Washington Post: Psychology study — Wedded bliss and gut feelings sometimes conflict

Data for the study was gathered from 135 newlywed couples recruited within the first six months of marriage, completing measures of their attitudes

Journalist Meeri Kim reports in The Washington Post about the research of SMU psychologist Andrea L. Meltzer, who was co-author on a four-year longitudinal study of 135 newlywed couples that found that a spouse’s implicit feelings about their partner predicted marital satisfaction later.

The article, “Psychology study: Wedded bliss and gut feelings sometimes conflict,” was published Nov. 28.

Meltzer, co-author on the study, is an assistant professor in the SMU Department of Psychology.

Read the article.

EXCERPT:

By Meeri Kim
The Washington Post

The harbinger of an unhappy marriage may be your gut.

A new study by psychologists found that newlyweds had underlying positive or negative gut feelings about their spouses that many were unaware of and that predicted marital satisfaction years later.

The experiment used a photo of the newlywed spouse and a series of positive and negative words to elicit a so-called automatic attitude.

“Either people are completely unaware of this automatic attitude, or they’re completely aware and just not willing to talk about it,” said psychologist and study author James McNulty of Florida State University. The study was published online Thursday in the journal Science.

Automatic attitudes are unfiltered, knee-jerk reactions that can sometimes oppose the conscious thoughts.

McNulty, who primarily conducts research on romantic relationships, showed a newlywed the photo of his or her spouse for just a third of a second, followed by a word that was positive or negative: “delightful” or “disgusting,” for instance. The newlywed, as fast as possible, had to push a button indicating the word that was good or bad.

Psychologists say that seeing the photo for just long enough to recognize who you’re looking at, but not enough to study the detail of the picture, causes your brain to automatically retrieve from memory any associations you have. This facilitates a speedier response to any words that match those associations.

Read the article.

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