Remember the first time you met your partner: locking eyes over the last bushel of kale at the natural foods store, across the dance floor of a strobe-lit club on “Teen Night,” or playing mixed doubles in a young professionals intramural ping-pong league. Was it love at first sight? Or an “ehh” at first sight which after a few sexually charged ping pong matches turned into loving monogamous relationship? A new study from Florida State University of Tallahassee reveals that subconscious initial reactions to a partner can be a predictor of the success of the marriage.
In the research 135 self-described “happy” newlywed couples were shown pictures of their spouses and told to click a key that associated them with either a positive or negative word: such as “awesome” or “terrible.” The participants filled out a questionnaire about marital satisfaction and re-evaluated their feelings in six-month intervals over the next four years using the same questionnaire. The study found that participants who were genuinely content with their relationships clicked the positive button more quickly than those who were not, indicating that those who hesitated were subconsciously unhappy and their marriages were more likely to end in divorce, with 12 out of the 135 couples divorcing within the four-year study.
So how much weight do our initial judgements carry? According to John Bargh, a social psychologist at Yale, our automatic attitudes about people and social groups remain consistent from childhood through adulthood, while consciously expressed attitudes are more liable to change. We can condition our conscious mind to create new positive thoughts about people based on our experiences with them, but our gut reactions to people remain unchanged. This might mean that the guy you had a lackluster first coffee date with that is now your boyfriend is probably still that lackluster guy you first met. (Sorry, LOL!)
Dating apps like Tinder have capitalized on this automatic reaction, using a swiping method that people can use to “accept” or “deny” potential match in a matter of seconds (e.g. “Cute hair”: yes! “No nose!”: no!)
So the next time you go on a date and come away feeling “meh” maybe don’t date them, unless you want your eventual marriage with them to end in divorce and die alone. Just saying.
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