a commute hurt your relationship?

A 10-year study from Sweden suggests that the answer is yes.1 More than two million married or cohabiting Swedes (from an annually updated database containing the entire Swedish population) were included in this study on long-distance commuting. In the study, a “long-distance commute” was defined as a commute spanning 30 kilometers (approximately 18.6 miles) or more, which in Sweden translates to a one-way commute lasting approximately 45 minutes by car. (The 30-kilometer distance was measured in a straight line, so the actual distances traveled were greater.) The researcher found that couples who had lengthy commutes had a 40% higher risk of separation, compared with non-commuting couples.

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Thursday
Dec052013

His and Hers: Emotions During Cooperation and Conflict

If you’ve ever tried to work out a problem with your partner, you know it can be a situation with tension, heightened negative emotion and perhaps a face-off of epic proportions until one of you “wins.” If one partner disengages by avoiding the issue or not treating it seriously, the other partner may feel that the discussion falls flat and nothing is truly resolved. The cooperation of both partners is essential when coping with disagreements; it plays a role in how emotions rise and fall during and after conflict.

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Wednesday
Nov272013

Why Thanksgiving Dinner Might Make You More Trusting

If you find yourself a little drowsy after lunch, the culprit could be the tryptophan in your turkey sandwich. But the next time you sit down to a Thanksgiving feast (or a table laden with other foods high in tryptophan), you might wonder why you’re also filled with extra goodwill.

Experimenters investigated tryptophan’s influence on interpersonal trust by administering oral doses of tryptophan (or a placebo) to pairs of strangers in the laboratory.

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Wednesday
Nov062013

Do Bisexual People Experience Jealousy in the Same Way as Heterosexual People?  

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?

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Friday
Oct182013

Friends Don’t Like Friends Who Sleep Around (Even If They’re Sleeping Around, Too)

If you were sexually permissive, would you approve of your friends’ sexual permissiveness, too? After all, who are we to judge when we act the same way ourselves? Well, let’s say something you value is at stake. The attitudes of an overly sexy friend could threaten your own romantic relationships (“Hey BFF, let’s share everything, including your partner!”). Would you be likely to “mate-guard” your partner from a sexy friend? Or, do you believe in sharing?

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Wednesday
Aug282013

To Have and To Hold, To Share and Be Equitable

Meet Nate and Angelica. Nate and Angelica are getting married. They’ve planned every detail of the ceremony, and checked all their reservations twice. The vows are written; the honeymoon getaway is booked. Maybe Nate daydreams about surprising Angelica on special occasions; maybe Angelica has her eye on a good preschool for their future children. Their future is set — or is it? What about the more mundane details of married life that are often overlooked?

Will Angelica be the one on kitchen duty, cleaning up after dinner? Will Nate be the one who picks up the kids when Angelica is working late? Will the person who earns less income contribute to the household in other ways, even if they both work 40 hours a week? Often, couples decide these matters based on convenience or preference, not according to a marital master-plan of equal give-and-take. But precisely because the average couple doesn’t analyze the costs and benefits of every chore undertaken, an unfair division of labor may create resentment over time. For example, Angelica may realize Nate only takes their cats for shots once a year, whereas she has to change their kitty litter every day.

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Friday
Jul192013

The Rules of Deception in Romance

In the acclaimed TV drama Breaking Bad, high school chemistry teacher Walter White has a big secret—he doesn’t tell his wife Skyler that he and his former student Jesse Pinkman have begun “cooking” and selling meth. Lots and lots of meth.   

As is the case with many couples, Walt and Skyler may differ on what they consider to be deception. Walt isn’t hiding his criminal activity to hurt Skyler or damage their marriage; in fact, he started his meth lab as a way to ensure his family’s financial security, in the event that he dies from lung cancer. However, Skyler actually considers Walt’s deception quite problematic (his life of crime places him in great legal and mortal danger, after all!) and later pursues a divorce when he reveals the truth. Walt and Skyler’s different perspectives on Walt’s deception beg the question: how might beliefs about deceit differ between men and women in real life?

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Friday
Mar012013

When a Flash of Skin Makes a Man Flash His Cash

I’m probably not the only person who’s wondered why muscle-car expos and auto-enthusiast magazines often feature attractive female models, or “car babes,” posing suggestively alongside (or on top of!) luxurious vehicles. Doesn’t the eye candy distract prospective buyers from the cars?

Maybe not. Turns out feminine curves and cold chrome aren’t such an unlikely combination after all. It all boils down to the need to impress a potential mate.

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Tuesday
Feb052013

Sexy in Red? Not So Fast!

As a diligent reader of Science of Relationships, you’ve read our past articles on how wearing the color red is more than just a fashion choice. For example, you know that men find women more attractive in red because red is seen as an indication of more sexual receptivity. Women also find men who wear red sexually exciting. These findings make it sound like everyone’s date-night wardrobe is set for life – just pick out something red! But anything that easy has to have a catch, right? Before you slip into that new red shirt or dress for your next hot date, you might want to keep reading...

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Thursday
Dec132012

Regifting: A Gift-Giver’s Hidden Shame

Ever get a gift that was so perfect for you that you actually already had the gifted item? Or maybe you received a gift that was so awful that you wondered if the giver knew you at all. (Sure, it’s the thought that counts, but what were they thinking?!) These are the times when gift receipts and generous store return policies come in handy. But if exchanges aren’t allowed, we may find ourselves contemplating “regifting” (i.e., giving the unwanted gift to someone else), especially with National Regifting Day approaching on the Thursday before Christmas. We may feel ashamed or opportunistic, however, about presenting someone with a gift we didn’t want ourselves in light of the distinct social taboo against the practice of regifting. (Remember Elaine’s indignant “He recycled this gift! He’s a regifter!” on Seinfeld?). Is this worry justified?

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Wednesday
Nov282012

Two Can Keep a Secret (If One of Them Is Dead)

If you missed the first post in this series about family secrets, Got a Secret, Can You Keep It?, check it out here.

People often claim, “My partner knows me inside and out.” Sure, in our close relationships, we’d like to think we know the person with whom we share our bed, our meals, and our time. But is it necessary to know absolutely everything about your significant other? And if you have a few skeletons yourself that you’d like to keep in the proverbial closet, how far would you go to keep them there? On the mystery-thriller TV series Pretty Little Liars, some of the characters resort to murder to keep their secrets safe.

When we’re the ones hiding negative parts of ourselves from others, it may come naturally to protect our images rather than seem dishonest or hurtful.

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Wednesday
Nov212012

Got a Secret, Can You Keep It?

Whether your teenage brother is a petty burglar or you seduced your sister’s fiancé, we all have family secrets. The characters on ABC Family’s mystery-thriller television series, Pretty Little Liars, know this all too well. They struggle to live normal lives despite being surrounded by deceit. To make matters worse, a menacing (and seemingly omnipresent) bully known only as “A” seems to know of every slip-up and secret shame, blackmailing the main characters in exchange for not revealing their dirty deeds. While most of us don’t have an “A” stalking our every move, we all have information that we keep to ourselves. Researchers in the fields of psychology and communication know this too and have uncovered a lot about the nature of family secrets.

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Tuesday
Oct302012

Battle of the Bulge: When Your Partner Is Fatter or Thinner Than You Are

To determine how partners’ relative body weights affect their relationships, researchers collected data from couples of varying girth profiles (e.g., both healthy weight, both overweight, or mismatched weights). Couples responded about their daily conflict and the frequency with which they ate meals (and, presumably, Cheetos) together. Couples with an overweight woman and healthy-weight man experienced the greatest level of conflict; overweight male - healthy female couples had the lowest levels of conflict. Importantly, mismatched-weight couples who ate together more frequently reported more conflict, regardless of which partner was overweight (apparently, it’s a lot easier to be critical if you see what your partner eats).

Burke, T. J., Randall, A. K., Corkery, S. A., Young, V. J., & Butler, E. A. (in press, 2012). “You’re going to eat that?” Relationship processes and conflict among mixed-weight couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1177/0265407512451199

Thursday
Sep202012

(Dis)connecting People

Cell phones have revolutionized the ways we stay in touch. However, do our mobile phones affect our relationships, even when we’re not using them? Findings from two new studies suggest they do. Pairs of strangers discussed assigned topics in the presence or absence of a phone. Specifically, these “stranger-pairs” sat in a room with either a nondescript mobile phone or an old-fashioned pocket notebook placed unobtrusively on a desk to the side. The simple presence of a phone (vs. notepad) resulted in lower levels of closeness and relationship quality after their discussion. Further, when specifically asked to talk about a meaningful topic, the presence of a mobile phone also resulted in lower levels of trust and empathy. It’s possible that cell phones act as a reminder of people’s wider social networks, and the anticipation of a possible interruption (your best friend complaining about yet another awful blind date?) draws attention away from face-to-face conversations.

Przybylski, A. K. & Weinstein, N. (in press, 2012). Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1177/0265407512453827

Check out the podcast about this research here.

Wednesday
Sep052012

When “Sorry” Just Isn’t Enough

“Three words, eight letters. Say it and I’m yours.” This was Blair Waldorf’s plea to her on-again, off-again lover Chuck Bass on the television drama Gossip Girl when Chuck wouldn’t admit to anyone his obvious devotion to her. Blair was presumably after the words “I love you,” but considering their long history of slights against each other, she could just as easily have been waiting for the words “I am sorry” to spill from bad-boy Chuck’s lips. As it turns out, the overall well-being of romantic relationships may hang as much on apologies as they do on confessions of love.

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Saturday
Aug252012

My Lover, My Friend

How often do we hear people say, “I married my best friend”? Certainly, unmarried people in romantic relationships consider their lovers to be good friends as well, but are these friendships with lovers important? Not surprisingly, yes, they are. Across two survey studies, valuing the friendship in one’s romantic relationship benefitted the couples tremendously. Those couples were more likely to be in love, committed to each other, and sexually fulfilled, and these benefits got better with time. Simultaneously, valuing one’s partner as a friend was also linked to a reduced chance of breaking up.

 

VanderDrift, L. E., Wilson, J. E., & Agnew, C. R. (in press, 2012). On the benefits of valuing being friends for nonmarital romantic partners. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1177/0265407512453009

Tuesday
Jul312012

Paging Dr. Love

The legendary rockers of the American band KISS may not have been so far off when they belted out, “Baby, I know what your problem is...the first step of the cure is a kiss!” in their hit single, “Calling Dr. Love.” They couldn’t have known it at the time, but current relationship scientists may now agree with Gene Simmons’ medical claims. There might be a little something special to that kiss.

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Thursday
Jun282012

Unrequited Love (Part 2 of 2): Stuck Between Friend and Friendlier

The article below is continued from Unrequited Love (Part 1): Crushin’ on or Crushed by You? Click here if you missed it.

In Part 1, my teenaged self confessed a long-time crush to a friend. Sometimes these situations can blossom into satisfying romantic relationships if both friends are harboring feelings for each other, but if the person who wants more (confessor) admits this to a desired friend who is uninterested (rejector), the two friends must deal with the resulting emotional fallout in their friendship.

The same researchers did a new follow-up study to uncover the specifics of how these friends behaved toward each other after the confessor had been rejected.1 It turns out that particular types of verbal and nonverbal behaviors in the friends’ interactions were indeed linked to whether or not the friendship ended.

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