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Concept: Human bonding


Nonhuman primates use social touch for maintenance and reinforcement of social structures, yet the role of social touch in human bonding in different reproductive, affiliative, and kinship-based relationships remains unresolved. Here we reveal quantified, relationship-specific maps of bodily regions where social touch is allowed in a large cross-cultural dataset (N = 1,368 from Finland, France, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom). Participants were shown front and back silhouettes of human bodies with a word denoting one member of their social network. They were asked to color, on separate trials, the bodily regions where each individual in their social network would be allowed to touch them. Across all tested cultures, the total bodily area where touching was allowed was linearly dependent (mean r(2) = 0.54) on the emotional bond with the toucher, but independent of when that person was last encountered. Close acquaintances and family members were touched for more reasons than less familiar individuals. The bodily area others are allowed to touch thus represented, in a parametric fashion, the strength of the relationship-specific emotional bond. We propose that the spatial patterns of human social touch reflect an important mechanism supporting the maintenance of social bonds.

Concepts: Human, Sociology, Primate, Interpersonal relationship, Bond, Human anatomy, IPod Touch, Human bonding


Numerous studies have shown that being able to resolve and recover from conflicts is of key importance for relationship satisfaction and stability in adults. Less is known about the importance of these relationship dynamics in adolescent romantic relationships. Therefore, this study investigated whether conflict resolution and recovery predict breakups in middle adolescent couples. Couples who are able to resolve and recover from conflict were expected to demonstrate a lower probability of breaking up. In total, 80 adolescent couples (M age = 15.48, SD = 1.16) participated in a 4-wave prospective questionnaire and observational study, with one year between measurements. In addition to self-report measures, adolescents were observed in real-time during conflicts with their partners. Multilevel Proportional Hazard analyses revealed that, contrary to the hypothesis, conflict resolution and conflict recovery did not predict the likelihood of breakup. Survival differences were not attributable to conflict resolution or conflict recovery. More research is needed to consider the unique relationship factors of adolescent romantic relationships to determine why some relationships survive while others do not.

Concepts: Scientific method, Observation, Hypothesis, Love, Human bonding, Interpersonal relationships, Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, Relationship breakup


Love feelings can be more intense than desired (e.g., after a break-up) or less intense than desired (e.g., in long-term relationships). If only we could control our love feelings! We present the concept of explicit love regulation, which we define as the use of behavioral and cognitive strategies to change the intensity of current feelings of romantic love. We present the first two studies on preconceptions about, strategies for, and the feasibility of love regulation. Questionnaire responses showed that people perceive love feelings as somewhat uncontrollable. Still, in four open questions people reported to use strategies such as cognitive reappraisal, distraction, avoidance, and undertaking (new) activities to cope with break-ups, to maintain long-term relationships, and to regulate love feelings. Instructed up-regulation of love using reappraisal increased subjective feelings of attachment, while love down-regulation decreased subjective feelings of infatuation and attachment. We used the late positive potential (LPP) amplitude as an objective index of regulation success. Instructed love up-regulation enhanced the LPP between 300-400 ms in participants who were involved in a relationship and in participants who had recently experienced a romantic break-up, while love down-regulation reduced the LPP between 700-3000 ms in participants who were involved in a relationship. These findings corroborate the self-reported feasibility of love regulation, although they are complicated by the finding that love up-regulation also reduced the LPP between 700-3000 ms in participants who were involved in a relationship. To conclude, although people have the preconception that love feelings are uncontrollable, we show for the first time that intentional regulation of love feelings using reappraisal, and perhaps other strategies, is feasible. Love regulation will benefit individuals and society because it could enhance positive effects and reduce negative effects of romantic love.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Interpersonal relationship, Love, Romance, Human bonding, Interpersonal relationships, Relationship breakup


Although we interact with a wide network of people on a daily basis, the social psychology literature has primarily focused on interactions with close friends and family. The present research tested whether subjective well-being is related not only to interactions with these strong ties but also to interactions with weak social ties (i.e., acquaintances). In Study 1, students experienced greater happiness and greater feelings of belonging on days when they interacted with more classmates than usual. Broadening the scope in Studies 2A and 2B to include all daily interactions (with both strong and weak ties), we again found that weak ties are related to social and emotional well-being. The current results highlight the power of weak ties, suggesting that even social interactions with the more peripheral members of our social networks contribute to our well-being.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Human bonding, Interpersonal relationships, Interpersonal ties, Mathematical sociology


We routinely form impressions of people from their faces, and these impressions sometimes contain a kernel of truth. Impressions of trustworthiness are central to interpersonal relationships, but their accuracy remains contentious. Here, we investigated whether sexual trustworthiness (faithfulness) can be accurately judged from opposite-sex strangers' faces. Women’s ratings of men’s unfaithfulness showed small-moderate correlations with men’s past unfaithfulness (cheating, poaching). Women used masculinity as a valid cue to unfaithfulness. Men’s unfaithfulness ratings showed small, non-significant correlations with unfaithfulness, although formal tests for sex differences yielded equivocal results. Women were less likely than men to erroneously classify unfaithful individuals as faithful. We conclude that impressions of sexual faithfulness from faces have a kernel of truth, at least for women, and that they may help people assess the quality of potential mates about whom they have minimal behavioural information.

Concepts: Psychology, Marriage, Male, Gender, Sex, Interpersonal relationship, Love, Human bonding


The purpose of this research was to examine the associations of attachment anxiety and avoidance with personal growth following relationship dissolution, and to test breakup distress, rumination, and tendency to rebound with new partners as mediators of these associations. Study 1 (N = 411) and Study 2 (N = 465) measured attachment style, breakup distress, and personal growth; Study 2 additionally measured ruminative reflection, brooding, and proclivity to rebound with new partners. Structural equation modelling revealed in both studies that anxiety was indirectly associated with greater personal growth through heightened breakup distress, whereas avoidance was indirectly associated with lower personal growth through inhibited breakup distress. Study 2 further showed that the positive association of breakup distress with personal growth was accounted for by enhanced reflection and brooding, and that anxious individuals' greater personal growth was also explained by their proclivity to rebound. These findings suggest that anxious individuals' hyperactivated breakup distress may act as a catalyst for personal growth by promoting the cognitive processing of breakup-related thoughts and emotions, whereas avoidant individuals' deactivated distress may inhibit personal growth by suppressing this cognitive work.

Concepts: Psychology, Interpersonal relationship, Love, Attachment theory, Family therapy, Attachment measures, Human bonding, Interpersonal relationships


Mobile cell phone users have reported experiencing ringing and/or vibrations associated with incoming calls and messages, only to find that no call or message had actually registered. We believe this phenomenon can be understood as a human signal detection issue, with potentially important influences from psychological attributes. We hypothesized that individuals higher in attachment anxiety would report more frequent phantom cell phone experiences, whereas individuals higher in attachment avoidance would report less frequent experiences. If these experiences are primarily psychologically related to attributes of interpersonal relationships, associations with attachment style should be stronger than for general sensation seeking. We also predicted that certain contexts would interact with attachment style to increase or decrease the likelihood of experiencing phantom cell phone calls and messages. Attachment anxiety directly predicted the frequency of phantom ringing and notification experiences, whereas attachment avoidance and sensation seeking did not directly predict frequency. Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance interacted with contextual factors (expectations for a call or message and concerned about an issue that one may be contacted about) in the expected directions for predicting phantom cell phone experiences.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Prediction, Interpersonal relationship, Mobile phone, Love, Attachment theory, Human bonding


Abstract The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between using the social networking site known as Facebook and negative interpersonal relationship outcomes. A survey of 205 Facebook users aged 18-82 was conducted using a 16-question online survey to examine whether high levels of Facebook use predicted negative relationship outcomes (breakup/divorce, emotional cheating, and physical cheating). It was hypothesized that those with higher levels of Facebook use would demonstrate more negative relationship outcomes than those with lower use. The study then examined whether these relationships were mediated by Facebook-related conflict. Furthermore, the researchers examined length of relationship as a moderator variable in the aforementioned model. The results indicate that a high level of Facebook usage is associated with negative relationship outcomes, and that these relationships are indeed mediated by Facebook-related conflict. This series of relationships only holds for those who are, or have been, in relatively newer relationships of 3 years or less. The current study adds to the growing body of literature investigating Internet use and relationship outcomes, and may be a precursor to further research investigating whether Facebook use attributes to the divorce rate, emotional cheating, and physical cheating.

Concepts: Scientific method, Interpersonal relationship, Love, Internet, Social network service, MySpace, Human bonding, Facebook


In humans, interpersonal romantic attraction and the subsequent development of monogamous pair-bonds is substantially predicted by influential impressions formed during first encounters. The prosocial neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) has been identified as a key facilitator of both interpersonal attraction and the formation of parental attachment. However, whether OXT contributes to the maintenance of monogamous bonds after they have been formed is unclear. In this randomized placebo-controlled trial, we provide the first behavioral evidence that the intranasal administration of OXT stimulates men in a monogamous relationship, but not single ones, to keep a much greater distance (∼10-15 cm) between themselves and an attractive woman during a first encounter. This avoidance of close personal proximity occurred in the physical presence of female but not male experimenters and was independent of gaze direction and whether the female experimenter or the subject was moving. We further confirmed this unexpected finding using a photograph-based approach/avoidance task that showed again that OXT only stimulated men in a monogamous relationship to approach pictures of attractive women more slowly. Importantly, these changes cannot be attributed to OXT altering the attitude of monogamous men toward attractive women or their judgments of and arousal by pictures of them. Together, our results suggest that where OXT release is stimulated during a monogamous relationship, it may additionally promote its maintenance by making men avoid signaling romantic interest to other women through close-approach behavior during social encounters. In this way, OXT may help to promote fidelity within monogamous human relationships.

Concepts: Psychology, Male, Female, Gender, Interpersonal relationship, Woman, Attachment theory, Human bonding


Romantic relationship dissolution can be stressful, and social networking sites make it difficult to separate from a romantic partner online as well as offline. An online survey (N = 431) tested a model synthesizing attachment, investment model variables, and post-dissolution emotional distress as predictors of interpersonal surveillance (i.e., “Facebook stalking”) of one’s ex-partner on Facebook after a breakup. Results indicated that anxious attachment predicted relational investment but also seeking relationship alternatives; avoidant attachment was negatively related to investment but positively related to seeking alternatives. Investment predicted commitment, whereas seeking alternatives was negatively related to commitment. Commitment predicted emotional distress after the breakup. Distress predicted partner monitoring immediately following the breakup, particularly for those who did not initiate the breakup, as well as current partner monitoring. Given their affordances, social media are discussed as potentially unhealthy enablers for online surveillance after relationship termination.

Concepts: Interpersonal relationship, Love, Web 2.0, Social network service, Attachment in adults, Human bonding, Interpersonal relationships, Facebook