According to Tiffany O'Callaghan of Time's Wellness blog, researchers at the University of Rochester devised a little game: first, participants provided words related to their partners, like names or nicknames. Then, the researchers displayed these words on a screen along with positive words like "vacation" and negative words like "tragedy." The subjects were supposed to press a button when they saw partner words and happy words, and in a separate test, when they saw partner words and negative ones. The researchers hypothesized that those who did better on the second test, that is, "who performed better on tasks associating their partner with bad things," were more likely to be in troubled relationships. And indeed, they were more likely to be broken up a year later.
So is this a new way to assess your breakup risk, rather than going through The Daily Beast's depressing 15-item test? Why the hell not, it's as about as useful as the other "methods" out there, and this one could make for some fun word-association games with your friends or therapist. Seriously, though: O'Callaghan writes that "the findings suggest that well before people are aware of the deterioration of their relationship, negative perceptions may already have seeped into their subconscious." On the other hand, the participants may have been totally aware of their relationship problems — O'Callaghan also writes:
For psychologists conducting relationship studies, it can sometimes be tricky getting a straight answer. If you ask a participant how happy he is in a relationship, sometimes he may be in denial, just not want to open up to you (ostensibly a complete stranger holding a clipboard), or may simply not truly know himself.
Yes, some people may not know themselves, but probably far more just don't want to talk about their relationship problems. Sometimes, you want to pretend that everything's fine because then, just maybe, it will be. And sometimes, you simply don't want to divulge the extent of your misgivings because your friends will tell you to break up, and you're not ready for that. A test like the one the Rochester researchers have devised probably won't tell people actually in struggling relationships anything they don't already know, and only an extremely creepy friend would administer word association in hopes of getting the truth. If anything, it might help psychologists get a better handle on people's real feelings about their partners, and thus more accurately predict the risk factors for breakups. One thing's for sure — if you associate your significant other's name with "tragedy," things probably aren't going well.
Using Word Association Games To Predict Break-Ups? [Time Wellness Blog]
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