Using an implicit task, researchers monitored how people automatically responded to words – in this case, whether they find it easier to link words referring to their partner to words with pleasant or unpleasant meanings - and this told them how likely couples were to split up.
Most research on relationship success has focused on how the people in the relationship feel about each other and this is usually done by the obvious route - asking them.
But people may not really know how happy they are, says Ronald D. Rogge, of the University of Rochester, and "to make things worse, a lot of people don't want to tell you if they're starting to feel less happy in their relationship."
So he and his colleagues Soonhee Lee and Harry T. Reis turned to a technique often used to assess racism and bias, other feelings people have trouble admitting to themselves and to researchers.
The 222 volunteers in their study were all involved in a romantic relationship. Each volunteer supplied the partner's first name and two other words that related to the partner, like a pet name or a distinctive characteristic. Then they watched a monitor as three types of words were presented one at a time – good words (like peace, vacation, or sharing), bad words (such as death, tragedy, and criticizing), and partner-related words (names or traits).
There were two different kinds of tests: one where the volunteer was supposed to press the space bar whenever they saw either good words or partner-related words, and one where the combination was bad words and partner words. The idea is to get at people's automatic reactions to the words – if they have generally good associations with their partners, they should be able to do the first task more easily than the second.
The researchers found that volunteers who found it easy to associate their partner with bad things and difficult to associate the partner with good things were more likely to separate over the next year. The researchers also asked volunteers to report on the strength of their relationships at the start of the study – and found that the new test did a much better job of predicting breakup.
"It really is giving us a unique glimpse into how people were feeling about their partners – giving us information that they were unable or unwilling to report," says Rogge. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
- 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?
- The Plot Of The Week: CMS Search For Majorana Neutrinos
- Football Physics: The Science Of Deflategate
- Reviews In Physics - A New Journal
- Think Mosquitoes Bite You More Than Other People? Here's Why You May Be Right
- Happy 150th Birthday To Maxwell's Theory Of Electromagnetism
- We're Playing Classical Music All Wrong
- The Religious Overtones Of Natural Laws: Does The The Universe Create Reason And Morality?
- "The binary argument is nitpicking - the modern sociological contention is that gender is a social..."
- "Ah yes, I see how frequently the term 'old fashioned' is equated to 'wrong'. To the extent that..."
- "Do I hear a note of lamentation in the followings?Lamenting the fact that countries they thought..."
- "Robert:Perhaps a simple expression of their stance may be summed up as: Nothing is really..."
- "Yes, thanks, that answers my question. And I agree with the error bars. Even if no quantitative..."
- You won't tell your manager about your mental health problem, but you'll help a coworker who does
- Brain study sheds light on how children with autism process social play
- Not just language: Cochlear implant users can hear and feel the beat in music too
- The weather forecast for today is partly wrong with a chance of being right
- Pain from shots shows up in infant brain activity too