Entries in responsiveness (13)

Monday
Nov142016

A Sidekick for Self-Actualization: How Our Partners Make Us Great

Just as every superhero has a hardworking, lesser-known sidekick, behind our biggest successes is often someone who listened to us, encouraged us, and cared about us. In fact, our relationships with others can have a big but sometimes imperceptible impact on our ability to exercise our talents. In fact, “self-actualization” is what psychologists call the process of fulfilling one’s needs and eventually achieving one’s full potential. So for the heroes in all of us seeking to discover their calling and make the world a better place, what qualities are important in a lifelong sidekick to help us become self-actualized? 

One study of over 2000 married couples examined what makes a great sidekick by studying features of relationships that predict personal well-being.

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Friday
Jul222016

Resolving The Intimacy-Desire Paradox: Is More Intimacy Better?

Many couples fail to maintain sexual desire in their long-term relationships. Two people who once could not keep their hands off each other gradually lose interest in having sex, at least with their current partner. What distinguishes couples who experience passionate long-term relationships from those who fail to sustain the passion? Are there effective strategies to prevent against the waning of sexual desire in long-term relationships?

A study1 published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seeks to answer those questions. Researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, the University of Rochester, and Cornell Tech collaborated on three studies to observe couples' expressions of responsiveness and sexual desire. People often say that they have sex because they wish to feel understood and cared for and that a partner who is responsive to their needs would arouse their sexual interest. However, previous research has not provided conclusive evidence for whether an increased sense of intimacy actually promotes (or undermines) sexual desire. In this context, intimacy consists of feelings of understanding, closeness, and connectedness and involves mutual expression of affection, warmth, and caring.2

Indeed, some scholars have noted the intimacy-desire paradox, which indicates that high levels of intimacy may inhibit rather than increase sexual desire. These scholars have argued that the core of this paradox lies in the contradiction between the intimate and familiar relationships that many people strive for and the limitations of such familiar bonds for enhancing desire. In particular, the need for security that intimacy typically provides may clash with the sense of uncertainty, novelty, and separateness that fuels desire, such that high levels of intimacy between partners may stifle sexual desire.

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Monday
Jun062016

What Robots Can Teach Us About Intimacy: The Reassuring Effects Of Robot Responsiveness

In the future, robots may serve in a variety of support roles, such as home assistance, office support, nursing, childcare, education, and elder care. When we reach that point, people may share their personal lives with robots, which, in turn, may create long-term personal relationships in the mind of humans. Home robots, for example, could help humans with house chores; they could entertain them, teach them new skills, or encourage them to exercise. Robots may assist people with hobbies, such as carpentry or jewelry making, or help children with their homework and music lessons. In any of these roles, robots may be required to monitor the humans they interact with, and engage in supportive interactions.

For example, a robot serving in a care facility might provide support by listening to the experiences and memories of elderly people. The way a robot responds to the human's communication in such scenarios may have a profound effect on various personal and relationship outcomes, including the human's perception of the robot, the human's sense of support and security, the human's willingness to continue to interact with the robot, and the human’s overall well-being.

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Thursday
Oct082015

Let Me Get a Turn! Don’t Do all the Talking in a Conversation (But Don’t Just Sit There Quietly Either)

Getting to know one another is fundamental to starting any close relationship. Thinking back to the first dates many of us have had, we probably started with very important questions such as “Why did you join Tinder? or “Why exactly did I swipe right?” As we delved deeper into the conversation, we may have discussed sequentially deeper topics such as whether we would like to be famous, what a “perfect day” may be, or even sharing embarrassing moments (my answers to this final question are probably responsible for a myriad of failed first dates). These questions (and more) came from an actual study which explored the generation of interpersonal closeness in the laboratory.1 Although conversations come in many forms, they are generally characterized by some form of reciprocity. In other words, we typically take turns asking and answering questions with another person during interactions. But we may also find ourselves interacting with someone who is more of a “chatty Kathy” who does all of the talking, or someone who just sits in silence listening to you. Would such one-way interactions end in a disaster, or does engaging in any form of self-disclosure, whether it is just listening or talking, still hold the power to lead to interaction number two? That is the question that my colleague Dr. Sue Sprecher and I set to answer in a recent study.2 

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Friday
Jul102015

How Do Romantic Relationships Get Under The Skin? Perceived Partner Responsiveness Predicts Cortisol Profiles 10 Years Later

If someone asked me to pick the most influential finding that has come out of relationship science to date, I’d say it’s this: relationships matter for health. In 1988, House and colleagues published their classic research paper showing that social isolation is a powerful predictor of premature death.1 Since then, dozens of studies have tested and consistently replicated this link. Indeed, a recent meta-analysis of 148 studies (over 300,000 participants!) showed that people with stronger social relationships are about 50% more likely to survive over a 7.5 year period compared to those with weak social ties.2 This is a huge effect: it suggests that social isolation is more dangerous than a number of well-established risk factors of mortality, such as obesity and physical inactivity.

In response to these findings, many policy-makers, health practitioners, and members of the general public have started viewing social relationships not just as a nice-to-have, but as a fundamental human need. Humans simply must have close relationships in order to survive and thrive (for a more theoretical discussion about the human need for relationships, see this post). However, the issue of how relationships affect health is not as well-understood. What aspects of social relationships are particularly important (i.e., specificity), and in what way do social relationships influence the body (i.e., mechanism)? These sorts of questions about specificity and mechanism are what many researchers in the field are now grappling with.

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Tuesday
Nov182014

“Are You Listening?!” Cold-Shouldering a Partner’s Successes Leaves Relationships On Ice

When something great happens in our personal lives, it’s exciting to share the event with people close to us.  But at one time or another, you’ve probably disclosed some good news that wasn’t met with the degree of excitement or encouragement you had hoped for. It can be disappointing – even irritating – to get a lukewarm response when you expected the other person’s ardent interest. The process of telling others about our successes and getting a positive reaction is called “capitalization,” and research suggests it has benefits for romantic relationships. 

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Monday
Aug112014

An Attitude of Gratitude as a Relationship Rx

Need a boost in your romantic relationship? A dose of gratitude may do the trick, according to Dr. Sara Algoe of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gratitude is an emotion experienced in acknowledgement of an intentionally provided benefit, especially if the benefit is perceived as personally important and responsive to one’s needs and preferences. It is thought that gratitude enhances social relationships by broadening our attention to people who care about our welfare. In fact, early research on gratitude1 has shown that compared to happiness, gratitude made people recall more positive qualities of a benefactor, feel closer to the benefactor, and desire to spend more time with that person in the future. 

On the flip side of gratitude lurks indebtedness, the feeling of obligation to repay someone for a benefit that he or he has provided. While an individual may experience either gratitude or indebtedness after having received a benefit, only gratitude is associated with positive emotions; in fact, indebtedness is linked to negative emotions such as guilt. Indebtedness drives people to resolve a debt in order to feel better but unlike gratitude, does not facilitate communal relationships.

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Tuesday
Feb252014

New Directions in Relationship Research: From the Frontlines of SPSP

Recently, many of us here at Science of Relationships attended the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual conference in Austin, Texas. Research on close relationships was well represented at the conference, with symposia covering a range of topics, including social support in relationships, social networks, evolution and sexual behavior, attachment, and more. For my part, I had a chance to attend some fascinating talks from researchers who have been tackling some interesting questions across two of my favorite, closely-related research areas  - social support (i.e., how people in relationships help each other) and responsiveness (i.e., how a close other’s behavior make us feel understood, cared for, and validated).

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Wednesday
Sep042013

“Being There” vs. Being There: Social Support is More Than Just a Friendly Face

We often turn to those closest to us for support when confronted with difficult situations. When financial trouble strikes, we turn to family for financial help (i.e., tangible/material support). Or, when things at work drive us crazy we turn to our partners, sometimes for advice (i.e., informational support) or simply for a warm hug (i.e., emotional support). In romantic relationships, being able to turn to a partner for support during stressful times has long been considered a crucial part of what makes a relationship work.1 Knowing that you can turn to your partner for support conveys a number of important pieces of information about your relationship. A supportive partner can be trusted to act in your best interests, demonstrates that he or she really cares about you, empathizes with you, understands you well enough to know that support is needed, and is responsive to your distress signals.

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Monday
Jul082013

The Best Trait to Look for in a Mate (and Three Ways to Spot it)

As a relationships researcher, a question that I get a lot from my single friends is, “What should I look for in a partner?” Of course, a complete answer to this question can take a while and is largely dependent on who is asking the question. Are you the kind of person who loves to party? Your relationship will go more smoothly if you find someone who is similarly outgoing. Are you an animal rights activist? You should probably find a partner who doesn’t wear a fur coat. But regardless of who is asking me this question, there is one particular trait that always comes to mind – something that I think absolutely everyone should look for in a partner: responsiveness.

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Tuesday
Jul172012

Responsiveness and Desire for Sex: The Goldilocks Phenomenon

Gurit Birnbaum presented research on how a partner’s responsiveness (in other words, their emotional availability and supportiveness) influences a person’s desire for sex with them during a first impression, and how this differs based on attachment style and gender.

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Monday
Feb202012

Sensitive Parental Care In Childhood Predicts Better Relationships In Adulthood

We’ve written a few articles on the effect of attachment style on adult relationships (see here for a primer on attachment and here for all attachment articles). To recap, attachment style represents the ways in which we relate to the people we care about. Some people tend to be open and trusting (secure attachment), some people tend to be more needy and insecure (anxious attachment), and yet others prefer to keep their distance (avoidant attachment). Researchers know that people’s attachment styles can explain a lot about the roots of their behavior in their relationships.1 But where do these attachment styles come from?

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Monday
Jan162012

Hard-Wired for Care? A Genetic Basis for Providing Care to a Partner in Need

It’s not too profound to suggest that people are biological creatures—without genes, bodies, and brains, no part of our social lives would be possible. But how our biology relates to our minds and behavior has been a black box for centuries. Scientists simply didn’t have the tools or level of biological knowledge necessary to connect what happens in our bodies to how we experience the world. In the last 30 years, however, advances in genetics, physiological recording, and brain imaging have made it possible to begin to unpack some of the links between biology and psychology.

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