Entries in psychological science (journal) (9)


Late to the Game, Happier in Relationships

According to a recent study published in Psychological Science,1 teenagers who wait longer to have sex experience different kinds of romantic relationships later in life compared to teens that start having sex earlier. This 15-year longitudinal study (beginning in 1994 and concluding in 2009) tracked teenagers’ sexual activity and long-term relationships into their late 20s/early 30s. Those teens that had sex before age 15 (23%) were considered “early” sexual bloomers. Most teens (60%) had sex for the first time between the ages of 15 and 19, which scientists consider normal for American teenagers (thus, “on time”), and 16% of teens reported having sex for the first time after age 19, and were labeled “late” sexual bloomers (8% of the sample did not report having sex at all in their lives).

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The “Halo” of Hot Women

When you see a really attractive woman, you might be struck by her beauty, but does her beauty affect what you assume is going on in her head? Or what kind of character she has? Perhaps. People tend to assume that physically attractive people hold other positive qualities just by looking at them—this is one example of the “Halo Effect” or what is also known as the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype. For example, observers assume that good-looking people are more socially skilled, better at their jobs, and more emotionally healthy (e.g., less anxiety or loneliness). But is there any truth to this perception? Are hot people actually higher on these qualities? Researchers examined this question in a recent study published in Psychological Science.

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Monkey See, Monkey Do (and by “Do” We Mean “Have Sex”)

Recently, we reviewed research that indicates portrayals of sex in pop culture (e.g., movies, TV) influence young adults’ attitudes toward sex and “hookup” behavior. Soon-to-be-published research1 in the journal Psychological Science has more to add on the topic. Researchers surveyed over 1200 adolescents aged 12-14 throughout the U.S. by telephone and followed their sexual activity over a period of about 6 years. They found that more exposure to sex in popular movies (e.g., American Pie) at a young age (before 16) was associated with an earlier “sexual debut.” In other words, the more teens were exposed to sex in movies, the younger they were when they first started having sex.

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Will You Be My “Rock”? (Because My Chair is Wobbly)

We regularly hear people refer to their romantic partners as their “rock.” (My wife always says that she wishes I was The Rock, but that’s a different story altogether). What is it about large, dirty moss-covered stones that people love so much? Just joking, of course – the metaphor really centers on the idea that people want their partners to be there, through thick and thin, and to provide a sense of stability to their lives.

Generally, embodied cognition (also called embodiment) is the theory that individuals’ physical experiences subtly and unconsciously affect their psychological states. Recently, researchers used an embodied cognition approach to examine whether seemingly unrelated experiences affect individuals’ preferences for stability.

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Ovulation and “Gaydar” Accuracy

Although we may not like to admit it, we form impressions about others based on physical appearance, especially when it comes to identifying potential mates. But what factors make those impressions more accurate? It turns out that women’s impressions of men's sexual orientation are affected by where they are in their menstrual cycles. 

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Relationship Conflict: Leaving the Fight In the Car

Maryhope here again, offering up my personal life in the name of science (actually, I think that might be the definition of grad school). Anyway, Ethan, my husband, and I were recently invited to a friend’s house for dinner—an exciting prospect in a city that even after 4 years still feels new to us. Ethan was going to pick me up after drinks with his friends, then we’d head over to the dinner party. No problem. Well Ethan was late. Then he was later. I got mad. Then I got madder.

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Rose-Colored Glasses and Relationship Satisfaction

Research by Dr. Sandra Murray and colleagues, appearing in Psychological Science (April 2011), indicates that those who idealize their partners don't show a decline in satisfaction during their first three years of marriage. Click here for the Scientific American podcast about this work and here for the writeup on businessweek.com. 


Help Me, While I Take a Nap

We take it for granted that support from a partner is good (e.g., see the post on invisible support from a few days ago). Partners help you in many ways; when you need help studying for a big exam or are trying to exercise more, having your partner there to support and encourage you is a big help, right? A new paper by Gráinne Fitzsimons and Eli Finkel questions this assumption. They propose that people are actually less motivated and try less hard to achieve their goals when they have thought about the help that a partner could provide them in reaching those goals.

Basically, having a helpful partner can lead you to try getting away with being more of a slacker. For example, if you think about how your partner helped you on a previous academic task, you'll procrastinate more. You'll also exercise less if you previously thought about how your partner had helped with past health and fitness goals. Seriously, why bother with the Shake Weight when you can just think about your partner's help?  These results were accentuated when participants recently exerted energy on other tasks; when they were tired they relied on a partner's help more at the cost of their own efforts.

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“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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