Entries in perception (10)

Friday
Sep082017

The Relationship is a Changin’: The Benefits Achieved When Partners Change Together

There is a well-worn saying, often mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein, suggesting “women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not.”1 This statement may or may not be true, but highlights an interesting (and understudied) relationship dynamic: Change plays an important role in relationships. It is natural to wonder how long your relationship will last, whether you will fall out of love, whether you’ll have children and what they’ll be like, how your partner will be as a parent, whether you’ll get a divorce, etc. The common denominator in each of these inquiries is that you and your partner will experience your fair share of change along the way. But is this change good?

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Tuesday
Jul192016

Not In My Backyard: Daters Presume A Lot Of People, Except Their Own Partners, Cheat

Cheating on someone, or being cheated on (read more about infidelity here), represents one of the more traumatic events that can occur in any romantic relationship. Although the reported incidence rate of infidelity varies considerably by sample and relationship type, suffice it to say that affairs are not uncommon in marital and non-marital relationships. And people (in those relationships) suspect it’s common – when asked, people generally presume that people cheat frequently (hence the prevalence of tabloid magazine lists on ‘how to spot a cheater’). 

Yet, despite the apparent widespread presumption that staying true to another is no easy task, people likewise presume their own partners are highly unlikely to stray. A number of studies, mostly focused on married individuals, have documented a clear gap between the frequency of infidelity (i.e., people admitting they have cheated on their spouses) and individuals’ expectations that their partner has cheated. Basically, people believe others cheat, and even report doing it, but still don’t tend to think it has happened, or will happen, in their relationships. 

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Wednesday
May182016

Do You Know When Your Partner is in the Mood for Sex?

Sometimes it’s obvious that our partner is interested in having sex—they might give us that seductive look or special touch. But other times it might be clear that tonight’s not the night—our partner might avoid our advances and simply roll over and go to sleep. But often, amidst our busy lives, work responsibilities, and children to care for, it may be much less clear how interested our partner is in engaging in sex. In a recent set of studies, my colleagues and I looked at how accurate people are at picking up on their partner’s interest in sex and how perceptions of a partner’s sexual desire are associated with relationship satisfaction and commitment.1 

First I want to share what we currently know from previous research about perceptions of sexual interest. All of the the past research on perceptions of sexual interest has focused on initial encounters between men and women—that is, men and women rating the sexual interest of a person they are meeting for the first time. The results are very consistent: men tend to show a sexual overperception bias where they perceive greater sexual interest in a women’s behavior than she herself reports. The majority of this research draws on evolutionary psychology and explains these findings as reflecting the fact that it’s more costly (in terms of men’s chances for mating with a good partner and having kids) for men to miss a potential mating opportunity than to perceive that a woman is interested in sex when she actually is not; thus, men tend to err on the side of overperception.2

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Monday
Mar242014

The Nose Knows: Detecting Sickness by Scent

image source: myteespot.com/images/Images_d/DSCF8661.jpgResearchers injected 8 volunteers with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a molecule found on bacteria that induces a strong “internal” immune response similar to the one that occurs when people are sick (e.g., increases in body temperature and immune cells). The volunteers wore t-shirts to collect their body odor (and also provided t-shirts worn after saline administration, which served as a control condition). A separate group of participants later rated the t-shirts for pleasantness and healthiness. The participants rated the LPS condition t-shirts as more unpleasant and less healthy relative to the ‘normal’ t-shirts. In other words, when we’re sick, we release a funk that tells others to stay away. Follow your nose—it always knows.

Olsson, M. J., Lundström, J. N., Kimball, B. A., Gordon, A. R., et al. (in press). The scent of disease: Human body odor contains an early chemosensory cue of sickness. Psychological Science.

Tuesday
Dec102013

Positively Naked: The Benefits of Showing Some Skin

When meeting someone for the first time, your impression of that person may be different if you meet that person at a formal dinner party, a cocktail party, or a pool party. These settings typically influence how the person dresses and how much skin they expose. Whether you consciously pay attention to a person’s exposed skin or not, focusing on their body may have unintended consequences.

We often assume that focusing too much on a person’s body and physical characteristics objectifies and dehumanises that person. A 2012 study in the journal Psychological Science showed both men and women viewed other women portrayed as “sexy” as objects.

But it is less clear what takes place psychologically when we focus on a person’s body and the consequences of objectification. A team of researchers, led by Paul Bloom at Yale University, conducted a series of studies, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, to determine if focusing on a person’s body alters perception of that person, and if it leads to perceive that person differently and whether those perceptions can have benefits.

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Monday
Feb112013

The Sense(s) of Attraction

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans spend upwards of $10 billion on for Valentine’s Day. And in true Valentine’s Day fashion, most of the adults surveyed were expecting to purchase candy, flowers, and/or a nice evening out for their partners. If you are one of those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, you might be thinking that these behaviors sound pretty familiar. The smell of roses and cologne will fill the air. Succulent wine and chocolate will dance on our tongues. We will go out dressed in our very best. Valentine’s Day truly is a day to indulge in some relational hedonism. But is the Valentine’s Day feel-goodery helpful for our relationships, or have we merely bought into a big consumer ploy? Although the answer to this question might be a matter of opinion, some research suggests that sensual pleasures – many of those that are heightened on Valentine’s Day – actually have a lot to do with feelings of attraction and relational health.

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Wednesday
Oct102012

Body and Mind: How Seemingly Unrelated Physical Experiences Affect Our Relationships

What if I told you that simply holding a cup of hot coffee leads you to perceive others more positively?  Seems like crazy talk, right? Well, it may not be so crazy after all.

Embodied cognition (also called embodiment) is an emerging research area in psychology. Embodiment is the theory that there is a strong association between physical experiences and psychological states.

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Friday
Aug172012

Opening Up: Challenging Myths about Consensual Non-Monogamy

What do sex columnist Dan Savage and politician Newt Gingrich have in common? Probably not a lot, but they have both been in the media recently in regards to open relationships.

In a recent article in the New York Times, sex columnist Dan Savage discussed the benefits of a monogamish relationship – one where partners are committed to each other but free to occasionally pursue sex partners outside of the primary relationship. He believes that opening up a relationship in this way can promote honest communication and prevent actual “infidelity.”

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Thursday
Aug092012

Cheating is in the Eye of the Beholder: What Counts and Who Cheats?

Not that you need reminding, but nearly 15 years ago then-President Bill Clinton was immersed in a saucy sex scandal. The affair was the topic of many water cooler talks. People wondered how the American President, the leader of the free world, did not know whether he cheated or not? Well, it turns out that identifying what “counts” as cheating is more complicated than it seems.

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Thursday
Mar292012

If I’m Hot, You’re Probably Not

To determine how people’s attractiveness influences their selection of dating partners, researchers examined attractiveness ratings of over 16,000 HOTorNOT.com users, their ratings of others, and their responses to meeting requests. Both women (vs. men) and more (vs. less) attractive individuals were less likely to accept meeting requests. Less attractive individuals were willing to meet less attractive others and did so without artificially inflating the others’ attractiveness (i.e., they knew they were less attractive). 

Lee, L., Loewenstein, G., Ariely, D., Hong, J., & Young, J. (2008). If I'm not hot, are you hot or not? Physical-attractiveness evaluations and dating preferences as a function of one's own attractiveness. Psychological Science, 19(7), 669-677. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02141.x