Significant others

Kevin Lewis

March 01, 2016

Women Selectively Guard Their (Desirable) Mates From Ovulating Women

Jaimie Arona Krems et al.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

For women, forming close, cooperative relationships with other women at once poses important opportunities and possible threats - including to mate retention. To maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of same-sex social relationships, we propose that women's mate guarding is functionally flexible and that women are sensitive to both interpersonal and contextual cues indicating whether other women might be likely and effective mate poachers. Here, we assess one such cue: other women's fertility. Because ovulating (i.e., high-fertility) women are both more attractive to men and also more attracted to (desirable) men, ovulating women may be perceived to pose heightened threats to other women's romantic relationships. Across 4 experiments, partnered women were exposed to photographs of other women taken during either their ovulatory or nonovulatory menstrual-cycle phases, and consistently reported intentions to socially avoid ovulating (but not nonovulating) women - but only when their own partners were highly desirable. Exposure to ovulating women also increased women's sexual desires for their (highly desirable) partners. These findings suggest that women can be sensitive to subtle cues of other women's fertility and respond (e.g., via social exclusion, enhanced sexual attention to own mate) in ways that may facilitate their mate retention goals while not thwarting their affiliative goals.


Great Expectations? Working- and Middle-Class Cohabitors' Expected and Actual Divisions of Housework

Amanda Miller & Daniel Carlson

Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming

Young adults often express preferences for egalitarianism but often find themselves in conventional household arrangements. Using interview data from 122 working-class and middle-class cohabitors, the authors applied Komter's (1989) concepts of manifest, latent, and hidden power to examine the ways that contemporary young adults reinforce and modify gender norms surrounding the division of housework. Cohabiting women more often expect equal housework arrangements than men, regardless of class, yet middle-class women achieve equal divisions more often because they are better able to exercise manifest power than their working-class counterparts and because middle-class men appear more willing to cede to their partners' demands. In contrast, working-class women's desires to achieve equality are frequently rebuffed as they face greater resistance or defer to their partners' competing wishes. Although the exercise of manifest power is central to arranging housework, the hidden power of gender conventions pervades across class, leading many couples toward traditional arrangements.


An evolutionary account of the prevalence of personality traits that impair intimate relationships

Menelaos Apostolou

Personality and Individual Differences, May 2016, Pages 140-148

Personality traits such as low emotional stability and low empathy have a considerable negative impact on an individual's mating success. This impact is more severe in cases where such traits reach extreme levels and are classified as personality disorders. Several evolutionary models have been proposed to account for the relative high prevalence of these apparently maladaptive traits. The present paper contributes to the explanatory power of these models by putting forward the hypothesis that in ancestral human societies selection pressures on personality traits that predict success in intimate relationships had been weak. The reason why is that mate choice had been controlled by parents, mainly fathers, who did not place considerable weight on these traits in a prospective son- and daughter-in-law, and who were willing to impose substantial costs on their children in order to benefit themselves from a marriage alliance.


Internalizing sexism within close relationships: Perceptions of intimate partners' benevolent sexism promote women's endorsement of benevolent sexism

Matthew Hammond, Nickola Overall & Emily Cross

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 2016, Pages 214-238

The current research demonstrated that women's adoption of benevolent sexism is influenced by their perceptions of their intimate partners' agreement with benevolent sexism. In 2 dyadic longitudinal studies, committed heterosexual couples reported on their own sexism and perceptions of their partner's sexism twice across 9 months (Study 1) and 5 times across 1 year (Study 2). Women who perceived that their male partner more strongly endorsed benevolent sexism held greater and more stable benevolent sexism across time, whereas lower perceptions of partners' benevolent sexism predicted declines in women's benevolent sexism across time. Changes in men's endorsement of sexism were unrelated to perceptions of their partner's sexist attitudes. The naturalistic change in sexist attitudes shown in Studies 1 and 2 was supported by experimental evidence in Studies 3 and 4: Manipulations designed to increase perceptions of partner's benevolent sexism led women (but not men) to report greater benevolent sexism. Studies 3 and 4 also provided evidence that perceptions of partner's benevolent sexism fosters perceived regard and relationship security in women, but not men, and these relationship factors enhance attitude alignment. Discriminant analyses demonstrated that these effects were specific to women's perceptions of partner's, rather than societal, levels of sexism. In sum, these studies illustrate that women endorse benevolent sexism when they perceive that the reverence and security that benevolent sexism promises women are accessible in their relationships.


Absent but Not Gone: Interdependence in Couples' Quality of Life Persists After a Partner's Death

Kyle Bourassa et al.

Psychological Science, February 2016, Pages 270-281

Spouses influence each other's psychological functioning and quality of life. To explore whether this interdependence continues after a person becomes widowed, we tested whether deceased spouses' characteristics were associated with their widowed partners' later quality of life using couples drawn from a multinational sample of aging adults. Independent subsamples (ns = 221 and 325) were assessed before and after a spouse's death. Regressions revealed that deceased partners' quality of life prior to their death positively predicted their spouses' quality of life after the partners' death, even when we controlled for spouses' prior quality of life to account for environmental factors shared within couples. Further, widowed participants' quality of life was lower than nonwidowed couples' 2 years before and after their partners' death, but was equivalent 4 years prior. Finally, the strength of the association between partners' earlier quality of life and participants' later quality of life did not differ between widowed and nonwidowed participants. These findings suggest that interdependence in quality of life continues after one's partner has passed away.


Does Sex Really Matter? Examining the Connections Between Spouses' Nonsexual Behaviors, Sexual Frequency, Sexual Satisfaction, and Marital Satisfaction

Elizabeth Schoenfeld et al.

Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

We examined the interplay between husbands' and wives' positive and negative nonsexual interpersonal behaviors, frequency of sexual intercourse, sexual satisfaction, and feelings of marital satisfaction. To do this, we conducted an in-depth face-to-face interview and completed a series of telephone diaries with 105 couples during their second, third, and fourteenth years of marriage. Consistent with the argument that women's sexual response is tied to intimacy (Basson, 2000), multilevel analyses revealed that husbands' positive interpersonal behaviors directed toward their wives - but not wives' positivity nor spouses' negative behaviors (regardless of gender) - predicted the frequency with which couples engaged in intercourse. The frequency of sexual intercourse and interpersonal negativity predicted both husbands' and wives' sexual satisfaction; wives' positive behaviors were also tied to husbands' sexual satisfaction. When spouses' interpersonal behaviors, frequency of sexual intercourse, and sexual satisfaction were considered in tandem, all but the frequency of sexual intercourse were associated with marital satisfaction. When it comes to feelings of marital satisfaction, therefore, a satisfying sex life and a warm interpersonal climate appear to matter more than does a greater frequency of sexual intercourse. Collectively, these findings shed much-needed light on the interplay between the nonsexual interpersonal climate of marriage and spouses' sexual relationships.


Family matters: Directionality of turning bias while kissing is modulated by context

Jennifer Sedgewick & Lorin Elias

Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, forthcoming

When leaning forward to kiss to a romantic partner, individuals tend to direct their kiss to the right more often than the left. Studies have consistently demonstrated this kissing asymmetry, although other factors known to influence lateral biases, such as sex or situational context, had yet to be explored. The primary purpose of our study was to investigate if turning direction was consistent between a romantic (parent-parent) and parental (parent-child) kissing context, and secondly, to examine if sex differences influenced turning bias between parent-child kissing partners. An archival analysis coded the direction of turning bias for 161 images of romantic kissing (mothers kissing fathers) and 529 images of parental kissing (mothers or fathers kissing sons or daughters). The results indicated that the direction of turning bias differed between kissing contexts. As expected, a right-turn bias was observed for romantic kissing; however, a left-turn bias was exhibited for parental kissing. There was no significant difference of turning bias between any parent-child kissing partners. Interpretations for the left-turn bias discuss parental kissing as a learned lateral behaviour.


The Progression of Sexual Relationships

Sharon Sassler, Katherine Michelmore & Jennifer Holland

Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming

The authors examine factors associated with the advancement or dissolution of newly formed sexual relationships. Data from the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) was used to examine women and men aged 18-39 (n = 2,774) whose most recent sexual relationship began within the 12 months before their interview. Results indicate that newly formed sexual relationships are often transitory. By 12 months, only 23% of respondents remained in nonresidential sexual relationships, another 27% were cohabiting with that partner, and half had ended their relationships. Sexual relationships formed before age 25 are significantly more likely to break up than to transition into cohabitation. Indicators of social class disadvantage, such as living with a stepparent, expedited cohabitation, whereas measures of advantage, such as having a college-educated mother, deterred transitions into shared living. Racial differences also emerge: Blacks were less likely than Whites to transition rapidly into shared living.


Reassuring sex: Can sexual desire and intimacy reduce relationship-specific attachment insecurities?

Moran Mizrahi et al.

European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Past research has shown that attachment orientations shape sexual processes within relationships. Yet, little has been done to explore the opposite direction. In the present research, we examined whether sexual desire and emotional intimacy reduce attachment insecurities over time in emerging relationships. In an 8-month longitudinal study, we followed 62 newly dating couples across three measurement waves. At Time 1, romantic partners discussed sexual aspects of their relationship and judges coded their displays of sexual desire and intimacy. Participants also completed measures of relationship-specific attachment anxiety and avoidance in each wave. The results indicated that men's displays of desire predicted a decline in their own and their partner's relationship-specific insecurities. Conversely, women's displays of desire inhibited the decline in their partner's relationship-specific insecurities, whereas women's displays of intimacy predicted a decline in their partner's relationship-specific insecurities. These findings suggest that different sex-related processes underlie attachment formation in men and women.


Sexualized, objectified, but not satisfied: Enjoying sexualization relates to lower relationship satisfaction through perceived partner-objectification

Laura Ramsey, Justin Marotta & Tiffany Hoyt

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Although the objectification of women is pervasive, it has not been studied extensively in the context of romantic relationships. This is a curious oversight, given that physical appearance is considered a prominent factor in romantic attraction and conceptualizations of objectification tend to involve an exaggerated emphasis on physical appearance. Thus, objectification theory may have interesting implications for romantic relationships. Women who enjoy sexualization may be more likely to have a partner who objectifies them, which could have negative implications for the relationship, as objectification research has generally found that the experience of objectification has negative consequences for women. Across three studies of heterosexual women in relationships (N = 114, N = 196, and N = 208), results showed that those who enjoyed sexualization tended to feel more objectified by their partner, which in turn related to lowered relationship satisfaction. These findings persisted even when controlling for perceptions of partner's sexual desire, self-objectification, and objectification from strangers. Furthermore, Study 3 provides preliminary evidence that self-objectification may be a precursor to this mediation in that self-objectification was associated with higher enjoyment of sexualization, which was associated with higher partner-objectification, which in turn was associated with lower relationship satisfaction. This research sheds light on how the objectification of women operates within the context of a heterosexual romantic relationship.


The price of not putting a price on love

Peter McGraw et al.

Judgment and Decision Making, January 2016, Pages 40-47

We examine financial challenges of purchasing items that are readily-available yet symbolic of loving relationships. Using weddings and funerals as case studies, we find that people indirectly pay to avoid taboo monetary trade-offs. When purchasing items symbolic of love, respondents chose higher price, higher quality items over equally appealing lower price, lower quality items (Study 1), searched less for lower priced items (Study 2) and were less willing to negotiate prices (Study 3). The effect was present for experienced consumers (Study 1), affectively positive and negative events (Study 2), and more routine purchase events (Study 3). Trade-off avoidance, however, was limited to monetary trade-offs associated with loved ones. When either money or love was omitted from the decision context, people were more likely to engage in trade-off reasoning. By abandoning cost-benefit reasoning in order to avoid painful monetary trade-offs, people spend more money than if they engaged in trade-off based behaviors, such as seeking lower cost options or requesting lower prices.


Genetic and neural correlates of romantic relationship satisfaction

Siyang Luo, Dian Yu & Shihui Han

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, February 2016, Pages 337-348

Romantic relationship satisfaction (RRS) is important for mental/physical health but varies greatly across individuals. To date, we have known little about the biological (genetic and neural) correlates of RRS. We tested the hypothesis that the serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism (5-HTTLPR), the promoter region of the gene SLC6A4 that codes for the serotonin transporter protein, is associated with individuals' RRS. Moreover, we investigated neural activity that mediates 5-HTTLPR association with RRS by scanning short-short (s/s) and long-long (l/l) homozygotes of 5-HTTLPR, using functional MRI, during a Cyberball game that resulted in social exclusion. l/l compared with s/s allele carriers reported higher RRS but lower social interaction anxiety. l/l compared with s/s carriers showed stronger activity in the right ventral prefrontal cortex (RVPFC) and stronger functional connectivity between the dorsal and rostral ACC when being excluded from the Cyberball game. Moreover, the 5-HTTLPR association with RRS was mediated by the RVPFC activity and the 5-HTTLPR association with social interaction anxiety was mediated by both the dorsal-rostral ACC connectivity and RVPFC activity. Our findings suggest that 5-HTTLPR is associated with satisfaction of one's own romantic relationships and this association is mediated by the neural activity in the brain region related to emotion regulation.


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