Tag Archives: relationships

Exercising with your partner can help after a heart attack

Significant others can help heart attack survivors form healthy habits.

Image via Pixabay.

A new paper explains that heart attack survivors have a better chance of changing unhealthy habits or to form healthy ones when their partners join their efforts. This effect was seen in programs for survivors that focused on weight reduction, physical activity, and smoking cessation. Those who took part in such programs and lived with a partner who also took up the same challenge were the most successful.

Till diet do us part

“Lifestyle improvement after a heart attack is a crucial part of preventing repeat events,” said study author Ms. Lotte Verweij, a registered nurse and PhD student, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands.

“Our study shows that when spouses join the effort to change habits, patients have a better chance of becoming healthier — particularly when it comes to losing weight.”

This paper is a follow-up study of previous research and focused on the role our significant others play in efforts to change behavior. It included 824 patients who were randomly assigned to an intervention group (lifestyle programs on top of usual care) or a control group (usual care alone). A total of 411 patients were allotted to the experimental group and referred to up to three of the programs (weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation). Their partners could join for free and were encouraged to do so by nurses. Participation was defined as attending at least one session of the program.

Nearly half (48%) of the partners joined up. Participants with a partner present were more than twice as likely to see improvements in at least one of three areas within a year. The greatest influence of partners on any of the three areas was weight loss — patients with a participating partner were 2.71 times more likely to reduce their weight compared to patients without a partner.

“Patients with partners who joined the weight loss programme lost more weight compared to patients with a partner who did not join the programme,” said Ms. Verweij.

“If partners contribute to adopting healthy habits, it could become an important recommendation to avoid recurrent heart attacks.”

She explains that because couple often have similar lifestyles, changing our habits can become hard if only one person is putting in the effort. Practical limitations like grocery shopping or emotional ones (like feeling a lack of support for our efforts) seem small but they make or break our resolve. Finding a lower effect of partners on smoking or physical activity might suggest that these are more influenced by our own motivations and persistence, although “his hypothesis needs more investigation,” she adds.

The paper “The influence of partners on lifestyle-related risk factors in patients after an acute coronary syndrome. Results from the RESPONSE-2 randomized controlled trial” has been presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2020 – The Digital Experience.

Our social ties suffered under the pandemic, but they’ll heal rapidly once we’re free to socialize

The pandemic has certainly placed most of our friendships under strain. But take heart: a new study says this negative impact is likely to be short-lived.

Image via Pixabay.

A meta analysis published by Robin Ian MacDonald Dunbar, a psychologist at the University of Oxford, reports that the pandemic’s effect on friendships won’t be permanent — in fact, it’s likely not even going to last for too long. Social bonds such as those between family and friends are the cornerstone of human life, and maintaining their health should be one of our key concerns during such trying times.

A plague on friendships

The pandemic has upset our lives more than probably any other event in recent memory. It caused dramatic, wide-reaching changes to how we do our jobs, how we relax, how we socialize, and how we spend our money. We’re forced to face how fragile our societies actually are, and how easily a life can be snuffed out by fate.

This all led to a sharp rise in loneliness, anxiety, and civil disobedience. Dunbar wanted to see how our social networks fared under these conditions, and to estimate how they will evolve in the future to suit the current conditions. Towards this end, he analyzed available literature on this topic, looking in particular for ones dealing with unusual or completely novel situations.

Among the key findings, Dunbar notes that people actually have a smaller social network than we would assume, with the average figure being 150 people. How closely bonded we are to each individual is also variable, and hinges mostly on factors such as how much time was invested in the relationship, and how much trust we can place in the other person.

One important insight from this paper is that spending time apart from family doesn’t seem to make our bonds with them less powerful. Spending time apart from friends, however, does — some of the studies Dunbar cites show that it takes as little as three months without meeting in-person to weaken a bond of friendship. That’s not a heartening prospect, but Dunbar also found that these bonds of friendship can be restored quickly once people are able to socialize again.

So what is waiting for us at the end of the tunnel (apart from a cheap and effective vaccine)? Well, Dunbar believes that people will be rather awkward around each other for a short time after restrictions are lifted. However, we can definitely reconnect if we put in a little effort, as our relationships haven’t been severed, merely frayed.

Another side-effect of the pandemic is that as our old social ties may fall in the background, people are looking for and entering new social circles that are more available during these trying times. Some if not most of these will lead to new, long-lasting friendships, he adds.

The paper “Structure and function in human and primate social networks: implications for diffusion, network stability, and health” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences.

Movie.

Movies and shows may help people with attachment issues better navigate their own relationships

People who struggle with romantic relationships may find solace in their favorite movies and TV shows as they offer a ‘safe space’ to explore their own problems, wants, and needs, a new paper suggests.

Movie.

Image via Pixabay.

New research from Ohio State University suggests that watching relationships unfold in movies or shows can help people with attachment or anxiety issues better navigate their own social and romantic ties. The study looked at how individuals relate to the characters in these stories, and how that, in turn, helped them come to grips with their own feelings.

The faults in our stars are sometimes the same as ours

“For people with attachment issues, movies and TV shows can be a way to try to understand their problems or to vicariously meet their needs for intimacy in a way that they may find difficult in real life,” says Nathan Silver, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in communication at The Ohio State University.

“We can do a lot more with stories than just escape into them.”

The authors report that people with attachment issues are more likely to become engaged in the stories playing out in front of them compared to others. For example, they feel more connected to the fictional characters and their pursuits, and are more likely to try to imagine what they would do in the same situations. It’s possible, then, that people who are having trouble with their own romantic relationships watch movies or TV shows for more than simple entertainment or as an escape — they may represent a safe space to explore and learn about our own wants and needs without risking making any faux pas in our current relationships.

For the study, the team worked with 1,039 adult Americans, who they questioned online. The participants self-reported on a series of measurements probing into their media use behaviors, their attachment dimensions, and how interested and engaged they were by the narratives seen in media. The goal was to see whether interactions with movies and shows helped people cope with attachment insecurities in two areas: avoidance and anxiety.

People high in avoidance basically don’t want to get ‘too’ emotionally-close with their partners. They can be described as ‘cold’ or ’emotionally unavailable’. On the other end of the spectrum, high-anxiety individuals are commonly referred to as ‘needy’ — they want a lot of emotional intimacy and closeness with their partners, often bubbling up in the form of seeking constant reassurance that one’s partner cares about them.

The team reports that people who were high in attachment avoidance but low in anxiety were less engaged with the stories they watched and didn’t feel as strong a connection to the characters on screen. In other words, the same avoidance tendencies they (presumably) display in their real-life relationships carried over into how they relate to the movies and TV shows they watch, according to the team. People high in attachment anxiety were more engaged with the stories.

Hot and cold

However, what really interested the team was how people who are high in both anxiety and avoidance relate to media, Silver says — the study suggests that they engaged in the stories they watched much more, and in more ways, that the other groups.

“These are the classic self-sabotagers. They really want supportive intimacy, but tend to screw it up because they also have these avoidance behaviors,” he said. “What the story world provides these people is a safe place to deal with this ambivalence. That’s why I believe they are engaging more in the story world.”

Anxious-avoidants were more likely to say they were absorbed by or transported into the story world, the team reports. They were also more likely to say that the stories helped them understand people they didn’t know, that they imagined what would happen if characters made different choices, and that they liked to imagine they knew their favorite TV and movie characters personally.

Silver says these results point to anxious-avoidants using media as a means to imagine a relationship “without the real-life problems, like the storybook romance of Jim and Pam on The Office.” By taking the perspective of a character they’re watching, these people can essentially bypass their own attachment issues and “have this very functional relationship,” just like the one being portrayed on-screen.

“What our results suggest is that people with these issues can use the story world to think about how they would react if they had the chance,” says Slater. “They expand their social experiences, at least vicariously.”

Slater adds that the team can’t currently say if this ‘vicarious’ living of the stories they watch actually helps them or not. However, they say they “speculate this is certainly one of the attractions of stories,” as people with attachment issues often miss the opportunity to experience some of the aspects of romantic relationships in their own lives.

“Our findings suggest that the story world offers people, in addition to escape, a safe environment to cope with some of the problems they have with relationships,” he said.

The paper “A safe space for self-expansion: Attachment and motivation to engage and interact with the story world” has been published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Texting

Texting and sexting in relationships: they bring us closer or drive us apart

Texting

Credit: Pixabay.

New research investigates how texting behavior influences relationships.

In one study led by Leora Trub, a psychologist at Pace University, researchers surveyed 205 adults aged 18 to 29 who were in a romantic relationship. The participants were profiled on their texting habits, relationship, and emotional satisfaction.

Interestingly, the results suggested that partners who had a similar texting style to one another reported greater relationship satisfaction, regardless of whether the content of the texts themselves were lovey-dovey messages or complaints. These findings mirror previous research that found that couples who communicate similarly, regardless of the medium, are happier with their relationships.

“How couples texted was more important to the satisfaction of the relationship than how frequently they texted,” said Trub in a statement.

The takeaway seems to be that as long as partners are in sync with their texting styles, things are more likely to go smoother between the two.

This makes sense when you recognize how ambiguous, disembodied, short, and asynchronous communicating over text can be. A simple “K” can mean so many different things and can be easily interpreted in a negative way.

In another survey, Trub and colleagues questioned 982 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 about their motivation for texting. The questions were meant to gauge the participants’ level of social anxiety, their general personality traits, and mobile phone usage.

The researchers uncovered some interesting patterns. For instance, besides texting for its functional sake, people would also choose to text to avoid having to deal with a potentially intimidating situation. Additionally, people also text simply because they’re bored or because they find it to be a better way of expressing themselves than over the phone or in person.

“Texting can become a crutch and eventually become a barrier to creating meaningful interactions,” said Trub. “Texting all the time can also come from being lonely or bored, and that can lead to isolation and alienation.”

A second study focused on the hotter part of texting — sexually explicit messaging or “sexting”. The research team surveyed 615 American and Canadian adults who were in committed relationships at the time. The participants were asked about their sexting behaviors, self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, commitment, conflict and pornography use, among other topics.

Most people didn’t sext at all and were found to be just as satisfied with their partners as people who did sext. Sexters, on the other hand, reported higher sexual satisfaction than non-sexters. People in same-sex relationships were particularly likely to be frequent or even hyper sexters.

Frequent sexters, defined as sending ‘steamy’ messages several times a week, were more likely to report conflict and ambivalence in their relationships. They were also more likely to behave unfaithfully to their partners over social media and watched more pornography.

“Sexting may help couples with intimacy and to spice things up, but we definitely did see the negative side of too much of a good thing,” said Michelle Drouin of Purdue University Fort Wayne, lead author of the sexting study.

The two studies were presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Put your phone away if you want to enjoy your night out, study suggests

Smartphones and dinners don’t mix, researchers say.

Dining table.

Image credits Helena Lopes.

Hello, girlfriends past. I know we have debated this during the times we enjoyed together. I also know that we decided, alas, that I found myself on the wrong side of the Snapchat barricade at the time. Yet I come bearing dire news: pulling out a smartphone at dinner might help you stay connected (or depressed), but according to new research from the University of British Columbia, it will make your face-to-face interactions less enjoyable.

 

“As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected,” said Ryan Dwyer, the study’s lead author and PhD student in the department of psychology. “When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about — apart from offending them — we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away.”

For the study, the team asked some 300 people to go to dinner with friends or family at a restaurant, with a caveat: some participants were randomly assigned to use their devices while out, others to stow their devices away. Afterwards, the team asked them several questions, including how much they enjoyed their time. The questions were designed in such a way as to hide the study’s focus on smartphones.

Online, but disconnected

The participants’ answers suggest that when phones were present, they felt more distracted, which reduced their enjoyment of the dinner by about half a point on a seven-point scale. They also reported feeling slightly more bored during the meal when the devices were present — a find which the researchers call surprising.

 

“We had predicted that people would be less bored when they had access to their smartphones, because they could entertain themselves if there was a lull in the conversation,” said Dwyer.

Next, the team wanted to see if the results hold true in other settings — so they expanded their study to day-to-day life. For this second step, they recruited more than 100 participants and sent a survey to their smartphones five times a day for a whole week. The questionnaire asked about their mood and what activities they’ve engaged during the past 15 minutes.

The team says the same pattern emerged: participants reported enjoying their in-person social interactions less if they had been using their phones. Elizabeth Dunn, the senior author of the study and professor in the department of psychology, said the findings expand on the ongoing debate around the effects of smartphones on public health.

“An important finding of happiness research is that face-to-face interactions are incredibly important for our day-to-day wellbeing. This study tells us that, if you really need your phone, it’s not going to kill you to use it,” she said, adding:

“But there is a real and detectable benefit from putting your phone away when you’re spending time with friends and family.”

I know that disconnecting isn’t only daunting in this day and age, it’s rapidly becoming impossible. But I also feel that we should all take that half hour a day to enjoy those close to us, in the flesh, without a bunch of pixels mediating our interaction — it’s those times that we’ll remember later on, not the thumbs up we sent in the group chat. Social media will still be there to shower you in emojis when you return.

The paper “Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions” has been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

 

Make art not money

Riches make your happiness about yourself, a tight budget makes it about others

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does seem to make it all about yourself, new research found. People with high incomes were found to experience more emotions associated with happiness that are focused on themselves. By contrast, those with lower incomes were found to derive happiness more from their relationships and interactions with other people.

Make art not money

Image credits Daria Nepriakhina.

If there’s one thing everyone will agree on, it’s that having money is a lot better than not having money. Higher income has many proven benefits, from better health to higher life satisfaction. However, there isn’t a clear answer to whether folk wisdom was right that ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ — yet. So a new paper, lead-authored by Paul Piff, PhD at the University of California, Irvine, looked into how money and happiness tie together.

“Most people think of money as some kind of unmitigated good,” said Piff. “But some recent research suggests that this may not actually be the case. In many ways, money does not necessarily buy you happiness.”

The happiness gap

The team used a survey to quiz 1,519 Americans on their household income and a series of other factors, designed to measure their tendency to experience seven emotions which are believed to make up the foundation of happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love, and pride. The questions were designed to be neutral, so as not to influence the answers. Compassion, for example, was gauged with statements such as “nurturing others gives me a warm feeling inside”.

Crunching the data revealed that well-off participants tended to experience more of the emotions that focus on one’s self — specifically, contentment and pride. Amusement was also tied to socioeconomic status, but more loosely. Surveyees on the lower end of the income scale were more likely to experience emotions that focus on other people, especially compassion and love. Awe was more prevalent among them than in the first group, as was experiencing beauty. Lastly, the team reports that income had no apparent effect on enthusiasm.

“These findings indicate that wealth is not unequivocally associated with happiness,” says Piff. “What seems to be the case is that your wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness.”

“While wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status and individual achievements, less wealthy individuals seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others.”

He believes these differences are borne from higher-income individuals’ aspirations for independence and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, aspects of happiness that center on others help lower-income individuals to form tighter, interdependent bonds with others. This tightly-knit group helps them, in turn, to cope with their less stable, more threatening environment.

According to Piff, poverty “heightens people’s risks for a slew of negative life outcomes, including worsened health,” so any support a community or group can provide is welcome. Wealth doesn’t guarantee happiness, far from it, but the findings suggest that it changes how we experience it at the very least — for example taking joy in “yourself versus in your friends and relationships,” which aligns well with previous research on the subject.

“These findings suggest that lower-income individuals have devised ways to cope, to find meaning, joy and happiness in their lives despite their relatively less favorable circumstances,” he concludes.

The findings are actually kind of a bummer, if I may use a technical term, especially considering that over 43 million people live under the poverty line in the US alone. The income gap is even more abysmal when looking at the whole world, and is still growing according to Inequality.org, a project which has been tracking inequality throughout the world since 2011. That’s a lot of people who have to find “ways to cope, to find meaning”.

And no, it’s not about ‘working hard.’ The single most meaningful factor deciding your socioeconomic status for life is having the right parents.

The paper “Wealth, Poverty, and Happiness: Social Class Is Differentially Associated With Positive Emotions” has been published in the journal Emotion.

Two-day long sexual ‘afterglow’ helps couples bond and feel more sexually satisfied after the deed

A study of newlywed couples found that partners show a sexual ‘afterglow’ after the deed which can last up to two days. This afterglow was linked with greater relationship satisfaction and a lower decline in satisfaction over time.

Image credits Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay.

Sex is a great couple activity to cement a relationship and help you bond with your partner. Even better, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your house to do it. For all it’s usefulness to the couple and the obvious other benefits it brings to the table/bed/counter, people don’t usually have sex with their partners every day, but rather once every few days. So Andrea Meltzer, a psychological scientist at the Florida State University, and her team, theorized that the benefits of doing the do extends for longer than a day — providing a short-term boost to sexual satisfaction and promoting pair bonding between the partners, increasing overall relationship satisfaction over the long term.

“Our research shows that sexual satisfaction remains elevated 48 hours after sex,” says Meltzer, who was first author on the study.

“And people with a stronger sexual afterglow — that is, people who report a higher level of sexual satisfaction 48 hours after sex — report higher levels of relationship satisfaction several months later.”

Self-reported love

To test their theory, the team looked at data gathered from “two independent, longitudinal studies”, one with 96 newlywed couples and the other with 118 newlywed couples. These couples had completed at least three consecutive days of a 14-day daily diary task as part of a larger study looking at their daily sexual activity as well as sexual and marital satisfaction “at baseline” and 4 to 6 months later.

Every night before going to bed, the newlyweds were asked to independently report whether or not they had sex day with their partner that day. They also had to use a 7-point scale (1=not at all, 7=extremely) to rate how satisfied they were with their sex life, their partner, the relationship, and their marriage that day. They also completed three measures of marriage quality at the beginning of the study and during a follow-up session 4 to 6 months later.

Although the answers varied considerably among participants, on average they reported having sex 4 times during the two-week study. The team found a link between sex on a given day and greater self-reported sexual satisfaction over the next one or two days. So every ‘sex’ made the participants feel better about their sex lives for up to 48 hours. This link held strong throughout gender and age groups even after the team accounted for other factors such as personality traits, sexual frequency, or length of relationship.

All couples experienced a decline in marital satisfaction during the baseline and the follow-up session. But more importantly, participants who reported a relatively high level of sexual afterglow reported both higher initial marital satisfaction and less decline in satisfaction over the first 4 to 6 months of their marriage. The findings are consistent with those reached by the two independent studies, which Meltzer and her colleagues say provides strong evidence in favor of the sexual afterglow.

“This research is important because it joins other research suggesting that sex functions to keep couples pair bonded,” Meltzer concludes.

So what does this mean? Well, not only will sex feel good and make you feel life’s that one shade brighter afterwards, but it will also help maintain relationship quality over time. What more do you need? Grab that special someone and go bond the feathers out of each other.

The full paper “Quantifying the Sexual Afterglow: The Lingering Benefits of Sex and Their Implications for Pair-Bonded Relationships” has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

Why do people have sex?

Sex — we do it for the kids.

Or do we? Human sexuality is a complex thing, which both defines and is defined by each and every one of us. An integral part of the human experience, we all hope to one day dip our toe (and other parts) into it. Understanding sexuality therefore is both a scientific and a deeply personal topic.

Sorry to intrude, ladies.
Image credits Michael Schwarzenberger / Pixabay.

You reading this now is only possible due to one simple fact — half of your ancestors, without fail, have successfully had sex with the rest of your ancestors. Which, generally speaking, is why animals have sex.

But if they were witty, pretty, or lucky enough, some of them likely became acquainted with the genitals of other people too, without tying your bloodlines together. Which begs the question: why do people have sex?

The physical sex

I may be shooting for the Captain Obvious prize here, but sex feels good and is a key catalyst for baby-making. These two properties go hand in hand. Sex is necessary for the continuation of your genes and the human race — therefore, you’re rewarded for having sex (pleasure) so you’ll seek it out more.

Humans today have turned this biological incentive on its head. Thanks to a sleuth of traditional and recent birth control options, most of the sex that goes on right now isn’t about procreation. People start having sex long before they plan on having children and continue to do so long after they’ve had them. Long after they’ve had them. The chance of pregnancy, to a degree, limits the pleasure many people derive from their sex lives, or may even impair it altogether.

We also do a lot of things between the sheets (and in front of screens) that have absolutely nothing to do with making babies and absolutely everything with getting off. The fact that porn, masturbation, oral sex and so on exist, contravenes the assumption that human sexuality is centered around procreation. We assign sexual meaning to body parts, objects, or actions that are not part of the sexual process — shoulders, six-packs, high heels, spanking, hair pulling.

Eroticism, sexuality, and procreation have, to an extent, been decoupled in recent times — and while opinions may differ on this, procreation is no longer in the limelight.

The emotional sex

Being horny and seeking sexual release are definitely good reasons to have sex. But if you really think about it, there’s a much simpler and faster method on hand to take the edge off. And you don’t even have to leave the house.

Some people just peel carrots. Others preffer to be tied and gagged when doing it.
Image credits congerdesign / Pixabay.

Most people who are or have been in a relationship can remember one time when they weren’t really feeling it, but did the deed anyway. Maybe you were tired or had to power through a headache but your significant other was all fired up so you took (gave?) one for the team.

We’ve also established that sex is fun. But there’s something that makes it different from other fun stuff, isn’t there? Drinking or playing video games is also fun, but we can do that with whomever, whenever, and no one will feel hurt. Hopefully.

So physical pleasure is not all that’s involved here. According to a study by Cindy Messon and David Buss published in 2007 in PubMed, it’s just one of at least 237 reasons why people initiate or consent to sex. The most and least usual, according to US college students, are the following:

    1. I was attracted to the person.
    2. It feels good.
    3. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure.
    4. I wanted to show my affection to the person.
    5. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release.
    [……]
    233. I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease (seriously?).
    234. The person offered to give me drugs for doing it.
    235. I wanted a raise.
    236. I wanted to breakup my relationship.
    237. It was an initiation rite to a club or organization.

You can see the full list of questions published by BusinessInsider here.

And just in case you missed the cue, now’s the time to remind you — keep the broadband well protected when connecting to the network. Especially if either is public.
Image via Meditations / Pixabay.

Keep in mind that the results were based on the responses of college students — so they’re likely biased towards short-term physical gain. “Attraction” is a foggy term to use, as it could be interpreted solely as physical attraction, emotional attraction, or a mix of both. Still, the emotional component strikes on both the high end (nr.4) and the low one (nr.236) of the list.

Sexual pleasure is also highly dependent on your emotional state and mood. A touch that would send a shiver down your spine with one partner can easily send chills if done clumsily — or if it’s not consensual. So it’s not all up to you. Getting quality sexy time requires a lot of external factors falling into place.

Which drives us to the last point.

The social sex

Humans are, perhaps more so than any other animal, social beings. Our sexuality is closely intertwined with our social lives. By definition, you have to interact with another person to have sex. So by definition, sex has a social component — while still being deeply personal, as we’ve so far seen.

A quote you may recognize from House of Cards but was actually produced by Oscar Wilde says that ‘everything is about sex except sex — sex is about power’. It can be used as a show of dominance, as a display of power. Both sexes enjoy engaging in power plays, either traditionally or going against traditional sex roles.

Sex is also closely regulated by social forces. Sexual shaming, minority gender stigma, and felt stigma are all ways socially-accepted ideals are forced upon the individual. Deviation from what is considered normal at the time is also usually punished in society. Sometimes with a very heavy hand: For much of the US’ history, some people could not legally have sex or marry the people they were attracted to. Just imagine that — being told that your arousal is illegal. I can’t even begin to understand how that feels like.

These guys and gals know, though.
Image credits naeimasgary / Pixabay.

American sociologist Randall Collins has long argued that sex is, you’ll never guess, a social construct. Just like many other “rituals“, it can only be understood from a social point of view. Water cooler conversations, Sunday’s church, or a date are all social rituals, he says. They’re different in purpose but follow the same social rules and are all based on the same psychological processes. Each one serves to gather people in a group aware of all its members who have a common point of interest and share an emotional connection.

He goes on to say that all interaction rituals have the same effects. Solidarity increases between the participants — ‘we’re one team’ for sports fans, ‘we’re faithful to each other’ in a couple. Mental energy builds up — ‘I am in love’. By repeating the ritual, a memory will come to symbolize the relationship to the partners — ‘that one romantic getaway in Hawaii’. An object will become ‘sacred’, such as a wedding ring for example. And certain gestures will come to belong to the group — ‘only we can do that with each other’. In the end, the ritual comes to clearly delineate the group, ‘us’, from the rest of humanity, ‘them’.

Why we have sex

So to recap: we have a bit of sex to procreate. We have a lot of sex because it feels good — because it’s pleasurable, or because it will give someone dear pleasure. We do it because we’re lonely, or horny, or drunk. We do it to show our feelings, we do it to break up, and for some ungodly reason, some people do it to spread STDs around.

We have sex because we want to move ahead in society. To become popular, to gain station, or the arm, ear (and other bits) of someone powerful. Sometimes we do it out in the open, and sometimes we have to hide in the shadows to be ourselves.

In the end, we have sex because we’re humans — and humans have sex.

Take out your phones: sexting could improve your relationship, study finds

Sexting has been taking a lot of flak recently, the debate focusing mostly on its negative aspects, such as the vulnerability of young people sending sexually explicit communications or how peer pressure can determine them to engage in the activity. A recent study, presented at the American Psychological Association’s 2015 convention reveals how widespread sexting actually is amongst adults, and looks at the benefits it brings to a relationship.

Research done at Drexel University in the US found that sexting is much more prevalent in society than many might think. Their survey of 870 volunteers, aged between 18 and 82 years old, found that almost 9 out of 10 participants (88 percent of them, to be exact) have sent sexually suggestive or explicit content via text message at one point in their lives, and 82 percent of those surveyed had sexted in the past year.

Hopefully with more success that this.
Image via Pinterest

The study also debunked the myth that freewheeling singles, looking for casual relationships or hookups, are the driving force behind the phenomenon of sexting. Quite the opposite – the data suggests that it is more popular within committed relationships. Three quarters of the volunteers said they have sent such texts in a committed relationship, with less than half (43 percent) doing so in a casual relationship.

The most exciting finds of the study were correlations that formed between sexting and the levels of satisfaction in sexual relationships, with more pronounced levels of sexting being associated with greater sexual satisfaction for respondents, especially in the context of a stable relationship.

“This research indicates that sexting is a prevalent behaviour that adults engage in for a variety of reasons. These findings show a robust relationship between sexting and sexual and relationship satisfaction.”

And it goes beyond the bedroom – reported satisfaction with the relationship itself was also seen to improve amongst couples that sext, unless the relationship was reported as being “very committed”, in which case no major rise in satisfaction was evident.

People who sext more reported seeing the activity as fun and carefree but are also more likely to view the behavior as something that’s expected in their relationships.

“Given the possible implications, both positive and negative, for sexual health, it is important to continue investigating the role sexting plays in current romantic and sexual relationships,” said Emily Stasko, co-author of the research, in a press release.

The sample size used in the study is admittedly small, so the results should be looked at with a pinch of salt, as we can’t simply conclude that the numbers apply to the rest of society equally. But the researchers’ work does present some interesting ideas that will no doubt be followed up on in further studies.

It’s also worth highlighting that the study focused on sexts between consenting adults, not unwanted messages or pictures which could be construed as harassment.

“Context mattered and not all sexting is equal,” Stasko told Nadia White at NPR. “Unwanted sexting is bad for relationships, but when it’s wanted, it’s good.”

Now, where did i put my phone?

Technology appears to negatively relate to relationship and personal well-being. Image: Clinton Power

Connect or disconnect? Technology interferes with couple relationships for the worse

The introduction of mobile phones coupled with internet made for a huge leap in communication, making people connect with each other easier than ever. Under a mist of noise and over-stimulation of our, let’s face it, limited attention span, technology has also taken its toll. We’ve all noticed it, but let’s not be hypocritical about it either. How many times did you catch yourself being absorbed in your smarphone held under the dinner table, to the detriment of your company. Ask anyone who knows a thing or two about emotional intelligence and how relationships work and he’ll tell you the absolute pillar is this: presence. Alright, so we’ve settled technology, for good or worse, interferes with our lives, so why do we need a study to tell us this? Maybe because we need a wake-up call from time to time.

Are you present?

Technology appears to negatively relate to relationship and personal well-being. Image: Clinton Power

Technology appears to negatively relate to relationship and personal well-being. Image: Clinton Power

Brandon T. McDaniel, a doctoral candidate in human development and family studies at Penn State, decided to look at a particular segment of technology vs relationships: the romantic ones. He uses the term  “technoference” to describe the everyday intrusions and interruptions in couple interactions, and embarked in a study that aimed to survey the  frequency of technoference. Most importantly, McDaniel wanted to know how this relates to  women’s personal and relational well-being. Oddly enough, the premise seems to be that only women are affected by technology interfering with their love life. Sure, guys are known for playing video games and surfing the web in a trance-like manner, but they’re not alone. I’ll just have to get over it, I guess.

“In recent years, studies have been looking at the ways in which media use may develop into problematic or addictive use for some individuals and how this may negatively influence relationships, but we were interested in thinking more broadly about the subject, expanding it to look at all everyday interruptions that may occur due to technology devices such as cell phones, smartphones, tablets, TVs and computers,” said McDaniel.

McDaniel asked 143  married/cohabiting women to complete an online questionnaire designed to gauge their perception of whether or not technology devices such as computers, cell or smartphones, or television frequently interrupted leisure time, conversations and mealtimes with their partners.

“It is clear that interruptions would likely be more frequent in a relationship where one or both partners have developed addiction-like tendencies for checking their devices or playing games, but even normal everyday use of technology can potentially cause interruptions — many times completely unintentionally,” said McDaniel.

Women who rated frequent episodes of technology interfering with their relationship, also reported lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction.

“It’s a wake-up call to me because I realized I’m doing this too,” said Coyne, associate professor of family life at BYU. “That’s insane to say that as a professional who researches this, but we can let these devices overrule our entire lives if we allow it.”

I think it should serve as a wake-up call for everyone, since we’re all guilty of doing it in some respects. Yes, women included, although the study itself is biased.

McDaniel also built a model of technoference that predicted conflict over technology use, which then predicted relationship satisfaction, which finally predicted depression and life satisfaction.

“As with any correlational research, we cannot assume causation,” said McDaniel. “It is likely that the relationship between technoference and well-being is bidirectional. However, we would still hypothesize that when partners experience what they perceive to be an interruption due to technology, their views of the relationship are likely to suffer, especially if these interruptions are frequent.”

Can we blame technology for our failed relationships, though? It’s a tricky question. It’s nice and easy to have an escape goat, but maybe there’s more to it. The author puts it better than I can.

“We should all stop to think about whether our own daily technology use might be frustrating at times to our family members. Couples should talk about this and set some mutually agreed upon rules. It may be helpful to block out times of the day when they will turn their devices off and just focus on one another,” McDaniel said

Findings were published in the online journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Six faces and their computerised approximations, including study author Dr Tom Hartley (second from left)

How facial expressions drive first impressions

First impressions are extremely important for interpersonal relationships. It’s believed that most people form a mental image of a person based on their first interaction that lingers for a long while and which may or may nor reflect the said person’s true character. Sales people know just how much first impressions count and use this to their advantage. One important driver of first impressions are facial features – basically people will judge you and form a mental image of you based what facial features you exhibit. But which of these features communicate various impressions? Researchers at University of York built a mathematical model based on photo analysis and surveys and found some of the telltale signs that drive the most common first impressions.

“If people are forming these first impressions, just based on looking at somebody’s face, what is it about the image of the face that’s giving that impression – can we measure it exactly?” said Dr Tom Hartley, a neuroscientist at the University of York.

The researchers presented some 1,000 still photos of people from the internet and showed each to at least six different people who were asked to gave it a score for 16 different social traits, like trustworthiness or intelligence. The team measured the facial features for each photo and correlated the scores to build a mathematical model of how facial dimensions produce three of the most main characteristics: attractiveness, dominance and approachable. Then, using this model, the researchers ordered produced cartoon versions of the most (and least) approachable, dominant and attractive faces, along with in-between possibilities.

Six faces and their computerised approximations, including study author Dr Tom Hartley (second from left)

Six faces and their computerised approximations, including study author Dr Tom Hartley (second from left)

Some takeaways: approachable is tied to smiling expressions and unapproachable to frowning or angry expressions, while dominance is tied to masculine features. Even so, the researchers are careful to note that its difficult to pinpoint one dominant facial feature.

“Lots of the features of the face tend to vary together,” he explained. “So it’s very difficult for us to pin down with certainty that a given feature of the face is contributing to a certain social impression,” Dr Hartley said.

Don’t kid yourself, though. No matter how much you’d like to deny it, brief facial expressions can make a big difference to how we are received by strangers. The findings could, thus, help people put on their best, for those who wish it. On social media, like facebook or linkedin, often enough the only physical connection people have is a profile picture. Animators looking for the more realistic and vivid representations for their characters might also find use in these findings, as well as photographers.

“You would be able to use these kind of numbers to decide when is a good time to take a photograph, or maybe to choose the photograph that’s really optimal in putting forward the best possible impression – and you might want to put forward different kinds of social impressions in different situations,” Dar. Hartley said.

The findings appeared in the journal PNAS. [via BBC]

Women’s infidelity caused by high level of hormones

Apparently, scientists have finally found the answer (or, at least part of it) to the QUESTION: what is it that makes women cheat on their partners? Before starting to call names if it has already happened to you, find out that it’s not a more expensive car or a bigger account, but something else: a high level of hormones.

Doctoral candidate Kristina Durante and Assistant Professor of Psychology Norm Li from The University of Texas at Austin discovered that having too much of the sex hormone called oestradiol can determine a woman to become infidel.

The researchers found a connection between the hormone, which is related to fertility, and sexual motivation after studying women aged between 17 and 30 who were not using contraception.

The subjects’ level of oestradiol was measured two times during their ovulatory cycle, while they were asked to say how physically attractive they thought they were, being asked about their likelihood to cheat on a partner too. Independent observers were also asked to rate the women’s attractiveness.

It was discovered that the participants with the highest level of oestradiol considered themselves the most attractive, also claiming to have a higher tendency towards flirting, kissing or having a serious relationship with another man (however, not towards a one-night stand). Oestradiol levels are also associated with a feeling of dissatisfaction with one’s primary relationship.

This shows that women who are very fertile are hardly satisfied by a long-term partner and are more likely to search for another one, who is more desirable. This is not related to engaging into casual sex tough. These women are more likely to choose serial monogamy.

It seems that physiological mechanisms are still highly important for a woman, influencing both her partner choices and behavior. So that sports car may not help, after all!

source: The University of Texas

We see our spouses more negatively as time passes, but that may actually be a good thing

energy positiveThey say the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. You can simultaneously love and hate somebody (and something, for that matter) at the same time, but you can’t love them and feel nothing for them at the same time. So if we were to continue in that manner, hating somebody doesn’t neccesarily mean that we love them less, but if we are more indifferent towards them, that does mean we love them less.

Something along those lines has been proved by a study led by scientists from the University of Michigan. While our relationships with children and best friends tend to become less negative as we age, we’re more likely to see our spouses as irritating and demanding.

“There’s been a lot of research showing that marriage and other close relationships enhance well-being,” said Kira Birditt, a research fellow at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). “But less work has focused on the negative aspects of close relationships.”

She adds that viewing our spouses more negatively over time may not be all bad and for that matter it may very well be positive.

“As we age, and become closer and more comfortable with one another, it could be that we’re more able to express ourselves to each other. In other words, it’s possible that negativity is a normal aspect of close relationships that include a great deal of daily contact.”

For the study, they analyzed individual changes over time as well as differences among people at different stages in life— young, middle-aged and older adults. Participants in the study were interviewed first in 1992 and again in 2005.

They were asked about the negative energy in their relationships with three key people in their lives: their spouse or partner, a child, and a best friend. To be more exact, they were asked to agree or disagree with the following sentences: “My (spouse/partner, child, friend) gets on my nerves” and “My (spouse/partner, child, friend) makes too many demands on me”. At both points in time older adults (age 60-plus) had the least negative relationships with spouses, children and friends.

According to Birditt, this finding is consistent with other research showing that older adults are likely to report less conflict than do younger adults in their relationships while people from 20 to 30 had the most negative relationshipsFor all age groups, including adults in their 40s and 50s, the spousal relationship was seen as the most negative and it tended to increase in negativity over time.

“The increases in negativity over time may be indicative of learned patterns of interaction which have been reinforced and tend to persist over time,” Birditt said. “Other studies have found that negative communication increases over time and relationship quality decreases, especially after having children.” “Interestingly, as relationships with spouses become more negative, relationships with children and friends appear to become less demanding and irritating over time.”