Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all


Partnerships are situations in which two or more persons join to pursue a common project. Being together increases the chances of success of the project, whether the project aims at raising children, establishing a business or writing a scientific article. Much has been written about the issue of free riding in such situations: one of the partners may rely on the others to do most of the work while keeping on enjoying its benefits. This issue can lead to inefficient situations where both partners contribute very little. A comparatively small part of the academic literature deals with the dissolution of partnerships and why partners decide to stop working together. Both low contribution levels and dissolution indicate failure in a partnership, but the distinction between those two types of failures is important; it is akin to the distinction between a dysfunctional marriage that keeps on going, and a marriage that ends in a divorce.

This paper deals with the inner dynamics of partnerships, in particular with how success and failure determine the probability a common project will break down. […]

Subjects underestimated the pay-off from staying, in large part because they had an exaggerated fear of being left alone in the collaborative project. This led to lower overall welfare when exit was easy.

{ SSRN | Continue reading }

Quando l’amore è sensualità


Young, sexually mature humans Homo sapiens sapiens of both sexes commonly congregate into particular but arbitrary physical locations and dance. These may be areas of traditional use, such as nightclubs, discotheques or dance-halls or areas that are temporarily commissioned for the same purpose such as at house parties or rock festivals etc.

This type of behaviour is seen in a variety of animals although there are no apparent attempts to monopolize particular areas within these locations as is often seen in species that lek.

The present studies were conducted in order to investigate this phenomenon in a commercial nightclub environment. Data revealed that more than 80% of people entering the nightclub did so without a partner and so were potentially sexually available. There was also an approx. 50% increase in the number of couples leaving the nightclub as compared to those entering it seen on each occasion this was measured, indicating that these congregations are for sexual purposes.

Within the nightclub itself more than 80% of bouts of mixed sex dancing were initiated by a male approaching a female, demonstrating that males are stimulated to approach females rather than vice versa. In consequence, females are placed in competition with each other to attract these approaches.

Various female display tactics were measured and these showed that whilst only 20% of females wore tight fitting clothing that revealed more than 40% of their flesh/50% of their breast area and danced in a sexually suggestive manner, these attracted close to half (49%) of all male approaches seen. These data reveal the effectiveness of clothing and dance displays in attracting male attention and strongly indicate that nightclubs are human display grounds, organised around females competing for the attention of males. Females with the most successful displays gain the advantage of being able to choose from amongst a range of males showing interest in them.

{ Institute of Psychological Sciences | PDF }

photo { Camilla Åkrans }

The diamond twinkle in your eye is the only wedding ring that I’ll buy you


A paper that correlates occupations with divorce and separation rates, to be published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, reveals that those employed in extrovert and stressful jobs are highly likely to divorce, as are those who work in the caring professions.

Dancers, choreographers and bartenders have around a 40% chance of experiencing a relationship breakdown. But also at high risk are nurses, psychiatrists and those who help the elderly and disabled. Conversely, agricultural engineers, optometrists, dentists, clergymen and podiatrists are all in occupations which carry a 2-7% chance of family breakdown.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }



Both men and women erred in estimating what the opposite sex would find attractive. Men thought women would like a heavier stature than females reported they like, and women thought men would like women thinner than men reported they like.

Results suggest that, overall, men’s perceptions serve to keep them satisfied with their figures, whereas women’s perceptions place pressure on them to lose weight.

{ APA/PsycNET | Continue reading }

Hell is the impossibility of reason


Men want sex more than women do. (While I am sure that you can think of people who don’t fit this pattern, my colleagues and I have arrived at this conclusion after reviewing hundreds of findings. It is, on average, a very robust finding.) This difference is due in part to the fact that men, compared to women, focus on the rewards of sex. Women tend to focus on its costs because having sex presents them with bigger potential downsides, from physical (the toll of bearing a child) to social (stigma).

Accordingly, the average man’s sexual system gets activated fairly easily. When it does, it trips off a whole system in the brain focused on rewards. In fact, merely seeing a bra can propel men into reward mode, seeking immediate satisfaction in their decisions.

Most of the evidence suggests that women are different, that a sexy object would not cause them to shift into reward mode. This goes back to the notion that sex is rife with potential costs for women. Yet, at a basic biological level, the sexual system is directly tied to the reward system (through pleasure-giving dopaminergic reactions). This would seem to suggest a contrasting hypothesis that perhaps women will also shift into reward mode when their sexual system is activated. […] Women, more than men, connect sex to emotions. Festjens and colleagues therefore used a subtle, emotional cue to initiate sexual motivation – touch. Across three experiments, Festjens and colleagues found that women who touched sexy male clothing items, compared to nonsexual clothing items, showed evidence of being in reward mode.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

“If a stranger came up to a woman, grabbed her around the waist, and rubbed his groin against her in a university cafeteria or on a subway, she’d probably call the police. In the bar, the woman just tries to get away from him.”


“The current study was part of an evaluation of the Safer Bars program, a program we developed to reduce aggression in bars, primarily male-to-male aggression,” said Graham. “However, when we saw how much sexual aggression there was, we decided to conduct additional analyses. So these analyses of sexual aggression were in response to how much we observed – which was considerably more than we were expecting.”

{ ScienceNewsline | Continue reading }

photo { John Gutmann, Memory, 1939 }



Scholars and therapists agree on the existence of a sort of second law of thermodynamics for sentimental relationships. Effort is required to sustain them. Love is not enough. […]

It is not understood at this juncture why so many couples end in divorce while some others do not. That understanding is of paramount importance since the social change induced by marital disruption deeply affects the social structure of contemporary western societies as well as the well being of their members.

The fact that, for most couples, both partners plan enduring relationships and commit to work for them, poses a contradiction with the reportedly high divorce rates. This contradiction is referred to in this article as the failure paradox. According to Gottman et al, the field of marriage research is in desperate need of (a mathematical) theory. This paper aims to alleviate the need. In particular, it offers a consistent explanation for the failure paradox. […]

In view of the ubiquity of the phenomenon of couple break-up, it seems sensible to look beyond specific flaws in relationships and search instead for an underlying basic deterministic mechanism accounting for break-ups. Building on sociological data, we propose a mathematical model based on optimal control theory accounting for the rational planning by a homogamous couple of a long term relationship. […]

The mathematical theory introduced in this paper unveils an underlying mechanism that may explain the deterioration and disruption occurring massively in sentimental relationships that were initially planned to last forever. Two forces work together to ease the appearance of the deterioration process. First, it happens that since an extra effort must always be put in to sustain a relationship on the successful path, partners may relax and lower the effort level if the gap is uncomfortable. Then instability enters the scene, driving the feeling-effort state out of the lasting successful dynamics. […] Lasting relationships are possible only if the effort gap is tolerable and the optimal effort making is continuously watched over to stay on the target dynamics.

{ PLoS | Continue reading }

[a]mong the married couples, a higher discrepancy between men’s and women’s number of previous intercourse partners was related to lower levels of love, satisfaction, and commitment in the relationship.

{ The Journal of Sex Research | Continue reading }

I shake it like jello, I make the boys say hello


Romantic love is also associated, particularly in early stages, with specific physiological, psychological, and behavioral indices that have been described and quantified by psychologists and others. These include emotional responses such as euphoria, intense focused attention on a preferred individual, obsessive thinking about him or her, emotional dependency on and craving for emotional union with this beloved, and increased energy. Tennov (1979) coined the term “limerance” for this special state, and Hatfield and Sprecher (1986) developed a questionnaire scale to measure it. The universality, euphoria, and focused attention of romantic love suggest that reward and motivation systems in the human brain could be involved.

In addition, cross-cultural descriptions of romantic love regularly include reward-related images and suggest strong motivation to win a specific mating partner. For example, the oldest love poem from Summeria, “Inanna and Dumuzi,” dating ∼4,000 yr ago and found on cuneiform tablets in the Uruk language is translated, “My beloved, the delight of my eyes…” (Wolkstein and Kramer 1983). From the Song of Songs, the Hebrew 10th century poem comes, “…your love is more wonderful than wine …the sound of your name is perfume … . I sought the one my soul loves…” (Wolkstein and Kramer 1983). Furthermore, among the ethnographies canvassed in the review of Jankowiak and Fischer (1992) is one by Harris (1995) who cited evidence of the yearning for love and the motivation to win the beloved among the peoples of Mangaia, Cook Islands, Polynesia. These people have a word for “dying for love.” […]

Several results support our two predictions that 1) early stage, intense romantic love is associated with subcortical reward regions that are also dopamine-rich (e.g., Fisher 1998) and 2) romantic love engages a motivation system involving neural systems associated with motivation to acquire a reward rather than romantic love being a particular emotion in its own right (Aron and Aron 1991). […]

One of the most interesting findings of this study is regional effects related to the number of months in love. Notably, several limbic cortical regions showed a correlation with the length of the relationship: anterior and posterior cingulate, mid-insula, and retrosplenial cortex; but also, parietal, inferior frontal, and middle temporal cortex. […] these results highlight the importance of these cortical regions for processing stimulus/internal state change, and the importance of taking time factors into account in future studies of human relationships. At the same time, these results must be interpreted cautiously because they are cross-sectional, so that, for example, it is possible they represent differences in the kinds of people that remain intensely in love over a longer period rather than changes over time.

{ Journal of Neurophysiology | Continue reading }

It gives all, and it takes all


Researchers say ‘outsourcing’ parts of a relationship could improve it. An agreed, non-monogamous relationship would, in some cases, improve the relationship.

{ Daily Mail | Continue reading | via gettingsome }

related { High divorce rates and low marital satisfaction are a direct result of partners’ inability to meet ‘psychological expectations’ }

Matilda’s the defendant, she killed about a hundred


This article examines cognitive links between romantic love and creativity and between sexual desire and analytic thought based on construal level theory. It suggests that when in love, people typically focus on a long-term perspective, which should enhance holistic thinking and thereby creative thought, whereas when experiencing sexual encounters, they focus on the present and on concrete details enhancing analytic thinking. Because people automatically activate these processing styles when in love or when they experience sex, subtle or even unconscious reminders of love versus sex should suffice to change processing modes. Two studies explicitly or subtly reminded participants of situations of love or sex and found support for this hypothesis.

{ Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin | PDF }

art { Horyon Lee }

I’m a 50, an eighth, you a half a blunt


In love, as with genies, we only get three wishes, says relationship expert Ty Tashiro. The more traits you pick that are above the average, the lower the statistical odds that you’ll find a match. And three is the tipping point.

{ NY Post | Continue reading }

related { Divorce Rate Cut in Half for Couples Who Discussed Relationship Movies }

Good afternoon, Mrs Sheehy


Previous research has shown that men with higher facial width-to-height ratios (fWHRs) have higher testosterone and are more aggressive, more powerful, and more financially successful. We tested whether they are also more attractive to women in the ecologically valid mating context of speed dating.

Men’s fWHR was positively associated with their perceived dominance, likelihood of being chosen for a second date, and attractiveness to women for short-term, but not long-term, relationships.

{ Psychological Science | PDF }

related { Finger lengths as a key to desirability in romantic couples }

Tactical comparisons between void and not being there


In the late 1960s and ‘70s, working with the New York City Planning Commission, the sociologist William H. Whyte conducted groundbreaking granular studies of the city’s public spaces, spending hours filming and photographing and taking notes about how people behave in public. Where do they like to sit? Where do they like to stand? When they bump into people they know, how long do their conversations last? […]

Whyte and his acolytes formulated conclusions that were, for their time, counterintuitive. For example, he discovered that city people don’t actually like wide-open, uncluttered spaces. Despite the Modernist assumption that what harried urban people need are oases of nature in the city, if you bother to watch people, you see that they tend to prefer narrow streets, hustle and bustle, crowdedness. Build a high-rise with an acre of empty plaza around it, and the plaza may seem desolate, even dangerous. People will avoid it. If you want people to linger, he wrote, give them seating — but not just benches, which make it impossible for people to face one another. Movable chairs can be better. Also: Never cordon off a fountain.


For his dissertation at the University of Toronto, Hampton studied an extraordinary early experiment in wired living. In the mid-1990s, a consortium that included IBM and Apple helped raise more than $100 million to turn a new suburban development in Newmarket, Ontario, a Toronto suburb, into the neighborhood of the future. As houses went up, more than half of them got high-speed Internet (this in the age of dial-up), advanced browser software for their computers, a tool for videoconferencing between houses and a Napster-like tool for music sharing. He treated the other homes as a control group. From October 1997 through August 1999, Hampton lived in a basement apartment in the new development, observing and interviewing his neighbors.

Hampton found that, rather than isolating people, technology made them more connected. […] [T]hey were much more successful at addressing local problems, like speeding cars and a small spate of burglaries. They also used their Listserv to coordinate offline events, even sign-ups for a bowling league. Hampton was one of the first scholars to marshal evidence that the web might make people less atomized rather than more.

Hampton crudely summarized his former M.I.T. colleague Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together.” “She said: ‘You know, today, people standing at a train station, they’re all talking on their cellphones. Public spaces aren’t communal anymore. No one interacts in public spaces.’ I’m like: ‘How do you know that? We don’t know that. Compared to what? Like, three years ago?’ ”

Turkle said that her decades of observation are pretty conclusive: “When you watch a mother texting as she pushes a stroller — and I follow that mother for blocks, I walk alongside — you know it. You know that the streetscape used to include mothers who spoke to their children.”


According to Hampton, our tendency to interact with others in public has, if anything, improved since the ‘70s. The P.P.S. films showed that in 1979 about 32 percent of those visited the steps of the Met were alone; in 2010, only 24 percent were alone in the same spot. When I mentioned these results to Sherry Turkle, she said that Hampton could be right about these specific public spaces, but that technology may still have corrosive effects in the home: what it does to families at the dinner table, or in the den. Rich Ling, a mobile-phone researcher in Denmark, also noted the limitations of Hampton’s sample. “He was capturing the middle of the business day,” said Ling, who generally admires Hampton’s work. For businesspeople, “there might be a quick check, do I have an email or a text message, then get on with life.” Fourteen-year-olds might be an entirely different story.

{ NY Times | Continue reading | Thanks Jane JL! }