Category Archives: Relationships

Having it All, Happily.

Image by Robert Whitehead via Flickr

When The Atlantic published a controversial article by Anne-Marie Slaughter about how difficult it truly is for women to ‘have it all,’ it added more fuel to the raging fire of the work-life-balance debate, which has likely been going on in some form since humankind first realized that there are ways to make other people feel bad about their life choices. Apparently, the stereotype of the harried, working mom who has a high-level career and still tries her damnedest not to disappoint the other mothers at her daughter’s bake sale has become somewhat of a cultural icon — if you don’t believe me, just read the book I Don’t Know How She Does It (or watch the recent movie, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Greg Kinnear).

Whether people choose to view self-identification as a complicated juggling act or opt instead to focus on a limited number of areas is the important distinction underlying Patricia Linville’s self-complexity theory. Someone who is high in self-complexity would define herself in terms of many different possible domains (e.g. I’m a mother, a wife, a marathoner, a tenured professor, and a singer), while someone who is low in self-complexity would use fewer. And although self-complexity theory doesn’t necessarily stake any claims about particular sides in the work-life-balance-debate being “right” or “wrong,” research in this area has shown – perhaps surprisingly to some — that people who define themselves using multiple domains may actually, at least in some ways, be happier and healthier.

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From The Archives: Love, hate…what’s the difference?

This was originally blogged at IonPsych for Valentine’s Day on 2/14/2011. You can see the original post here.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to take a quick look at one of the most fundamental human emotions — hate.

Wait, that doesn’t seem right. Hate? On Valentine’s Day? Isn’t V-Day supposed to be about love, Hallmark, and all of those positive, mushy feelings?

Well, sure. Of course Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love. But are love and hate really all that different?

They both make us act irrationally. They both cloud our thinking and judgment. They’ve both sparked wars, poetry, and some of the greatest epics of all time. They both make our hearts race, our pupils dilate, and our palms sweat.
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The making of a Tough Mudder.

Exactly one month ago today, I participated in my first Tough Mudder.

Officially billed as a “hardcore, 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie” (and unofficially billed as “probably the toughest event on the planet”), you can imagine that it was hard to stand there, jumping up and down to keep warm (did I mention that this took place in November…in Indiana?!) without thinking about all of the social psychology going on around me.

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With pets like these, who needs people? [at The Thoughtful Animal]

This week, I was thrilled to write a guest post for Jason Goldman at The Thoughtful Animal, a blog about animal cognition, animal behavior, and the human-animal relationship hosted on the new Scientific American blog network.

The post went up on Wednesday; in it, I discuss a recent study examining the effects of pet ownership on self-esteem, happiness, and relationships with other people. Here’s a quote from the beginning, which sets up the story for the bulk of the post:

One would think that there’s a very clear tie between interpersonal relationships and the owner-pet connection. If lonely people anthropomorphize their pets, presumably as a means of coping with social isolation, then can’t we assume that the very people who derive high levels of social support from their pets are only doing so because of equally low levels of social support from the people around them?

Well, not so fast. There’s more to the story.

Click here to read the entire post over at The Thoughtful Animal!


McConnell, A.R., Brown, C.M., Shoda, T.M., Stayton, L.E., & Martin, C.E. (2011). Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology PMID: 21728449

Epley, N., Akalis, S., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J. (2008). Creating Social Connection Through Inferential Reproduction: Loneliness and Perceived Agency in Gadgets, Gods, and Greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19 (2), 114-120 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02056.x

Sex, lies, and power = lies about power and sex.

Can we please stop sounding the depressing alarm claiming that all powerful men are destined to be cheating husbands?

Yes, in recent history we’ve had Anthony Weiner and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But we’ve also had Barack Obama and Mark Wahlberg. However you choose to feel about the debt ceiling or The Fighter, these are recently-newsworthy examples of powerful men who have stayed happily married without getting caught up in a sex scandal. And they’re far from being the only ones.1

The problem with proclaiming that there’s an inextricable link between power, maleness, and cheating is that it implicates both power and masculinity as unavoidable evils. Fact is, that’s not really fair – or accurate.

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Fear and love on a shaky bridge.

“Imagine being in the jungle, thousands of miles from civilization…”

Thus opens the promo for Love In The Wild, the “extreme dating experiment” premiering on NBC this week which promises that its contestants will go on first dates that are jam packed with shaky bridges, crocodile attacks, and bungee jumping.

Either NBC has recently replaced their writing staff with former academics, or their writers missed a true calling as social psychologists. This trick has been done before — and, in case you were wondering, it works.
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New York and same-sex marriage: When politics, personalities, and persuasion tricks collide.

This has been a big weekend for marriage.

In a 33-29 vote, the New York State Senate voted to legalize gay marriage on Friday, June 24th, making it the sixth state to do so — and the most populous.

In the wake of this vote, many people are wondering what this means for the future of gay marriage in the United States. Why exactly is this such a contentious issue, and why do Americans’ opinions seem to differ so greatly? When it comes to marriage equality, why can’t we all just get along?

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Reality TV: The Soulmate Machine?

For those still tuned in after 10 seasons, 7 total judges, and countless sob stories, American Idol ended this week after crowning teenage country crooner Scotty McCreery as its newest addition to the confetti-covered winning lineup.


On top of its usual fanfare of tears, hugs, and a cheesy coronation song (this year’s crowning number was “I Love You This Big,” presumably because they’ve run out of song titles that involve dreams and mountains), this year’s finale brought on water cooler gossip for one more reason – the big ol’ kiss that runner-up Lauren Alaina planted on Scotty’s mouth after he won, right before he said that they had been together since Day 1 and were going to “stay together” after the show. Continue reading

Sex and the married neurotic

There are few things in this world that I truly loathe. One of those things is the show Everybody Loves Raymond.

Why, you might ask?

First of all, it’s actually quite hard to really ‘love’ Raymond. From what I’ve seen of the show (which is admittedly not much), he seems to care about three things: golf, trying (in vain) to have sex with his wife, and placating his intrusive family.

But there’s another problem – Debra isn’t innocent either.
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