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Thursday
Oct092014

Announcing The 2nd Annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference!

I have attended a lot of psychology conferences over the years and, after many of them, I often thought to myself: “What would have made this conference even better? More sex talks!” I'm far from the only one who has had this thought, though. Several of my colleagues have noticed that many of our major conferences are lacking when it comes to sexuality programming, so we took matters into our own hands and, earlier this year, we put on the first ever Sexuality Pre-Conference prior to the 2014 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). The Pre-Conference was a huge success--it was very well-attended and received rave reviews. As a result, turning this into an annual event seemed like a no-brainer!

The next SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference will be held on Thursday, February 26th, 2015 at the Convention Center in Long Beach, California. Our current line-up of speakers includes: Meredith Chivers, Justin Garcia, Gurit Birnbaum and Eli Finkel, Monique Ward, and yours truly. Presentations will cover a wide range of topics, including female sexual arousal patterns, sexual desire and relationship development, media influences on sexual behavior, evolutionary perspectives on human sexuality, and teaching considerations for college sexuality courses. There will also be a sex data blitz highlighting some of the latest findings in the field, as well as a roundtable discussion at the end of the day.

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Wednesday
Oct082014

Two Key Ways That Stress Undermines Your Relationship

You experience stress nearly every day of your life. Stress can come from your job, your coworkers, fellow commuters, and generally from having too much to do without enough time to do it. And anyone in a relationship knows how easy it for that “external” stress to find its way into their romantic relationship.

Researchers followed 80 couples’ over 4 years and found that when couple members reported more stress outside of their relationship, they also reported feeling less comfortable depending on their partners and felt less close and more unsure about their relationship compared to couple members who were less stressed.1 This type of stress “spillover” may also occur on a daily basis. In a study of 165 newly married couples, individuals who reported more daily stress also reported more negative relationship behaviors such as criticizing their partners.2 These results indicate that stress from outside a relationship can spillover and cause more negative relationship behaviors. But, it’s also possible that those more prone to stress are also more prone to having poor relationships. An experiment would be needed to determine if stress directly affects relationships. 

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Monday
Oct062014

His New iPhone May Signal He’s Single and Looking to Hook-Up

Expensive smartphones are more desirable to men who are single and seeking a hook up, according to researchers from Germany.1

When the iPhone 6 hit the market last month, it made headline news. That’s not unusual, as every iteration of Apple’s popular smartphone has fanboys lining up around the block. But not even the casual consumer has been deterred by the rumor that the iPhone 6 Plus is so slim and streamlined that, after 30 minutes stuffed in the pocket of your skinny jeans, it comes out bent as a boomerang. In fact, despite ‘bendgate’, the new iPhone is hot and expected to sell up to 80 million units in 2014 alone.2 Clearly, everybody wants one. But new research suggests that some men are more keen than others to fork out the cash for a high status smartphone.

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Friday
Oct032014

Kids vs. Attractive Alternative Partners: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

(Editors' note: We're rerunning today's post with an alternate title. Apparently Facebook decided that our original title, which included the phrase "scantily clad women", was just too hot to handle and would upset the masses. Never deterred, we have revised the title in hopes it will not trip up the Facebook censors).

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Friday
Oct032014

Kids vs. Scantily Clad Women: Which Do New Dads Prefer and Why?

We’ve written previously that fatherhood is associated with decreased levels of testosterone in dads (except for when a testosterone boost might come in handy). For the most part, the general belief has been that the dads’ lower testosterone limits their impulses to mate (presumably not with their baby-momma), thus keeping them invested in their children.

Some recent research from Emory University, however, suggests another, or additional, possibility.1 Specifically, the researchers compared the testosterone and oxytocin hormone levels of a group of fathers of 1-2 year old children with hormone  levels of men without children. In addition to collecting blood samples to measure the hormones, the researchers also scanned the brains (via MRI scans) of all the men while they were looking at 3 types of pictures: 1) children’s faces (of the same sex and age as their own kids, and depicting a range of emotional expressions), 2) unknown adult faces displaying similar emotions, and 3) scantily clad women. The research team was interested in whether fathers vs. non-fathers responded neurologically (i.e., as assessed via increased brain activation) to the different types of images and, if so, what role hormones play in those neural responses.

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Wednesday
Oct012014

Parental Alienation and the Fight for Children’s Hearts and Minds

Parental alienation involves one parent spoiling the relationship between a child and the other parent in the absence of actual abuse or neglect. In both my personal and professional lives, I have seen many parents actively turn their children against the other parent in an effort to “keep them (the child) close,” and to undermine their child’s loving bond with the other parent. Although research has demonstrated that parental alienation has very negative effects on children (e.g., depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders), few researchers have examined empirically how exactly parents engage in this alienation behavior.

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Monday
Sep292014

Keeping the Back Burner Warm with Technology

With the pervasiveness of social media and mobile devices comes the potential to communicate with hundreds or thousands of people with just a few taps or clicks. Of course, we are connected to lots of different types of people, including family, friends, coworkers, and random people you have a faint recollection of from high school who friended you on Facebook. We also have very different reasons for communicating with particular people in our social circles. New research1 suggests that one motivation for communicating on Facebook (and other social media sites) is to keep some of our connections on the “back burner” as potential future romantic partners. 

If you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, it makes sense that you may think of some people in your social network as romantic possibilities. However, do people who are currently in exclusive romantic relationships also keep potential mates on the back burner?

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Friday
Sep262014

Outside Looking In: Taking A Different View of Your Relationship

image source: startribune.comIt can be hard for partners to view their disagreements impartially. In a recent study, 120 married couples were tracked for over a year, during which their marital quality generally decreased.  After that year, half of the couples learned how to reappraise conflict by writing about their relationships from the viewpoint of an uninvolved, neutral third party, while the other half continued in their relationships without receiving any intervention. At the end of Year 2, the perspective-taking group did not experience additional declines in marital quality compared to the ‘normal’ group. These findings suggest that a bit of perspective-taking may go a long way.  

Finkel, E. J., Slotter, E. B., Luchies, L. B., Walton, G. M., & Gross, J. J. (2013). A brief intervention to promote conflict reappraisal preserves marital quality over time. Psychological Science, 24(8), 1595-1601.

Wednesday
Sep242014

Rejecting People is Hard to Do: Why People Fail to Turn Down Unwanted Dates

Relationships frequently fall apart due to irreconcilable incompatibilities. Sometimes these incompatibilities are so large that they seem like they should have been obvious from the start (e.g., one person wants children, the other partner doesn’t; one person is deeply religious, the other isn't). Why don’t such dealbreakers prevent relationships from getting off the ground in the first place? Why do people so frequently wind up with incompatible romantic partners?

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Monday
Sep222014

Break Up Kindly With Compassionate Love

No matter how you slice it, breakups are not much fun -- someone usually ends up getting hurt. Wouldn’t it be great if ending a relationship with someone could be a little less painful? It turns out that a dose of compassionate love can help ease the pain. 

When you think about “love” in romantic relationships, you probably are imaging what researchers refer to as passionate love (read more about passionate love here and here), the intense, desire-filled, longing (and obsession) for the object of your affection. In addition to passion, however, another ‘type’ of love is also important in close relationships: compassionate love. Compassionate love refers to the concern and care people have for the well-being of others, especially when those others are suffering; compassion love promotes support, understanding, and tenderness.1 Clearly you can experience compassionate love for a romantic partner, but it can also be directed toward friends, family, and strangers. And when it comes to breakups, you can also direct compassionate love toward a soon-to-be ex-partner.

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Saturday
Sep202014

Text With Care: Unsolicited 3rd Party Discovery

 

Read more about discovering infidelity here.

from cheezburger.com

Friday
Sep192014

Who Falls in Love the Easiest?

Millions of people take to the bars, coffee shops and internet sites of the world looking for love. Finding that love connection isn’t always easy because your new found guy may end up having too many Star Trek figurines or your new found gal may have one too many cats. While there are seemingly a million things that can go wrong, people do fall in love.

But is it possible that some people fall easier than others?

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Wednesday
Sep172014

For Better or for Worse: Attachment and Relationships Over the Long Haul

Quick—think of someone you know who’s in a relationship (or has been in the past). This person can be a friend, a family member, your own past or current relationship partner, or even yourself. Which one of these statements best describes something that the person you thought of might say?

A) I feel comfortable depending on romantic partners.

B) My desire to be very close sometimes scares people away.

C) I don't feel comfortable opening up to romantic partners.

These descriptions* have formed the basis of research on adult romantic attachment for some time.1 Attachment is a topic we’ve covered extensively here at ScienceOfRelationships. Whether you realize it or not, attachment is evident virtually everywhere (even in popular fiction!), having been linked to all sorts of outcomes in relationships. Briefly, researchers think of adult attachment as a tendency to approach relationships in a particular way, primarily based on experiences with childhood caregivers.2 Usually, researchers view attachment in terms of the degree and kind of insecurity (avoidance or anxiety) a person might have (see our earlier work for a full review of how attachment styles play out in relationships).

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Monday
Sep152014

Infographic: The 10 Most Interesting Dating Studies of 2014

We’re always looking for fun new ways to share relationship science with our readers. So when the folks at DatingAdvice.com contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in helping them create an infographic that highlights some of the great relationship science about dating that’s come out recently, we were more than happy to oblige. Admittedly, identifying the best empirical studies on relationships is a monumental feat. Simply put, relationship scientists all across the world produce so much great research that it’s hard to narrow the list. So we (the ScienceOfRelationships.com team) combed through hundreds of articles and chose a handful that highlight some interesting findings about dating, with an eye towards those studies that we could translate into fun graphics. The folks at DatingAdvice.com did the same, added some graphic design magic, and put them all together for the infographic below. If you’re dating now, have dated in the past, or plan on dating in the future, you might be surprised by some of these findings. Share widely.

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Friday
Sep122014

Easy Love: Is it Easier for Some People to Love than it is for Others?

The other day, I asked my kids (7 and 8 years old) to sign a birthday card for a relative that they had only met a few times. I expected that their misspelled words and child-like handwriting would be appealing to the card’s recipient. What I didn’t expect was for their messages to be full of love: “I love you,” “xoxox,” and hearts dotting each letter "i". Where were these demonstrative notes for a relatively unknown person coming from?  Should I be worried about my overly affectionate children?

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Wednesday
Sep102014

Drugs & Alcohol: How Much is Too Much, and When is it a Problem for Your Relationship? 

Many of us know an uncle or cousin, or even an immediate family member, who had a “problem” with alcohol or other drug(s). As a psychologist, I have heard many opinions about why people have drug addictions and what should (or could) be done about it: Aunt Marge has a “weak” constitution and cannot control herself; Cousin Vern drinks too much, he is an alcoholic, or a lazy “good-for-nothing” loser. As we’ve written about previously, opinions and perceptions are important for interpersonal interactions. Perceptions of a partner’s drinking (or drug use, if you extend the logic) impacts relationship quality: if you believe your partner drinks (or uses) too much, then this perception could lead to dissatisfaction with your relationship with that person.

What contributes to these perceptions? What most people “know” about addiction is oftentimes based on personal experience or opinion, not on research.

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Monday
Sep082014

Southern Charm and the Culture of Honor: Southerners Are Sugar and Spice Until They Feel Insulted

Because my writing niche is connecting relationship science to pop-culture, I often find links between what I teach and what I watch. However, as a southerner, I have been particularly intrigued by Bravo’s reality TV show, Southern Charm. This past season, I eagerly awaited the weekly opportunity to revel in the salacious bed-hopping and bourbon-swilling of these Charleston socialites. For fans of the show, you know that the characters often try to behave in refined ways that demonstrate their good manners. Nonetheless, this etiquette generally gives way to the debauchery for which we watch the show. As this homage to social propriety seemed somewhat unique from other reality TV shows (such as Jersey Shore), I couldn’t help but wonder if this curious behavior was tied to the cultural norms and southern traditions of the characters’ upbringing.

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Sunday
Sep072014

Ashton Kutcher: Why Mila Will Succeed Where Demi Failed

Image Source:www.netquake.net/In Hollywood, where a relationship lasting five years is an impressive feat, celebrity break-ups are predictable. Needless to say, when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s 8-year relationship ended in 2011, it wasn’t shocking news. However, it was intriguing that Ashton began a new relationship soon after with Mila Kunis, his co-star from That ’70s Show. Will Ashton’s new relationship with Mila last longer than the 8 years that Ashton spent with Demi?  On one hand, the outcome may not be all that different; Demi and Mila are fairly similar. Both women are beautiful celebrities/actresses who are famous, wealthy, have the same hair color and, strangely, both have one hazel and one green eye (apparently Ashton has a thing for mix-and-match eyes). But on the other hand, Mila and Demi have some differences that may make the Ashton-Mila pairing more likely to lead to happily ever after, or at least to last longer than 8 years (it is Hollywood, after all). 

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Saturday
Sep062014

Missing Your Long-Distance Girlfriend?

Want to learn what research has to say about long-distance relationships? Click here.

Thursday
Sep042014

Sexual Satisfaction: Do You and Your Partner Have to be the SAME Shade of Grey?

Are you satisfied with “vanilla” sex? Or do you seek the thrill of kink in the bedroom with your own list of “hard limits?”

In order to be sexually satisfied, you might think that you and your partner need to be on the same page of Fifty Shades of Grey. Aside from the intrinsic motivation to have a good sex life (i.e., good sex feels really, well, good), research has strongly established that sexual satisfaction is closely tied to relationship satisfaction.1 In longitudinal studies where couples are followed over time, sexual satisfaction also predicts, such that less sexual satisfaction is tied to an increased chance of divorce.2 So, when it comes to relationship health, sex matters.

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