How To Increase Sexual Attraction

The simplest strategy to increase sexual attraction is also the best.

The simplest strategy to increase sexual attraction is also the best.

Making it clear that you like someone is more sexually attractive than hiding your feelings, research finds.

It means that strategies like playing hard to get or being mysterious may not work well.

Creating uncertainty in new relationships is sometimes claimed to increase sexual desire — but this study found the opposite.

Uncertainty is also bad in long-term relationships, further studies found.

Long-term couples had more sexual desire for their partner when they were more sure about the relationship.

Dr Gurit Birnbaum, who led the study, said:

“People may protect themselves from the possibility of a painful rejection by distancing themselves from potentially rejecting partners.”

How to be sexually attractive

For the research, a series of opposite-sex pairs who did not know each other interacted.

The results showed that people were more turned on when they had more signals that the other person liked them.

Dr Birnbaum said:

“People experience higher levels of sexual desire when they feel confident about a partner’s interest and acceptance.”

He continued, that sexual desire may…

“…serve as a gut-feeling indicator of mate suitability that motivates people to pursue romantic relationships with a reliable and valuable partner.”

On the other hand:

“…inhibiting desire may serve as a mechanism aimed at protecting the self from investing in a relationship in which the future is uncertain.”

In two more studies, the researchers looked at the effect of uncertainty in long-term relationships, instead of people who have just met.

Once again, uncertainty turned out to be a turn-off.

Professor Harry Reis, study co-author, said:

“Well, they don’t put the final dagger in the heart of this idea, but our findings do indicate that this idea is on life support.

[The uncertainty idea was] never supported by solid science — but folk wisdom at best.”

The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior (Birnbaum et al., 2018).

Why Stress Kills Relationships — And What To Do About It (M)

Stress change the types of behaviours people notice in their partners.

Stress change the types of behaviours people notice in their partners.

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Do Long Distance Relationships Work? These 2 Factors Help

There are two factors that help keep long distance relationships alive.

There are two factors that help keep long distance relationships alive.

Contrary to the received wisdom, long distance relationships can work, according to research published in the Journal of Communication (Jiang & Hancock, 2013).

Two factors that help keep long distance relationships alive are that these couples:

  • Tell each other more intimate information.
  • Have a more idealised view of their partner.

The study, which contradicts much standard dating advice, was inspired by the increasing numbers of people conducting long distance relationships because of the demands of education, employment or emigration.

The researchers examined 67 couples: some who were in long distance relationships, and others who were in close physical proximity to each other.

They found that the long distance couples were highly trusting and even felt more intimate with their partners, despite their physical distance.

Crystal Jiang explained:

“…our culture emphasizes being together physically and frequent face-to-face contact for close relationships, but long-distance relationships clearly stand against all these values.

People don’t have to be so pessimistic about long-distance romance.

The long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back.”

It shows that, while it is not necessarily ideal to be separated from your partner for long periods of time, people do find ways to cope with the situation.

Other studies have also found that, although those in long distance relationships talk with each other less, what they do say is imbued with greater meaning.

This appears to balance out the lack of physical contact.

This means those in long distance relationships often have similar levels of relationship satisfaction and stability as those who are geographically close to each other.

None of this research, though, tells us anything about which types of people can cope with long distance relationships.

While some people may naturally have the skills required, others may not.

Still, it’s heartening to know that should a long distance relationship be unavoidable, many people are able to keep their intimacy levels high, which helps fuel the relationship, just as if they lived in the same house.

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The 2 Universal Traits Both Sexes Find Attractive In A Partner

Despite major social changes in the last fifty years,  some old-fashioned differences still exist between the sexes.

Despite major social changes in the last fifty years,  some old-fashioned differences still exist between the sexes.

Intelligence and friendliness are the two traits seen as most attractive by both men and women in a potential romantic partner, research finds.

Despite major social changes in the last fifty years,  some old-fashioned differences still exist between the sexes.

Men tend to care more about women’s appearance and go for younger women.

Women, meanwhile, have a tendency to focus more on security and financial prospects.

The conclusions come from a study of 14,399 heterosexual people from 45 different countries.

Broadly, these tendencies have not changed in the last forty years, the researchers find.

Women place more importance on men’s intelligence and good health, while men are more focused on appearance.

Women still prefer older partners, with the average age difference between men and women being around 2-3 years.

However, in cultures with more gender equality, partners tend to be closer in age.

The study has been criticised on social media, explains Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, study co-author:

“One criticism of the findings that was quickly posted on social media was that there’s extreme overlap between the sexes in their partner preferences.

Some thought this should have been better communicated in the article.

But the criticism is unfair in this context, and not something that was undervalued.

The research identifies similarities, overlaps and differences.”

As with many psychology studies, the researchers are focused on average differences across many people.

Individuals, though, display incredible variety.

In other words, many men and women will have similar goals in dating while some women do focus more on appearance and some men focus more on money and security.

Professor Mons Bendixen, study co-author, said:

“The point of the article is to see if the gender differences observed in earlier cross-cultural studies were reproducible.

To a great extent, they are.”

Why men focus on looks…

One theory for why men focus on looks and women on security comes from evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychology is a branch of psychology that attempts to explain mental traits as adaptations or products of natural selection.

According to the theory, women have more to lose from a relationship: they are left holding the baby.

Hence, their focus on security and age (older men tend to be richer).

Men, though, search for genetic fitness in their offspring.

They, or at least their genes, want to reproduce themselves in the fittest way possible.

Younger and more attractive women are more likely to produce healthy and genetically fit children.

Hence, men’s focus on looks.

It is highly debatable whether or not the explanation provided by evolutionary psychology is really true.

Certainly, its principles are not fashionable right now — not that fashion is any guide to truth.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Walter et al., 2020).

Top 3 Signs People Are Falling Out Of Love: What Makes People Stay Or Leave

What makes people stay in relationships and what makes them want to leave?

What makes people stay in relationships and what makes them want to leave?

People who are married or just dating give similar reasons for wanting to leave their partner.

These are (1) issues with their partner’s personality, (2) a breach of trust (often, cheating) and (3) partner becoming distant or disconnected.

People give slightly different reasons for wanting to stay together.

For people who are married, the top reasons to stay together are the investment they have already made in the relationship, family responsibilities and the barriers to leaving (e.g. financial).

You can tell these are people who have been together for an average of 9 years — the responses are kind of negative.

Top of the reasons to stay for those dating included liking their partner’s personality, feeling close and the positive emotions from the relationship.

In other words, these are couples who have been together for an average of two years and haven’t had kids yet.

Professor Samantha Joel, who led the study, said:

“Most of the research on breakups has been predictive, trying to predict whether a couple stays together or not, but we don’t know much about the decision process — what are the specific relationship pros and cons that people are weighing out.”

Around half the people in the study had both reasons to stay and reasons to leave.

Professor Joel said:

“What was most interesting to me was how ambivalent people felt about their relationships.

They felt really torn.

Breaking up can be a really difficult decision.

You can look at a relationship from outside and say ‘you have some really unsolvable problems, you should break up’ but from the inside that is a really difficult thing to do and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the harder it seems to be.”

Most people said they had relationship deal-breakers, but these are often forgotten when they meet someone.

Professor Joel said:

“Humans fall in love for a reason.

From an evolutionary perspective, for our ancestors finding a partner may have been more important than finding the right partner.

It might be easier to get into relationships than to get back out of them.”

The study was published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science (Joel et al., 2017).

7 Fascinating Psychology Studies On Relationships

Includes research on the secrets partners keep from each other, signs of healthy marriages and what children to relationships.

Includes research on the secrets partners keep from each other, signs of healthy marriages and what children to relationships.

Almost 90 percent of people keep small, mundane secrets from their partners, it turns out.

This is just one of the most fascinating insights from recent psychology studies on relationships covered here on PsyBlog.

The researchers conclude that these little secrets may even benefit relationships in certain ways.

Find out about this and other intriguing psychology studies on relationships from the members-only section of PsyBlog:

(If you are not already, find out how to become a PsyBlog member here.)

  1. 90% Of People Keep These Little Secrets From Their Partners
  2. The Positive Signs Of The Most Healthy Relationships
  3. The Relationship Pattern Linked To Depression And Anxiety
  4. Why Men Suffer More Physically From Divorce And Separation
  5. Brain Scans Can Predict Marital Satisfaction
  6. What Having Children Does To Your Relationship
  7. The 3 Healthiest Traits For Your Partner

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What Your TV Habits Say About Your Relationship

This attachment style can be damaging to relationships.

This attachment style can be damaging to relationships.

People who feel strong connections to fictional characters in TV shows are more likely to have relationship issues, research suggests.

Fictional TV shows and movies may provide a ‘safe space’ in which people with relationship problems can work them out.

By thinking about their favourite character, they can imagine what they might do in the same situation.

People high in anxious-avoidant attachment were especially likely to strongly identify with fictional characters.

Anxious-avoidant people desire intimacy, but display avoidant behaviour that tends to damage their relationship.

Classic examples of avoidant behaviours include not returning calls, not expressing love, mocking partner’s attempts at intimacy and ‘forgetting’ plans.

Mr Nathan Silver, the study’s first author, said:

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

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.”

Escape to a virtual world

For the study, 1,039 Americans were asked about their relationship problems and TV habits.

Anxious-avoidant people were most strongly connected to characters in TV shows, the results showed.

They were more likely to:

  • become transported or absorbed in the story,
  • more likely to imagine different choices for the character,
  • and imagine knowing a fictional character personally.

Mr Silver explained the problem that faces anxious-avoidant people in their relationships:

“These are the classic self-sabotagers.

They really want supportive intimacy, but tend to screw it up because they also have these avoidance behaviors.

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.”

Fiction provides a virtual world to try out possibilities, said Mr Silver:

“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.

They expand their social experiences, at least vicariously.”

Avoiding emotional experience

Unfortunately, the study doesn’t tell us whether using TV shows and movies in this way is beneficial or not to people with attachment issues.

However, other research has found that individuals with insecure attachment styles are more likely to use television as a way to avoid their own emotional experiences, which can be detrimental, depending on the circumstances (Greenwood, 2008).

Alternatively, some shows may provide a sense of vicarious emotional connection and validation for people with insecure attachment styles, who may struggle to form healthy, secure relationships in their own lives.

In other words, for some people, TV may function as a distraction from real relationship problems and/or as a method of filling a void.

The study was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (Silver & Slater, 2019).

Happy Couples Use This Defence Mechanism To Stay Faithful

This unconscious process is one of the secrets that helps happy couples stay faithful.

This unconscious process is one of the secrets that helps happy couples stay faithful.

People in relationships automatically see tempting others as less attractive, research finds.

The more satisfied people are with their relationship, the more they downgrade attractive others.

The unconscious process may help couples stay faithful to each other.

Dr Shana Cole, the study’s first author, said:

“Misperceiving attractive people who represent threats to the relationship as less attractive may help people resist the inclination to pursue them.

This is especially important since finding someone physically attractive is a primary reason why people choose to date or romantically pursue someone.”

A healthy defence mechanism

The research on 131 heterosexual couples showed them various pictures of the opposite sex manipulated to be more or less attractive.

Sometimes study participants were told they were single, other times that they were in a relationship.

When told the person in the profile was single, people in relationships downgraded their attractiveness.

They did this automatically as a defensive mechanism to protect their own relationship.

When told the person in the profile was in a relationship, though, the defensive mechanism did not operate.

In contrast, those not in relationships were unaffected by the relationship status of the profile.

Dr Emily Balcetis, one of the study’s co-authors, said:

“In today’s world, it can be difficult to stick it out with one long-term partner.

This work suggests that there are processes that may take place outside of conscious awareness to make it easier to stay committed to one’s own partner.”

Dr Cole said:

“There are still several questions that are left open.

Future research could see whether perceiving intriguing and available individuals as less attractive affects behavior toward the individual.

It’s possible that if we see tempting others as unattractive, we will flirt less with them or be more reluctant to give out our phone number.”

How to stay faithful

Here are some other strategies that may help couples stay faithful:

  1. Communicating openly and honestly with each other about feelings, needs, and boundaries.
  2. Building and maintaining trust through consistency and transparency.
  3. Prioritizing the relationship and making an effort to spend quality time together.
  4. Being committed to working through challenges and conflicts.
  5. Practicing healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, rather than turning to infidelity as a solution.
  6. Being respectful of each other’s boundaries and independence.
  7. Fostering a sense of emotional and physical intimacy in the relationship.

→ Related articles:

The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Cole et al., 2016).

4 Simple Signs That You Will Stay With Your Partner

Look for these signs of a successful relationship.

Look for these signs of a successful relationship.

Being ‘ready for commitment’ is a clear sign of relationship success, research finds.

Being ready for commitment makes people do the work required to keep a relationship going.

Those who are ‘commitment ready’ are 25 percent less likely to break up over time.

Four common signs of commitment include:

  1. Your partner makes sacrifices for you, such as changing their schedule, doing thing you like but they don’t and really listening to your problems.
  2. Making long-term plans for the future that include you both.
  3. You both have similar perceptions about the relationship, as do your friends and family.
  4. Real commitments are things that you do. Commitment is usually obvious — watch their behaviour.

Professor Chris Agnew, the study’s first author, said:

“Feeling ready leads to better relational outcomes and well-being.

When a person feels more ready, this tends to amplify the effect of psychological commitment on relationship maintenance and stability.”

The conclusions come from a study of over 400 adults in relationships.

All were asked about their sense of whether this was the right time for a relationship, how satisfied they were with it and how much investment they had made.

The results showed that readiness was strongly linked to commitment.

In other words, people tended to commit to a relationship when they felt ready for it.

However, when they didn’t feel ready, they did not do the work required to keep the relationship alive.

Professor Agnew said:

“People’s life history, relationship history, and personal preferences all play a role.

One’s culture also transmits messages that may signal that one is more or less ready to commit.”

The study will be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (Agnew et al., 2019).

Attachment Styles: Secure, Avoidant, Anxious And Ambivalent

Attachment styles are important because we are social animals, relying heavily on our ability to form relationships with others.

Attachment styles are important because we are social animals, relying heavily on our ability to form relationships with others.

Attachment styles analyse how people respond to threats and problems in their personal relationships.

People who find relationships difficult often become unable to participate in the ordinary give-and-take of everyday life.

They may become hostile towards others, have problems in education as well as a greater chance of developing psychiatric disorders later in life.

These difficulties sometimes have their roots in the most important early relationships, evidenced in attachment styles.

It’s no wonder that child psychologists are so interested in the first relationships we build with our primary caregivers.

These attachment styles are likely to prove a vital influence on all our future relationships, including those with our spouse, our workmates and our own children.

While you can’t blame everything on your parents, early relationship attachment styles are like a template that we take forward with us in life.

Measuring attachment styles

So the development of early relationships – often called ‘attachment styles’ – is extremely important.

Naturally child psychologists realised it would be extremely useful to know how well attached children are to their parents.

But here’s the problem: how do you measure attachment styles?

Infants of eight months old tend not to say very much of any use and parents can’t be trusted.

Clearly psychologists needed to observe the caregiver and baby interacting.

It was well-known child psychologist Mary Ainsworth and colleagues who came up with what has now become standard procedure for investigating the emotional attachment styles between children and caregivers (Ainsworth et al., 1978).

Some have argued that this is the most powerful experiment for studying a child’s social and emotional development.

Ainsworth’s strange situation

Ainsworth based her test of attachment styles on fear, one of the most basic human emotions.

As the baby becomes attached to its caregivers, after about six months, it starts to display fear in two easily repeatable situations:

  • Stranger anxiety: some time after six months of age children usually start to become scared of strangers. This is particularly pronounced when their caregiver is absent.
  • Separation protest: from around the same time, at about six months, children also start to get upset when their caregiver leaves them.

To investigate how infants and their caregivers interact Ainsworth devised a series of interactions which were designed to test how the baby reacted to both stranger anxiety and separation anxiety.

The procedure is like a carefully choreographed ballet, each act lasting about 3 minutes:

  1. Caregiver and infant are placed in the experimental room by the experimenter, who then leaves.
  2. Caregiver does nothing while the infant explores.
  3. A stranger enters, saying nothing for 1 minute, then starts talking to the caregiver. Then, after a further minute, the stranger approaches the infant.
  4. Caregiver then leaves as discreetly as possible so that the stranger and the infant are left alone together.
  5. Caregiver then returns to comfort the infant, then leaves again.
  6. Infant is left all alone.
  7. Stranger enters and begins to interact with the infant.
  8. Caregiver returns and the stranger leaves.

As you can see the strange situation is designed to get more strange for the infant as it goes on.

For a start the infant is in an unfamiliar room, then a stranger enters, then the stranger starts trying to talk to them, then their caregiver is nowhere to be seen.

Each time the stress on the infant is ramped up.

The attachment styles

Analysing the results after repeating the experiment with many infants, Ainsworth discovered a fascinating pattern in the data.

It turned out that the most interesting aspect of the interactions observed was how the baby reacted when the caregiver returned.

This analysis of the infant’s reaction to the mother’s return led to a distinction between three separate types of attachment, one of the ‘good kind’ and two so-called ‘disordered attachment styles’.

1. Secure attachment style

Infants considered securely attached will be reasonable upset when their caregiver leaves but will be happy to see them return and will be quickly soothed.

Extensive research has found that around 70 percent of infants fall into this category.

2. Avoidant attachment (insecure attachment)

Infants with this attachment style show little interest in their caregivers, although they will cry when they leave the room.

Strangely, though, they don’t seem that pleased when their caregivers return, often turning their backs on them and trying to get away.

Around 20 percent of infants fall into this category.

3. Ambivalent attachment (insecure attachment)

Infants with this attachment style initially don’t want to leave their caregiver to explore the room.

Then, like the insecure/avoidant, they cry when their caregiver leaves but then when they return seem to want to be consoled, but resist it.

They seem angry.

About 10 percent of infants fall into this category.

4. Disorganised attachment (insecure attachment)

Later research also identified a further insecure attachment style of disorganised attachment.

These infants don’t show much of a pattern: they seem constantly afraid of and confused by their caregiver.

The stress is often too much for the infant.

This type of attachment style has been associated with depressed caregivers or instances of child abuse.

Causes of attachment styles

An enormous amount of research on attachment styles has gone into examining what factors cause infants to be attached in these different ways.

Much emphasis has been placed on the way the caregiver treats the infant.

Secure attachment styles have been associated with caregivers being (Papalia & Olds, 1997):

  • Sensitive and responsive.
  • Encouraging of mutual interaction.
  • Warm and accepting.

Clearly the reverse of these tends to result in insecure attachment styles.

Some research has also found that the infant’s temperament (personality) is also an important factor in attachment styles.

Consequences of attachment styles

Many researchers have argued that attachment styles have important social, emotional and cognitive consequences.

Some have argued that the more positive an infant’s early attachments are, the more likely it is to successfully separate from the caregiver later in life.

Other benefits of secure attachment styles include (Papalia & Olds, 1997):

  • More self-confidence.
  • More friends.
  • Better adult relationships.

Meanwhile insecurely attached children tend to:

  • Display more negative emotions.
  • Have behaviour problems.
  • Be hostile towards other children.

Attachment styles are a window to the future

Critics of the ‘strange situation’ have argued that it is just too strange.

For example:

  • Why would caregivers specifically resist interacting with their infant?
  • Can infants really keep track of all these comings and goings during the study?
  • Is it valid in different cultures?

Despite these criticisms the ‘strange situation’ has fared relatively well in answer to many of these questions.

It provides a standardised way of examining the very earliest relationships we form with our caregivers.

It is a way of revealing the answers infants have arrived at to four major questions their social and emotional selves are asking:

  1. How do I have good relationships with other people?
  2. What happens when I explore my environment?
  3. What can I achieve?
  4. What do others do when I show that I’m unhappy?

It’s infant’s attachment styles that give us a clue to what answers they’ve formulated to these questions and so a window on both their past and their future.

→ This article is part of a series on 10 crucial developmental psychology studies:

  1. When infant memory develops
  2. How self-concept emerges in infants
  3. How children learn new concepts
  4. The importance of attachment styles
  5. When infants learn to imitate others
  6. Theory of mind reveals the social world
  7. Understanding object permanence
  8. How infants learn their first word
  9. The six types of play
  10. Piaget’s stages of development theory

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