Without the heartbreak of ended relationships, half of popular music would cease to exist. Everyone has had one but it turns out it probably wasn't so bad - especially if you thought it would be horrible.
A new Northwestern University study shows that lovers, even those madly in love, do much better following a breakup than they imagined they would.
In other words, participants who forecast how badly they would feel over a breakup with a partner actually felt much less distress than they had predicted in the days prior to the relationship’s demise.
Though the love-crazed participants may have felt the ecstasy and anticipated the despair immortalized in “Romeo and Juliet,” their level of actual distress following their real-life breakups came nowhere close to the agony suffered by Shakespeare’s tragic young lovers.
“Our research shows that a breakup is not nearly as bad as people imagine, and the more you are in love with your partner, the more wrong you are about how upset you are going to be when the dreaded loss actually occurs,” said Eli Finkel, assistant professor of psychology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study.
The people most in love did experience a little more distress over their breakups.
“But the overestimates of the most-in-love participants, of how badly they would feel after a breakup, were much greater than the predictions of participants less in love,” said Paul Eastwick, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at Northwestern. “Their levels of distress were nowhere near their catastrophic predictions.”
The study “Mispredicting Distress Following Romantic Breakup: Revealing the Time Course of the Affective Forecasting Error,” will be published online today (Aug. 20) in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Besides Eastwick and Finkel, the co-authors include Tamar Krishnamurti and George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University.
The study adds to a growing body of literature that shows that people demonstrate remarkably poor insight when asked to predict the magnitude of their distress following emotional events.
In anticipating a breakup, for example, people might not take account of the good outcomes that follow a breakup, such as the benefits of being single.
Whether the discrepancies between people’s predicted and actual distress are caused by their inability to foresee positive life events on the horizon or their inaccurate theories about how quickly they can recuperate, a romantic breakup seems to be less upsetting than the average individual believes it will be, the study concludes.
To qualify for the nine-month longitudinal study of dating behavior, each participant needed to be involved in a dating relationship of at least two months duration. Participants still involved with their partners from study entry completed a set of questionnaires every two weeks for 38 weeks, for a total of 20 online sessions, to measure predicted and actual stress. The study utilized the data of 26 people (10 female and 16 male) who broke up with their partners during the first six months of the study. The forecasted distress reported two weeks prior to the report of the breakup was compared with actual distress at four different time points covering the initial weeks and months following the breakup. The questionnaires also included a measure assessing how much participants were in love.
“People tend to be pretty resilient, often more so than they realize,” Eastwick said. “No one is saying that breaking up is a good time. It's just that people bounce back sooner than they predict.”
Source: “Mispredicting Distress Following Romantic Breakup: Revealing the Time Course of the Affective Forecasting Error,” Aug. 20 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Eastwick and Finkel, Tamar Krishnamurti and George Loewenstein.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Debunking: A President Of The US Could Order A Nuclear Attack At A Moments Notice On A Whim
- For New President - Is Moon More Interesting Next Step For Astronauts Than Boulder Plucked From Asteroid?
- A Dimuon Particle At 30 GeV In ALEPH ??
- Who Is Trying To Destroy The Internet?
- BPA-Free, With Regrets
- Was Euclid A Black Woman? Sorting Through The False History And Bad Philosophy Of Mathematics
- President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science
- "Okay if it is the two suns videos, those are due to offset lens reflections, most of them. Or lens..."
- "I believe in nibiru i would go as far as to say its there the videos the pictures all prove it..."
- "What is it you believe? Do you think we have two suns? Do you think there is a planet hiding behind..."
- "Haha get ready people your all about to be in for a shock then lets see who is a liar anybody want..."
- "Quite simply, the structure does not exist. What is observed is a fluctuation.BestT...."
- Shining a Light on AMA's Dim View of LED Street Lamps
- Kathleen Gyllenhaal: Health meets Hollywood Q&A
- Calcium and CVD Don't Seem Connected
- How Many Genes Does It Take to Make a Person?
- To Avoid Adult Dysfunction Start 'IN UTERO'
- ACSH Medical Director Named One Of America's Top Pediatricians, We're In The Economist, And More