Entries in self-disclosure (15)


Unleash the Tongue: The Effect of Sex on Self-Disclosure

The sexual behavioral system evolved to motivate reproductive acts. The primary strategy for achieving this goal is to approach a potentially fertile partner, convince him or her to have sex, and engage in genital intercourse. However, human offspring are vulnerable throughout an exceptionally prolonged development period. Hence, in ancestral environments, sexual partners needed to stay together long enough to jointly care for their offspring during the period of maximum vulnerability, thereby increasing the offspring’s chances of survival and future reproductive success.

Over the course of human evolution, selection pressures have produced mechanisms that keep sexual partners attached to each other for an extended period, motivate them to remain in a committed relationship and engage in co-parenting behaviors following an offspring’s birth.1 Several characteristics of human sexuality suggest that the sexual system has been “exploited” by evolutionary processes to serve such a function.2 Humans, for example, tend to have sex in private and to sleep together afterwards. Humans also frequently have sex in the “missionary position”, which, by contrast to the typical sex positions of most mammals (e.g., canines), allows partners to maintain face-to-face contact during sexual intercourse. These and other similar behavioral tendencies foster extended close contact between sexual partners and make them feel more intimate with each other, thereby promoting enduring attachment bonds between them.

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Creating Closeness: In the Lab and In Real Life

Closeness in the Real Life

This past Valentine’s Day social media feeds were flooded with Mandy Len Catron’s (2015) New York Times article2 discussing Arthur Aron’s (1997) study aimed at creating interpersonal closeness.1 The article focused on a series of questions, which involve increasing levels of self-disclosure, that help develop intimacy between people. Shortly following the publication of this article, peoples’ accounts of their own experiences with Aron et al.’s 36 questions spread all over social media.

Ms. Catron put social psychologist Arthur Aron’s questions to the test by spending 90 minutes answering them in a bar with a university acquaintance of hers and then by standing on a bridge staring into this man’s eyes. Before describing the outcome of her real life research replication, it is important to outline Aron et al.’s work.

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How Having Couple Friends Helps You Feel the Love

We know that being friends with other couples increases closeness in your own relationship (read more about this here). To see if these friendships also boost feelings of love, researchers had couples engage in a “fast friends” self-disclosure task during which they answered questions such as “What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?”. Couples answered questions either alone or with another couple, and then reported feelings of passionate love (e.g., “I will love my partner forever”). Though there were no changes in passionate love when couples disclosed by themselves, those who answered questions with another couple reported greater passionate love in their own relationships.

Welker, K. M., Baker, L., Padilla, A., Holmes, H., Aron, A., & Slatcher, R. B. (2014). Effects of self‐disclosure and responsiveness between couples on passionate love within couples. Personal Relationships, 21(4), 692-708. doi:10.1111/pere.12058

image source: thesaltcollective.org


How Superficial Disclosures May Hurt You: Relationship Matters Podcast 44

SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College). Dr. Stephen Rains (University of Arizona) was interviewed regarding his research on how too many superficial disclosures can hurt a friendship. In case you’re wondering, superficial disclosures refer to small, irrelevant details about what’s going on in one’s daily life.

The research team (including Steven Brunner and Kyle Oman, also of the University of Arizona) asked 199 adults to provide a record of all communications they had with specific friends over a 1-week period; the key is that each communication ‘episode’ had to involve some form of technology (e.g., text, e-mail, Facebook, twitter). Participants then reported how much they liked each friend with whom they interacted and also indicated how willing they would be to support each friend in times of need.

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Expressing Your Insecurities to Your Partner Can Actually Create More Insecurities. Here’s Why.

Insecurities: we’ve all got a few. They’re those intrusive thoughts people have about mistakes they might have made, flaws they might have, and negative opinions that others might have about them. Insecurities can be frustratingly persistent, and they can really interfere with close relationships1,2 (“You looked at that girl, I saw you looking!”). It’s not realistic to expect people to simply ignore these insecurities. So the question becomes: what is the healthiest way to deal with these nagging thoughts and feelings?

One seemingly obvious solution might be to reveal your insecurities to someone you’re close to—such as a friend or a romantic partner—so that this person could help you to feel better. However, recent research has revealed a way that this approach can sometimes fail to work, and can even backfire.

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Intimacy and Passion Go Together Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

image source: laineyslifelessons.blogspot.comIntimacy and passion are two key components of a high-quality relationship. But to what extent are intimacy and passion intertwined? In a recent study, couples reported on their feelings of intimacy (e.g., how much they self-disclosed and felt close to one another) and passion in their relationships each day for three weeks. They also noted whether they had sex each day and if that sex was satisfying. Increases in intimacy over time were associated with higher passion, as well as more frequent and better sex. 

Rubin, H., & Campbell, L. (2012). Day-to-day changes in intimacy predict heightened relationship passion, sexual occurrence, and sexual satisfaction: A dyadic diary analysis. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 224-231.


To Self-Disclose or Not to Self-Disclose? Relationship Matters Podcast #20

In the 20th installment of Sage’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Dr. Sue Sprecher (Illinois State University) and Stanislov Treger (DePaul University) talk about their work on self-disclosure during first encounters with strangers. Specifically, the researchers designed a series of experiments to determine whether people enjoy interacting with, and like, a stranger more when those people talk about themselves versus listen to the stranger do all the talking.

To test this question, Sprecher and Treger randomly assigned people to either talk to a stranger or listen to a stranger talk for 12 minutes. What did they find? Listeners, compared to talkers, were happier with the interaction, liked the stranger better, and felt closer to the stranger.

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Two Can Keep a Secret (If One of Them Is Dead)

If you missed the first post in this series about family secrets, Got a Secret, Can You Keep It?, check it out here.

People often claim, “My partner knows me inside and out.” Sure, in our close relationships, we’d like to think we know the person with whom we share our bed, our meals, and our time. But is it necessary to know absolutely everything about your significant other? And if you have a few skeletons yourself that you’d like to keep in the proverbial closet, how far would you go to keep them there? On the mystery-thriller TV series Pretty Little Liars, some of the characters resort to murder to keep their secrets safe.

When we’re the ones hiding negative parts of ourselves from others, it may come naturally to protect our images rather than seem dishonest or hurtful.

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How to Make “Couple Friends” (and Why You Should)

Social interactions of all flavors are important, and even your relationships need other relationships to keep things interesting. You might have a perfectly satisfying romantic relationship with your partner, but you might want to get some “couple friends” too (see this article at salon.com). How do friendships between couples develop, and are they important for your own romantic relationship?

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Was Barack Obama “Avoidant” in His Youth?

A newly released biography of Barack Obama by David Maraniss has drawn attention (see coverage here and here) to the president’s past. There’s nothing necessarily scandalous in the book, but it does focus on the relationships Obama had before he met Michelle. As a relationship scientist, this is a really cool (and rare) glimpse into Obama’s romantic life through the stories of young women who shared intimate moments with him.

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Check Your Baggage at the Gate

I’ve got some baggage. I don’t know anyone at my age and “experience” who doesn’t. Multiple marriages, children, a few crazy exes…I have done the inventory and know what I bring on board as I get back on the dating train. So how can I manage a good dating impression and lug around an oversized Samsonite full of my past experiences?

Some people have an easy time hiding their baggage in an overhead compartment or under their seat during the first few dates, however my baggage is not so easy to conceal.

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Debbie Downers: Disclosing Positive Events to Low Self-Esteem Others

Have you ever wanted to share good news with friends but were afraid they would rain on your parade because they’re downers? Researchers recently discovered that people avoid disclosing positive information to low self-esteem friends and romantic partners in order to avoid a negative interaction (e.g., the “downer” pointing out the downside). Interestingly, we don’t keep the good news to ourselves to protect our close others’ feelings – we primarily focus on our own outcomes!

MacGregor, J. C. D., & Holmes, J. G. (2011). Rain on my parade: Perceiving low self-esteem in close others hinders positive self-disclosure. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 523-530.


Wanna Snag a Man? Don't Follow "The Rules"

The authors of the popular self-help book The Rules claim they can help women capture a perfect man and lure him into marriage. All you have to do is follow a list of relatively simple rules, which essentially equate to playing hard to get. The Rules was an overnight best-seller, and has since become something of a mantra for thousands of dating women – or “Rules Girls” – to live by. Clearly, this relationship advice is wildly popular. But, is it scientifically sound?

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"How Do You Define Intimacy?"

A reader asked: How do you define intimacy?

This seems straightforward. I mean, we could just crack open the old Webster's Dictionary and look it up. For relationship researchers, the answer is a little more complex. In fact, it could (and has) fill an entire book. Of the many ways to define intimacy, I'll focus this post on “closeness” which is oftentimes considered synonymously with intimacy.

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Why Would Someone Snoop on Their Partner?

When relationship partners are reluctant to reveal information or discuss their thoughts and feelings, people may be more likely to snoop on them by doing things like checking their pockets or reading through their text messages. This is especially true if the 'future snooper' has low levels of trust.

Vinkers, C., Finkenauer, C., & Hawk, S. (2011). Why do close partners snoop? Predictors of intrusive behavior in newlywed couples. Personal Relationships, 18, 110-124.