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“Clicking” with Online Dating

Once considered taboo, online dating has become a more commonplace practice amongst daters. While many people have a more positive view of online dating than they did in the past, others fail to see the benefits. This is because some still view those who use dating sites as desperate, or they have had negative experiences such as encountering someone who had taken liberties when describing themselves online.1,2

Despite the differences in opinion about people who use online dating platforms, there is no doubt that such usage is on the rise. One in 10 Americans have used a dating site or mobile app, and 23% have met their spouse or long-term partner through such sites.1,2 Furthermore, 38% of Americans who are single and actively looking for a partner have used online dating at one point or another and 5% of Americans who are currently married or in a long-term partnership met their partners online.

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Debunking 6 Myths About Men, Women, and Their Relationships

When it comes to the behavior of men and women in relationships, almost everyone has an opinion—and usually, it's about how the sexes are different. But what does the research tell us about how men and women really behave in romantic relationships? Often, that they're more alike than we think, and that our common assumptions are wrong. 

Let’s examine six common myths...

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The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast - When We Think We're More Attractive Than We Are

Many of us wish we were more confident, but is self-assuredness or arrogance attractive? Is it possible to be overconfident when it comes to love? And is there a male propensity to overestimate how attractive we are to women? Robert Burriss discusses these topics and more.

Check out the newest episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.


The Blacklist: Seriously Lizzie, When is Enough, Enough?

Since getting married, I’ve had to add to my TV watching line-up. No longer can I subsist on Bravo and E! alone. In hopes of accommodating my husband’s preferences, there is now an endless parade of action heroes, zombies, and murderers (and that is just on the regular stations…don’t get me started on the movie channels).  One of the shows that I’ve actually grown to like is NBC’s The Blacklist. Although not designed to be a series about close relationships, I’d argue there are a number of interpersonal dynamics at play in each episode. For now, I will skip the obvious daddy-issues between Red Reddington and Lizzie (who I’ve long suspected to be his daughter). What I find even more baffling is the relationship between Tom and Lizzie.

For those who are unfamiliar with the storyline, Tom and Lizzie Keen are married. Lizzie is a FBI Profiler and, in an unexpected twist, her husband Tom is a covert operative (i.e., a spy and, when it suits him, killer). Needless to say, this couple has had a pretty tumultuous time since the revelation of Tom’s true identity. To my shock and discomfort, during this time they have repeatedly battled (both verbally and physically). What I find so perplexing is that, since separating, Tom and Lizzie have continued to gravitate back to each other. Yep, even after his repeated attempts to kill her, Lizzie keeps ending back up in the arms and bed of her estranged husband. (Just as an aside, their destructive behavior is a two-way street. Lizzie held Tom captive in the hull of an abandoned ship for over four months. Just your typical couple, clearly.) Every episode I find myself asking, “Why do they keep get back together?!?”

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My Body, Your Body, Our Relationship: 5 Links between Our Body Images and Our Romantic Relationships

I began studying body image among romantic partners approximately 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten married, had two children, gotten divorced, and started dating as a nearly 40-year-old. These life experiences have provided me with ample opportunities to consider how our  romantic relationships are related to our body images. I’ve also managed to publish over a dozen scientific articles on the subject. Some of the results from these studies are clear and easy to interpret; some of them aren’t. But, one thing that seems certain is that we all come to view and appreciate our bodies in the context of our intimate relationships. In other words, how we feel about our bodies impacts our relationships and our relationships impact our feelings about our bodies. So what are some of the lessons from science that can contribute to improvements in not only our body image but possibly our relationships?

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Is There Such A Thing As Planning Too Far Ahead?

Discussing the future of one’s romantic relationship—including the possibility of marriage—can be an exciting, novel experience for couple members.1 But it can also be incredibly stressful.2 As a couple grows closer and their relationship becomes more serious, it’s entirely natural to discuss future plans. But are some discussions more helpful than others on the path to a (hopefully) happy and long-lasting relationship? And is there such a thing as planning too far ahead? 

As part of a larger study on engagement and weddings (find more details here), we asked currently engaged and married individuals to reflect on how much they discussed a range of topics before they became engaged. Specifically, participants were asked how often they talked about:

  • the possibility of getting married,
  • the possibility of when or how a marriage proposal might take place,
  • the type of ring (or token) that might be exchanged when a proposal did take place, and
  • the details regarding the wedding they wanted,

Each question was responded to on a scale from “never” to “very often,” with options of “rarely,” “sometimes,” and “often” in between.

We wanted to determine whether discussing these future events prior to becoming engaged was associated with couples then being happier with each event when/after it occurred. Further, we wanted to explore whether discussing certain aspects of getting engaged and married before experiencing the commitment of actually becoming engaged might also be associated with the overall quality of their relationship. So, we also asked how satisfied individuals were with the proposals, their engagement ring(s), and their actual weddings (which had already occurred for married individuals and which were currently being planned for engaged individuals), as well as how satisfied they were in their relationships overall and how committed they were to their partners.

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In Health and Illness: Your Partner’s Mood Matters

Ever felt like the moods of the people around you affect your own mood? Psychologists have long been interested in the idea of such emotional “spillover”, especially in relationships. For example, research has shown that happiness is contagious, as are bad moods across a range of stressful situations. It seems intuitive that if we are living with someone who is depressed then our own mood could also be negatively affected. 

Before getting into specific research on this topic, I should note that it is generally hard to disentangle the exact nature of the association between two people’s mental states, especially when they spend a lot of time together. Was Joan’s depression a reaction to being surrounded by John’s depressive, or were they both depressed all along? (Or is there no relationship whatsoever between their mental health statuses?). Bottom line: like many things, the only way to really know whether two individuals’ mental states spill over to one another is to look at both of their mental health status across time.

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Finding the Right Person

For articles about compatibility, please click here.


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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Best Relationship Song of Summer 2015 – Honey, I’m Good

Summer has only just begun, but I’m going ahead and calling it: The best relationship song of Summer 2015 is Andy Grammer’s Honey, I’m Good. Not only is this song ripe with catchy beats that make you want to clap your hands and sing along, but it’s an anthem for fidelity and commitment. 

As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time talking about relationships, and an all too familiar topic is infidelity. A pet peeve of mine is when people defend their cheating by claiming that it “just happened.” I understand that if someone is under the influence (of alcohol, or perhaps stupidity), then they may not be able to fully comprehend the ramifications of their actions. But before reaching that level there is a point when we all know our behavior is leading towards trouble. This song debunks the idea that infidelity is an accident by reminding us of that moment when we should know better.  Just like the song trumpets, you “could have another but probably should not” and if you stay you “might not leave alone.” It is then that you have a choice to make.

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Catching Up with The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast

We're a bit behind on our podcast listening and there are three new episodes of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast by Robert Burriss available for your listening pleasure:

  • Male rivalry: sex, money, and morality. We find out how our rational minds go all screwy when we're faced with attractive rivals or sexual competitors. Three new experiments show how sexual rivalry primes men to be cruel, self-centred, and prone to risk.
  • Pregnancy and desire, and are bigger breasts better? We know that pregnant women get cravings for unusual foods, but does pregnancy also affect what women desire in a man? We also look at a new experiment that shows once and for all whether men prefer larger or smaller breasts. You'll be surprised by the results!
  • Skin colour and the menstrual cycle. Swollen bums and flushed faces: We know that chimpanzees and other primates advertise their fertility with conspicuous physical transformations, but what about humans?

Check out all the available episodes of The Psychology of Attractiveness podcast here.


Ideal and Actual Marriage Proposals: We Asked, You Answered

Read more about this survey here, and see our infographic on wedding locations here.

Lisa Hoplock, M.Sc. - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Lisa's research examines how personality traits like self-esteem and attachment influence interpersonal processes in ambiguous social situations -- situations affording both rewards and costs -- such as social support contexts, relationship initiation, and marriage proposals. 


Emma Watson's Take on Dating American vs. English Guys

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Is It Better to be the Breadwinner? Implications for Infidelity

image source:

A study of 2,757 participants from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth examined how spouses’ relative earnings (i.e., who makes more money) influences likelihood of cheating. Results indicate absolute income did not predict infidelity, so simply earning more money did not make a person more likely to cheat. However, being the breadwinner (i.e., earning more than a spouse) was associated with men being more likely to cheat; the opposite was true for women-- they were less likely to cheat when they made more money than their husbands. Being economically dependent on a spouse (i.e., one spouse makes a lot more than the other) was associated with increased likelihood of cheating in both men and women, though the effect was stronger in men.

Munsch, C. L. (2015). Her support, his support: Money, masculinity, and marital infidelity. American Sociological Review, 80, 469-495. doi: 10.1177/0003122415579989


From Bratz to Natural Beauties

In a previous article, I wrote about how both men and women prefer those who display neotenous (i.e., baby-like) features over adult features and rate those who exhibit them as more attractive.So what happens when toymakers manipulate these baby-like features to give off a sexualized vibe? Enter, the Bratz dolls.

Bratz, owned by MGA Entertainment, is a line of dolls that is very popular with today’s children. Bratz have seen a great deal of controversy in their time on the market, as they are often scantily clad and heavily made up.

The American Psychological Association (APA) formed the Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls in response to public concern over the growing problem of sexualization of children and adolescent females. Researchers have found that it is often females upon which sexuality is imposed, especially in the media.

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Where's The Wedding?

As part of our exclusive survey on engagements and weddings in the 21st century, we asked participants about the type of location and venue they’d like to be married (i.e., their ideal) and where they were (actually) married. The results from this portion of the survey are indicated in the infographic, below. As you can see, people were often married in their ideal locations. The most popular location was in their own or their partner’s hometown. However, a good number of people (36%) wished for a destination wedding, but instead married elsewhere. What we don’t know is what kept people from getting married in their ideal location. Lack of money? Inconvenience? Guests or the couple members being unable to travel? All of the above? Stay tuned…

In terms of wedding venue, how many people said they were “goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married?” Just over 25% (a total of 106 respondents). But, holding the wedding at a church, synagogue, or similar was not the most popular wedding venue -- it actually came in second. The most popular venue for our respondents was at an outdoor location (146 people, or  37%). The least popular venue? The courthouse -- with only 19 people (5%) of our sample getting married with the good ol’ justice of the peace or similar. This comes as no surprise; people are often reluctant to hold their wedding at the courthouse, preferring instead to have a more elaborate ceremony,1 a trend that has grown considerably over the last 50 years.2 Next up, we'll look at how and where the marriage proposal occurred.

See more about this study here.

1Gibson-Davis, C. M., Edin, K., & McLanahan, S. (2005). High hopes but even higher expectations: The retreat from marriage among low-income couples. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1301-1312.

2Wallace, C. (2004). All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding. Penguin Books.

Lisa Hoplock, M.Sc. - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Lisa's research examines how personality traits like self-esteem and attachment influence interpersonal processes in ambiguous social situations -- situations affording both rewards and costs -- such as social support contexts, relationship initiation, and marriage proposals. 


Love vs. In Love vs. Really In Love

Image from Demetri Martin; you can find more of his material here.

For more of our articles about love, see here.


From Saying “Yes” to Saying “I Do”: An Exclusive Series on Being Engaged and Getting Married

From the moment two people decide to get married through their wedding day, partners face a host of unique experiences during their engagement period, including more in-depth interactions with in-laws, making important joint financial decisions, and preparing for a publically declared, lifelong commitment.  Yet, despite the significance of the events leading up to the big day, only a few empirical studies have focused on the unique experiences that comprise the engagement period.1,2,3 And though private companies like The Knot have surveyed their subscribers about their engagements and weddings,4 these studies represent a select group of respondents. In an effort to more broadly address the question of “What’s it like to be engaged in the 21st century?”,, in collaboration with researchers from the Loving Lab at The University of Texas at Austin recently recruited nearly 400 newly-engaged or newly-wed individuals from around the United States. The research team asked individuals a range of questions, some of which are reviewed below (with a sneak peak at a few results as well!). Over the coming days, we will be posting the latest findings on being engaged in the 21st century.

1Burgess, E. W., & Wallin, P. (1944). Predicting adjustment in marriage from adjustment in engagement. American Journal of Sociology, 49, 324-330. doi:10.1086/219426 

2Knobloch-Fedders, L. M., & Knudson, R. M. (2009). Marital ideals of the newly-married: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26(2-3), 249-271. doi:10.1177/0265407509106717

3Wright, J. (1990). Getting engaged: A case study and a model of the engagement period as a process of conflict-resolution. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 3(4), 399-408. doi:10.1080/09515079008256710

4Bennett, C., & Perciballi, J. (2015, March 12). The Knot, The #1 Wedding Site, Releases 2014 Real Weddings Study Statistics. Retrieved June 23, 2015. 

Taylor Anne Morgan - Ph.D. Candidate - The University of Texas at Austin 
Taylor Anne’s research focuses on different stages of romantic relationships, with an emphasis on the associated cognitions at each transition point. Specifically, she is interested in how fluctuations in relationship evaluations over time affect relationship and individual outcomes.


Liz Keneski - Ph.D. Candidate - The University of Texas at Austin 
Liz's research centers around the intersection of romantic relationships, social networks, and health. Specifically, her research interests include social network support and romantic partner support processes, romantic relationship development and transition norms, and psychological and physiological resilience to relationship stress.


Is It Better to “Date Up” or Play Within Your Own League?

If you were to take 100 single people, all looking for a relationship, and put them in a room together for an evening, who would end up together? Although there are a myriad of factors that lead individuals to form romantic attachments, a longstanding theory in relationship science makes a simple prediction. Specifically, the matching hypothesis predicts that people will pair up with a partner who has the same social mate value.1 Your social mate value includes all of the factors that go into making you more or less desirable to date such as your physical attractiveness, your personality, etc. Essentially, according to the matching hypothesis, if you are a “7” out of 10 in terms of mate value you’ll end up with another “7,” or very close.  “10’s” go with “10’s,” “2’s” with “2’s” and so on.

Perhaps due to the matching hypothesis’s intuitive appeal, the field of social psychology has largely accepted it as true, despite a general lack of empirical support. To address this gap between theory and data, researchers from the University of California – Berkeley tested the matching hypothesis across several studies.

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What Are You Sharing on Facebook (and What Does It Say About You)?

Facebook status updates function as windows into our lives that allow us to share with the world. If you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, chances are you are at least a little bit curious about why your friends share what they do. Why do some tend to share almost exclusively about their favorite sports team, pet, or celebrity while others seem to share every passing thought? Out of all the infinite ways we can update our Facebook statuses, why do we post what we post, and what exactly are we communicating by our posts?

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