According to new research, looking at cute animals can actually improve the quality of your relationship with your significant other. So, if you’re thinking of calling up a therapist to help get that spark back in your marriage, put down the phone.
This recent study published in the journal Psychological Science analysed data from 144 married couples. These were couples under the age of 40 who were together for less than five years. Less than half of these couples had children. The U.S. Department of Defense funded the study, in hopes of identifying ways to help families separated by military deployment.
“Specifically, the research team wanted to find out whether it was possible to improve marital satisfaction by subtly retraining the immediate, automatic associations that come to mind when people think about their spouse,” the news release reports.
First of all, participants were divided into two groups. Then, for six weeks, each group looked at different photos. One group looked at photos of cute puppies and bunnies next to photos of their partners. The other group looked at neutral, not-adorable images, like photos of buttons, next to photos of their partners. After viewing the images, participants described their significant other to researchers.
The experiment showed that those who viewed their partner’s image next to a positive image showed more positive automatic reactions to their partners. This is in comparison to those in the second group. The former group even reported improved marriage quality.
“I was actually a little surprised that it worked,” McNulty said. “All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should, but existing theories of relationships and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage made me sceptical.”
However, the report stresses that the researchers are not saying that behaviour in a relationship doesn’t have an effect on the quality of a marriage. In fact, they argue that “interactions between spouses are actually the most important factor for setting automatic associations.”
Nevertheless, this research suggests that short interludes focused on automatic positive attitudes can help a marriage. This is whether couples use it as a tool for marriage counselling, or if the couple is in a long-distance relationship.
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