Entries in correlation ≠ causation (12)


The Grass Is Greener on the Internet: Pornography, Alternatives, and Infidelity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for that last 20 years, you likely know that the internet is full of pornography. But does exposure to porn hurt your relationships? Although there are conflicting results and plenty of questionable science on this topic (see here for an example), a new study suggests that watching porn may indeed impact certain aspects of relationship quality.1 Specifically, the researchers examined whether exposure to pornographic videos (i.e., the kind of thing you’re most likely to come across on the internet) increases people’s perception of relationship alternatives (read more about alternatives here), which negatively affects relationship quality. 

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Our Stuff: Household Objects Indicate Relationship Quality

Having just moved into a new house, one thing is clear to me (and the moving guys): Couples accumulate a lot of stuff. Whether it’s the crates full of grunge CDs from college or our new bedroom furniture, I have firsthand knowledge that as a couple’s relationship develops, so does their collection of objects and artifacts. Now I’m not talking about the folks on Hoarders here. Rather, as normal couples build a household together, undoubtedly that includes merging each individuals’ possessions along with the acquisition of new things (please see my credit card statement as evidence for the latter). 

What do those household objects say about relationships? Can we tell anything about a couple by looking at their stuff?

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Geekosystem Failure: Does TV Cause Marital Strife?

Geekosystem.com…We love you, but you should probably stick to what you do best (sharing random, marginally humorous things you find on the internet) and leave relationship science to the experts.

A few days ago Geekosystem ran a story titled, Television Is Destroying Our Romantic Relationships, As If We Need The Help. The first two sentences of the article read as follows:

We can add television to the list of things that are destroying marriages across the world. According to a recent study from Albion University, watching television can be a significant cause of marital strife.

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Two’s Company. But Is It Necessarily Bad Company?

Last week we were fortunate to publish a post on cohabitation guest-authored by two of the foremost experts on the topic. Their research addresses one of the more controversial and hotly-debated patterns of findings in the relationship science world: the marriages of couples that live together (cohabit) before tying the knot often fare worse than the marriages of couples that do not cohabit prior to marrying (commonly referred to as “the cohabitation effect”). There are a number of possible explanations for this effect, (and remember, correlation does not equal causation), but the purpose of this follow-up post is not to dig into those explanations (for now). Rather, I want to put the authors’ key conclusion in context for all those who might be second-guessing their decision to shack up after reading this post.

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"Seven Days of Sex": Will It Save Your Marriage?

“Can sex restore marital harmony?” Couples are putting this hypothesis to the test on Lifetime’s new television series 7 Days of Sex (watch it here). Even though the results of everyday coitus seem highly effective on TV, what does science say? Can sex really save a marriage?

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Dilbert: Making a Case for the Selection Perspective


Is Pornography to Blame For the High Divorce Rate?

Ever since the invention of pornography, politicians and the public alike have expressed concerns about the potential negative effects that porn has on those who view it. In particular, many people worry that exposure to porn is destructive to people’s romantic and sexual relationships. This concern was seemingly validated by a recent study reporting that Playboy magazine was the “cause” of up to 25% of all divorces that occurred in the United States in the 1960s and 70s. Could this really be the case? Is exposure to porn destroying our love lives?

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A Perfect Positive Correlation


Our Take on "There’s Nothing Brief About a Hookup": The Devil is in the Details

A recently published op-ed by Dannah Gresh on CNN.com makes the controversial argument that “there’s nothing brief about a hookup” (read the full op-ed here). As of posting, Gresh’s op-ed, which supposedly draws on scientific evidence to support her conclusion that casual sex is unhealthy, has inspired over 800 comments and some heated debate, much of it centered around Gresh’s admission near the end of the op-ed that:

"In the interest of full disclosure, my motivation here is my Christian faith. I believe sex to be an incredible gift from God, meant to transcend the physical to discover something emotional and spiritual with another person.

But since my faith may alienate some of you from my message, I ask you not to think too hard about religious differences. Stick to the facts."

Here at ScienceOfRelationships.com we are always encouraged when we see articles on relationships (and sex) that incorporate scientific evidence, but we are admittedly wary when there is reason to believe the interpretation of those scientific data might be distorted by an underlying agenda. Thus, we took it upon ourselves to do just what Gresh requested: Stick to the facts. After careful scrutiny of her arguments, and review of the empirical work she cites as support for her conclusions, we have identified three important ways that Gresh either overstates or misuses specific research findings. Below, we identify and provide an examples of instances where the facts do not support the claim.

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Is Twitter Bad for Relationships?

If you’re one of our many frequent visitors you know that we recently wrote about the validity of the data presented on OKCupid’s blog. I’m not going to rehash the points raised there, but did want to note a few additional things related to the recent OKTrends post “10 Charts about Sex.”

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Does Facebook Cause Divorce and Infidelity?

Recently, "a new study" showing that facebook is increasingly given as a reason for divorce has been making its way around the internet. Does Facebook cause cheating and divorce?

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Do Happy Teens Divorce More?

A recent article indicates teenagers who were most happy were also more likely to divorce as adults. But remember: correlation doesn't equal causation! It's probably the case that teenage happiness is associated with the self-confidence, support, and enpowerment to leave bad relationships as an adult; not that happiness itself causes divorce.

Click here to read more about these findings on the HuffingtonPost.com.

Richards, M., & Huppert, F. A. (2011). Do positive children become positive adults? Evidence from a longitudinal birth cohort study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 75-87.