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Friday
Mar202015

When Friends' "Help" Hurts

It has been well-documented that perceived support is associated with better health and well-being. Knowing that you’ll have someone there when you need them is a great comfort. However, the effects of actually getting help from others are mixed. When it works, support makes us feel good and can have tremendously positive effects on our lives. But other times it doesn’t help, and can even make us feel worse. So when is support from our loved ones well-received and when does it backfire?

There are several reasons why support may not be effective. Sometimes the people supporting us aren’t that good at providing the right kind of support. Another possibility is that receiving support makes the recipient feel indebted to the provider, leading to negative feelings. And finally receiving help could be a blow to self-esteem.

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Wednesday
Mar182015

The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast

We want to take a moment to turn you on to an awesome podcast produced by our colleague and fellow ScienceOfRelationships.com contributor, Dr. Robert Burriss. Rob is a research fellow at Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK, and we love his podcast, which is filled with sharp humor, tie-ins to current events, and most importantly, excellent sexy science. We'll be featuring new episodes when they are released, and you can check out some of the recent episodes below: 

If prefer to read rather than listen, transcripts are available here. 

Check out Rob's ScienceOfRelationships.com articles here.

Monday
Mar162015

“Please Forgive Me”: The Upside of Guilt

Along with all the great things that result from close relationships, the bond between two people also makes partners vulnerable to each other. Even in the closest of relationships, people may accidentally or intentionally do things that hurt each other’s feelings, whether it’s forgetting a birthday, making a snide remark, or committing a more serious transgression like infidelity.

If a relationship is going to persist following a hurtful act, it’s important that the victim forgive the transgressor. One way of repairing relationships is for transgressors to seek forgiveness by saying they are sorry, admitting their wrongdoings, or giving an explanation for their transgressions. But what prompts someone to seek out forgiveness in the first place? It turns out that guilt is an effective motivator.

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Saturday
Mar142015

Tinderella: A Modern Take on a Classic Tale

(warning...a bit of this video may be NSFW)

Read more about the science of Tinder here.

Friday
Mar132015

Stay In Your Own Lane

Did mama ever tell you to mind your own business or Stay in your own lane? For decades, musicians have been reminding us of the importance of a lesson that often falls on deaf ears. As a matter of fact, in 1949, Hank Williams began swooning about the topic when he sang the lyrics

If the wife and I are fussin', brother that's our right
'Cause me and that sweet woman's got a license to fight
Why don't you mind your own business
(Mind your own business)
‘Cause if you mind your business, then you won’t be mindin’ mine.”

As powerful as those lyrics may be, it seems that more should be done to encourage people to Stay in Your Own Lane!1 Minding your own business or Staying in your own lane refer to the need for people to disengage from the troublesome act of gossiping or meddling in the affairs of others. As easy as this seems in theory, the act of minding your own business is anything but. As a matter of fact, popular media encourages the contrary. Over the past decade, reality television and social media have become the primary focus of our daily rituals – and both of these present-day fixtures encourage us to tend to the business of others. This is evidenced by participation in the dreaded eternal scroll. The eternal scroll refers to the time spent scrolling through social media sites, reviewing others’ posts. Think about it. As of late 2012, Facebook had accounted for almost one billion active users who collectively spend approximately 20,000 years online each day. This inordinate amount of time encourages users to express their likes, dislikes, interests, and concerns2 all relative to posts and responses of others.

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Wednesday
Mar112015

Self-Expansion: A Key for Lasting Love?

Although passionate love typically decreases over time,1 are there things couples can do to keep the flame alive in their relationships? According to the self-expansion model2 (see our articles on self-expansion here), people grow as individuals by having experiences that are new, interesting, and challenging. Luckily for those in relationships, romantic partners are a great source of self-expansion, and relationships help to enhance individuals by providing a place for them to learn about themselves and others, creating opportunities for adventures and trying new things, and promoting active exploration of the world together. If relationships help people enhance themselves, the extent to which a partner facilitates self-expansion should be associated with positive feelings about that relationship, including more love for that partner.

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Monday
Mar092015

The Scientific Merits of Tinder: Swipe Left or Right?

In the age of online dating, science-based information about the ins and outs of dating services is both timely and important. One digital dating app has seen tremendous rises in popularity since its release - we're speaking of course about Tinder. 

Tinder is a bare bones dating app that allows users to filter in rapid succession through photos of other users who are potential matches. Who you see in your pool of potential matches is based on a very limited set of criteria, customizable to the user – age, location, and gender. When two users mutually rate each other favorably (both swipe right), they are “matched,” which prompts the app to open a dialogue between the two users (basically a texting service within the application). The rest is left to the matched users.

Interestingly, there is no scientific research out there specifically about Tinder (we are unaware of any published scientific papers in psychology or related fields that focus on behavior on Tinder). This lack of data might be because of its novelty—Tinder was released in late 2012. The lack of research could also be due to the fact that Tinder's mainstream popularity is even more recent. Despite the lack of scientific data, however, like all things that attain mainstream popularity, Tinder has been subject to both criticism and support from the general public. 

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Friday
Mar062015

MTV's "Catfish": When Truth, Lies, and Self-Concept Collide

On the MTV reality show, “Catfish,” the show’s hosts help a viewer track down an elusive online love. Almost inevitably, it is discovered that they have been fooled, and the person to whom they poured out their heart is not who they appeared to be. However, sometimes something very real has developed beneath the lies. 

In each episode, a viewer involved in an intense online relationship contacts hosts Nev and Max, asking for help tracking down an online paramour, who has repeatedly refused to meet in person. In almost every episode, it is revealed that their love is merely a “catfish,” someone who has constructed a false identity with a fake online profile and lured the unsuspecting subject into a relationship. 

The feelings expressed by the people on the show are intense. Some even claim to be engaged to online loves they have never met in person. In some cases the catfish themselves express strong feelings and a desire to continue the relationship after the deception has been revealed. Many viewers wonder how someone can feel such a strong bond with a person they’ve only met online and how some of the catfish can claim to truly care about a person they have been deceiving for months, or even years. However, research on the expression of the “true self” online suggests that the development of these intense bonds is not so surprising.

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Thursday
Mar052015

How Superficial Disclosures May Hurt You: Relationship Matters Podcast 44

SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College). Dr. Stephen Rains (University of Arizona) was interviewed regarding his research on how too many superficial disclosures can hurt a friendship. In case you’re wondering, superficial disclosures refer to small, irrelevant details about what’s going on in one’s daily life.

The research team (including Steven Brunner and Kyle Oman, also of the University of Arizona) asked 199 adults to provide a record of all communications they had with specific friends over a 1-week period; the key is that each communication ‘episode’ had to involve some form of technology (e.g., text, e-mail, Facebook, twitter). Participants then reported how much they liked each friend with whom they interacted and also indicated how willing they would be to support each friend in times of need.

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Thursday
Mar052015

It’s Not Just About You and Me: How Social Networks Impact Relationships

In this symposium at the 2015 SPSP meeting, four researchers (including Tim Loving and Fred Clavel, who are SofR regulars) presented their work on how romantic relationships are affected by the social networks around them.

Lisa Diamond led things off with a discussion of how same-sex couples feel more stress compared to heterosexual couples, because homosexuality is more stigmatized. In her study, 120 couples (some male-female, some male-male, some female-male) came into the lab and engaged in a task where they discussed a recent conflict they were having. Interestingly, whether same-sex couples felt marginalized by the broader community (i.e. whether they felt accepted by society or not) didn’t seem to predict negativity during this conflict discussion. But if they felt marginalized or having lower status within their spouse’s family (the in-laws) that caused problems within the couple. Not feeling equally accepted within a spouse’s family was associated with more negativity/hostile behavior, greater escalation of conflict (it became intense quickly), and a higher ratio of negative to positive interactions. Dr. Diamond suggested that same-sex couples may feel more distress in their relationship if their close circle of friends/family disapprove of them, rather than if the society at large disapproves of them.

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Wednesday
Mar042015

3 Brain Systems of Love: Lust, Attraction, and Attachment

While love is complicated and can’t simply be reduced to three biological brain states, there are clear neurochemical processes that do contribute to feelings of love. While not called ‘love’, the desire to mate with a specific individual is not limited to humans, but exists across many species. The drive to find a mate, bond, and reproduce is called the ‘attraction system’. This system is made up of three fundamental pathways -- lust, attraction and attachment – which occur in both birds and mammals (including humans).

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Monday
Mar022015

Catching Fertility

As a 40-something, married father of two, I’ve experienced a lot of transitions in my life, including some particularly big ones over the past decade or so. I started a new job, got married, had a kid, bought a house, and had another kid. Importantly, I’m not unique in this regard --- many of the people I know my age have gone through most, if not all, of these same transitions (albeit perhaps in a different order).

Although I didn’t really notice it at the time, my movement through these life transitions generally occurred in the ballpark of my friends doing the same things. How can I forget the ‘wedding years’, when I was finally forced to buy a suit. And then there was the breeding extravaganza that happened a few years later. Is it a coincidence that many of my friends also have kids within a few years age of my own? Perhaps not.  In fact, it’s very likely that the decisions my wife and I made about starting a family were influenced by what we saw going on around us.

Simply put, others influence our thoughts about fertility. For example, adolescents are more likely to become sexually active, and make choices about whether to do so and take appropriate precautions, if their friends are doing the same (You don’t use condoms? Then me neither! Let’s compare babies and rashes!). In a recent study, researchers wanted to see just how far a reach friends have on women’s sexual and fertility behaviors by testing whether female friends’ transitions to parenthood increase a given woman’s own transition to parenthood. Put another way: Is a woman’s fertility contagious?

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Sunday
Mar012015

Want to Increase Your Happiness? Science says…

On Friday I went to a great talk by Dr. Matthew Killingsworth wherein he gave us some data-based pro tips on how to increase happiness. The secret? Interacting frequently and deeply with other people.

As part of his research project, Dr. Killingsworth developed a smartphone app called Track Your Happiness. At random moments during the day, the app will prompt a few simple questions about your activities (e.g., “How are you feeling?”; “What are you doing?”; “Who are you with?” etc.). Then the app gives you feedback on the factors that promote your personal happiness, and your responses to the questions go into a large, anonymous dataset that Dr. Killingsworth and his colleagues use to advance knowledge vis-à-vis the science of happiness.

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Sunday
Mar012015

The Sex Talk By Millennials

Saturday
Feb282015

How Sex Changes Across Stages in Relationships

Thursday during the sexuality preconference, Gurit Birnbaum and Eli Finkel gave a talk about how the functions of sexual cues and desire change across different phases of a relationship. People in relationships tend to think about sex as having several different functions. Sex feels good, helps us to intimately connect with our partners, and is necessary for reproduction--these are just a few examples.

But the truth is that these functions matter more or less depending on how long a couple has been dating. Sex, the presenters argued, is more crucial to building a relationship at the beginning stages compared to later stages. Their reasoning is that in the early phases of a relationship, other aspects of a relationship that make people feel secure and safe--like trust and commitment--have not yet been built. These qualities simply take more time to develop, so early on in the course of dating, sex plays a bigger role in relationship building. Later in a relationship, sexual desire may serve as more of a coping strategy in the face of relationship-related stressors. The presenters theorized, for example, that when couples experience a threat to their relationship--maybe an attractive stranger flirts with one member of a couple-- this event activates pro-relationship motivations that include sexual desire.

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Thursday
Feb262015

SPSP Coverage, Broadcasting from Long Beach

Greetings from California! Many of us at Science of Relationships are part of an organization known as the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), which is a community of scholars who study all things related to social behavior and individual differences (e.g., morality/religion, self-esteem, aggression, and of course, relationships!). Every year, SPSP hosts a conference that unities social and personality scientists worldwide. This year, we’re gathering in Long Beach, California.

Conferences like this one are a great tradition. They are a time for researchers to come together and share recent projects they’ve been working on as well as new and exciting results/findings, and to learn about cutting-edge methods and ideas. Many of us who write for SofR will be presenting studies from our own labs. The conference is also a great networking opportunity to connect with peers in the field who are doing related work, and to hang out with old friends or former lab mates who ordinarily live far away. On top of that, it’s a chance to explore fun cities that we might not ordinarily get the chance to visit.

We also thought this would be a great opportunity to share some tidbits from the conference with our readers. So, over the next few days, expect to see some brief posts with never-before-seen, fresh-from-the-oven research findings (mmmmmm delicious data…) and some general excerpts from the conference.

Finally a quick disclaimer: Please keep in mind that most of the research we will post this weekend has not been published yet in scientific journals (meaning that the research has gone through peer review) – researchers often discuss new data with the public before the studies are published. That being said, it’s still science and it’s still fun, so enjoy!

Also see our article on Top 5 Tips for Successfully Navigating Your First Conference.

Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on the Science Of Relationships.

Wednesday
Feb252015

Does Parenting Make People Happy or Miserable?

Parenting, no doubt, is a demanding job. While parenting can bring people great joy and meaning, it can also be incredibly stressful and frustrating. The debate over whether parents are more or less happy than non-parents doesn’t have a definitive answer. This is in part due to the fact that people who have children differ, on average, from those who do not have children in ways that are related to happiness, such as in their marital status, age, and income. 

While people have debated whether parents are happier than non-parents, researchers suggest that the question of whether parents are more or less happy is not the most meaningful question. Rather, we should begin asking the questions of when, why, and how parenting may contribute to greater happiness or negativity. In a recent review linking parenting and well-being, researchers outlined a number of these differences, and identify a wide range of factors that affect the degree to which parenting affects happiness.1 Spoiler alert: It’s complicated.

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Tuesday
Feb242015

Vocal Cues of Fertility: Bachelor 19’s Whitney Bischoff May Be the Ultimate Prize

Full disclosure: Watching The Bachelor/ette is a huge guilty pleasure of mine. It’s fascinating not just for the entertaining drama, but also as a unique case study of relationship dynamics. If you’re unfamiliar, The Bachelor is a reality TV show in which 25-30 beautiful and presumably single women contend for the attention, love, and marriage proposal of one eligible gent over the course of about two months of filming. Every season is chock-a-block with romantic and often extravagant dates, profuse amounts of smooching, and (sometimes ridiculous) drama. (Disclaimer: Before I get to the meat of this article, I should make it clear that that while I find the show very amusing, I don’t find the format to be particularly realistic, nor do I feel like the format allows for a strong foundation that can foster a future long-term relationship to be built—though there seem to be a few happy exceptions.)

When I watch The Bachelor/ette, I love to shamelessly analyze the contestants and try to make connections to research (after all, I am a relationship science nerd). There are always a few contestants who stand out, for better or worse, and this season I’m a bit mesmerized with Whitney Bischoff in a good way. She seems very classy, but more than that, she has a very distinct voice. The pitch is quite high, and though some people might find it a bit intense, it may actually make her more appealing to our current Bachelor, Chris.

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Monday
Feb232015

Expressing Your Insecurities to Your Partner Can Actually Create More Insecurities. Here’s Why.

Insecurities: we’ve all got a few. They’re those intrusive thoughts people have about mistakes they might have made, flaws they might have, and negative opinions that others might have about them. Insecurities can be frustratingly persistent, and they can really interfere with close relationships1,2 (“You looked at that girl, I saw you looking!”). It’s not realistic to expect people to simply ignore these insecurities. So the question becomes: what is the healthiest way to deal with these nagging thoughts and feelings?

One seemingly obvious solution might be to reveal your insecurities to someone you’re close to—such as a friend or a romantic partner—so that this person could help you to feel better. However, recent research has revealed a way that this approach can sometimes fail to work, and can even backfire.

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Friday
Feb202015

Stronger Relationships Make For A Stronger You

One thing that relationship research has taught us is that good relationships are good for us. Many studies have demonstrated that solid relationships are associated with better health and longer life. In fact, having strong relationships is a better predictor of mortality than any other healthy lifestyle behavior.1 But why are relationships so beneficial? A new review of the research by Brooke Feeney and Nancy Collins2 unlocks the secrets of how good relationships help us flourish. 

According to Feeney and Collins, there are two ways for us to thrive in life: 1) successfully coping with adversity, and 2) pursuing personal goals and opportunities for growth. Strong relationships can help with both. 

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