Relationship Science Roundup – Fall 2022
It is that time of year for cozying up with a cup of tea (coffee) and enjoying your favorite…research article! Ok, maybe not, but here is some great recent relationship research that have kept me engaged lately.
1) Moving in with a partner, getting married, splitting up, and getting a divorce are all major life changes. It is not surprising that they affect our psychological well-being (for better or for worse). However, new research published in the journal Emotion, shows that these psychological changes don’t last forever. In an impressive study that started in 1984, 30000 Germans were asked every year what major relationship events they experienced and how often they felt certain emotions (e.g., happiness, sadness). Researchers then looked at the changes in well-being five years before and five years after the major relationship events. Unsurprisingly, happiness increased before and after people moved in with their partner and got married (and lasted for about one year at each side of the event), and sadness increased before and after splitting up or getting a divorce (and lasted for a few years before and after the event). After five years, however, people generally returned to their baseline levels of happiness and sadness. This shows that relationship events are impactful, but that people do have a baseline of emotions that they tend to return to.
Research article here: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2022-91973-001
2) It doesn’t make us feel so great when other people use their phones in our presence (a phenomenon known as “phubbing”, i.e., phone snubbing). So why do we continue doing it ourselves? Turns out that we think our own phubbing behavior doesn’t have the same negative impact on others! Why? It seems that we think we use our own phone for more positive reasons (showing our partner something or doing something urgent) than others do. We also (incorrectly) think we are better at managing our attention between our phone and our partner. Oops.
Research article published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103122000634?via%3Dihub
Popular press writeup here: https://spsp.org/news/character-and-context-blog/barrick-phubbing-social-phone-use
3) Who says “I love you” first? Men or women? In a fascinating new international study across 7 countries (Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Poland, and the UK), men were more likely to declare their love first (except for France, where there was no gender difference). Interestingly there was no statistically significant difference in when men and women contemplated declaring their love (around 70 and 77 days into the relationship, respectively), but there was a statistically significant difference in when they actually said it: men declared their love around 108 days into the relationships and women did so around 123 days.
Research article published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/02654075221075264
Popular press writeup here: https://phys.org/news/2022-02-men-heterosexual-relationships.html
4) What songs you like may say something about your attachment style. If you are more anxiously attached (i.e., you worry about your relationships, fear rejection, and desire lots of closeness with others), you are more likely to like songs with anxious lyrics like Someone Like You by Adele (“I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited/But I could not stay away, I could not fight it/I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded/That for me it is not over.”). If you are more avoidantly attached (i.e., you prefer distance from others and are a bit uncomfortable with closeness), you are more likely to prefer songs with more avoidant lyrics, like What’s Love Got to Do With It by Tina Turner (“Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?”). The researchers of this new study also compared recent popular Western music (1990-2015) to older popular Western music (1946-1965). They found more recent songs contained greater avoidant lyrics compared to older music.
Research article published in the journal Personal Relationships: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/364061385_Individuals%27_favorite_songs%27_lyrics_reflect_their_attachment_style
5) Stress is bad for relationships. But, why? One reason, is that when people are stressed due to outside events (e.g., work issues), they are more likely to notice their partner’s negative behavior, but not their partner’s positive behavior, compared to people who experience less stress. Luckily, this did not occur if people were stressed occasionally (e.g., had one bad day at work), but only if they experienced accumulated stress (e.g., were stuck in a stressful job situation).
Research article published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/19485506221125411
Popular press writeup here: https://neurosciencenews.com/stress-partner-behavior-21517/
6) Spending time with others is extremely important for our well-being. We are social creatures, after all. But it is not as simple as just spending more time with others. In an international research project across eight countries, researchers found that it is most beneficial (for both life satisfaction and physical health) to interact with a diverse set of relationship types (e.g., family, stranger, friends, acquaintances, partner, colleagues). This mattered more than the total amount of social interactions, the time spent in the interactions, and the diversity of activities engaged in with others. So go out and diversify your social network!
Research article published in PNAS: https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2120668119
That’s it for this instalment! Curious for more? Check out the previous Relationship Science Roundup.