Breakup Study Reveals the Smart Way to Get Over Your Ex

It’s a universal truth that breakups blow. Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, the end of a relationship is a far cry from the neurochemical swirl that made you fall in love in the first place. Because we’re a long way from being able to swallow an anti-love drug to get past the pain, other self-help techniques need to be employed. Luckily for the brokenhearted, a team of neuroscientists recently published some scientific advice for dealing with the relationship blues.

In The Journal of Neuroscience, a team of psychologists and cognitive scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder show that placebo treatments aren’t just for medical studies — they can treat emotional pain, too. Testing a placebo drug on people experiencing “social pain” after getting dumped, they discovered that the placebo actually reduced that pain. In other words, faking it until you make it isn’t a terrible idea when it comes to breakups. In fact, if you convince yourself that one (hopefully healthy) thing will dull the heartache, it might actually do the job.

The researchers tested this out by recruiting 40 people who had been dumped within the past six months and asked to bring in a picture of either their ex or a platonic friend. The scientists wanted to know whether looking at photos of their ex would cause pain, and if so, whether they could trick the brain into not feeling that pain.

First, to test whether emotional pain was really pain, each participant looked at a photo of their ex while their brain activity was scanned with an MRI machine. Then, while their brains were still being scanned, varying degrees of heat were applied to participants’ arms, and they rated, on a scale, the amount of pain that they felt. Similar regions of the brain were active when people looked at pictures of their exes and when they experienced physical pain, proving to the researchers that emotional pain triggered comparable neurological activity.

Then came the placebo: Every participant was given a nasal spray, but only half the participants were told that it was a “powerful analgesic effective in reducing emotional pain.” The other half knew it was just bogus. But that didn’t matter — the study showed that the bogus spray did have an effect.

The people who thought they had a special spray to dull the pain were revealed, in subsequent MRI scans, to experience less emotional and physical pain when they looked at pictures of their exes. The placebo also increased activity in the participants’ dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls emotions.

“These findings suggest that placebo treatments reduce emotional distress by altering affective representations in frontal-brainstem systems,” write the authors.

In the past, placebos have proven to effectively convince medical patients that they’re being healed, but there hasn’t been as much evidence of the placebo effect working in social situations. This research, however, demonstrates that placebos can indeed shape emotional experiences. So, if you’re feeling raw after a breakup, take solace in knowing you can placebo your way out of a rut, lowering the chances you’ll get back together with your ex and start the painful cycle all over again.

‘Friending’ Your Ex on Social Media Could Doom Your Current Relationship

This Valentine’s Day, you’re likely doing one of two things: Celebrating the success of your present relationship, or ignoring the fact that you aren’t in one. (Both of these are fine positions to be in on a consumer holiday such as this one!) Regardless of where you’re at on the commitment spectrum, a new study has some solid advice for anyone using social media: Don’t “friend” your ex.

Joyce Baptist, a Kansas State University marriage and family therapy associate professor, found that crossing relationship boundaries online can cause serious damage. In a study of nearly 7,000 couples who use social media, Baptist found that for couples in which one or both partners communicated with someone they find physically attractive online, which she labeled “boundary crossing,” the more damage can be done to the relationship.

But before you go trolling your SO’s Facebook account for evidence of shady behavior, the study says there’s a difference between “boundary crossing” and what Baptist calls “boundary violation.”

A crossing is when a partner brushes a proverbial guard rail, possibly by having platonic but frequent contact with another individual he or she finds attractive. Boundary violation, on the other hand, may be emotional or physical infidelity, Baptist says.

Without an honest conversation outlining these “guard rails,” or what both partners feel is or isn’t appropriate behavior online, then someone can easily have their feelings hurt by what their partner does on social media. Furthermore, the study found that while some people accepted that their partner interacted or flirted with an ex online, it didn’t necessarily mean they were cool with it.

“Although they may say, ‘I trust you and it’s OK,’ they are not happy about it,” Baptist said. “They eventually perceive that their significant other is spending too much time connecting with others on social media rather than paying attention to their own partner.”

And that perceived threat may not be so innocent after all. “Keeping lines of communication open with former significant others can become a slippery slope,” the study found, “because relationships naturally have peaks and valleys. During a relationship’s lower points, a person may be tempted to confide in a previous partner.”

So what’s the best way to ensure your partner isn’t harboring some kind of grudge about you liking your ex’s Facebook status? Use your words. Describe what you’re comfortable with rather than what you’ll merely put up with. According to the study, Baptist says “couples ought to share not only what they are willing to tolerate but also what they would prefer so the couple can create a secure and satisfying relationship.”

Does More Sex Mean A Happier Relationship? FSU Study Says Yes…

The more often a couple has sex, the happier they are—they just might not know it. That’s according to a new study, published in the journal Psychological Science, which finds a positive link between more frequent boning and what researchers call positive “automatic” attitudes toward one’s partner, though not necessarily their self-reports of relationship satisfaction.

“We found that the frequency with which couples have sex has no influence on whether or not they report being happy with their relationship, but their sexual frequency does influence their more spontaneous, automatic, gut-level feelings about their partners,” said lead author Lindsey L. Hicks of Florida State University in a press release.

Despite all the cultural value placed on getting it on as often as possible, researchers have gotten mixed results when looking at the connection between relationship satisfaction and sexual frequency. Some studies have found a positive association, but others, including reliable longitudinal ones, have failed to find any significant link. The authors of this study suspected something might be amiss in the prior research. “We thought these inconsistencies may stem from the influence of deliberate reasoning and biased beliefs regarding the sometimes taboo topic of sex,” said Hicks.

So they designed a study that would go beyond that potential bias.

They surveyed 120 newlyweds about the quality of their relationships and asked them to estimate how often they have sex. Those same people also completed a computer exercise in which a photo of their partner popped up for 300 milliseconds before a word appeared on the screen. They were instructed to press a key indicating that the word was either positive or negative. The idea here being that their response time would reveal how much they associated their partners with the negative or positive word in question—again, on an automatic and potentially unconscious level.

So, say someone responded quickly to negative words that they were shown after getting a quick glimpse of their partner. According to the researchers, that would mean they had less positive feelings toward their relationship.

Just as in some past studies, the researchers found no connection between the frequency of sex and participants’ self-reports of relationship quality. But the computer exercise revealed a link between sexin’ and people’s automatic associations with their partners. Couples that had more sex were more likely to have positive associations with their partners.

A second longitudinal study following 112 newlyweds showed that the same connection held up over time. “Our findings suggest that we’re capturing different types of evaluations when we measure explicit and automatic evaluations of a partner or relationship,” said Hicks. “Deep down, some people feel unhappy with their partner but they don’t readily admit it to us, or perhaps even themselves.”

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have more sex and expect greater happiness in your relationship. That’s because it’s possible that participants with more positive automatic feelings toward their partners are just motivated to have more sex in the first place. But, well, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

3 Scientific Reasons We Are Psychologically Programmed To Cheat On Our Partners

There are many romantic things about monogamy. Having one person who knows you inside and out for the rest of your life is a beautiful thought. And relying on only one person makes life a lot simpler.

But how natural is monogamy?

There are many romantic things about monogamy. Having one person who knows you inside and out for the rest of your life is a beautiful thought. And relying on only one person makes life a lot simpler.

But how natural is monogamy?

Well, according to science: it’s not — and these three reasons are to blame.

1. Men And Women Lose Interest In Sex Over Time.

For ladies, the lovin’ usually goes out the door. You may try to spice things up with lingerie or toys but science shows women aren’t designed for long-term desire. Research has found that women tend to go from having passionate love to compassionate love over time, meaning the relationship turns into more of a platonic friendship.

Psychology Today found that men’s sex drives suffer in monogamous relationships. One reason being that conflict in the relationship tends to hinder sex. However, when a man finds a new partner, sexual excitement returns.

2. Monogamy Kills Women’s Best Years Of Sex.

You’ve probably heard before but men’s sex drive is in its prime in their 20s whereas women hit it in their 30s and 40s. Furthermore, science has found that women who are in relationships throughout these prime years report low sexual desire when in reality, these are the years they should be having the best sex of their lives!

3. We Naturally Want To Cheat.

According to the National Science Foundation, only three to five percent of mammals are monogamous. Studies have found that sexual monogamy also relies on hormones and receptors that the brain releases. Humans’ receptors vary from person-to-person resulting in some people leaning more towards polyamory than others. So if your partner has cheated, he might just not be cut out for monogamy. But don’t worry — he probably still loves you.

Dogs Tap Into Human Bonding System to get Close to our Hearts

Ever felt hopelessly bonded to your pooch when it stares at you lovingly? It turns out that man’s best friend may have hijacked a uniquely human bonding mechanism, ensuring that we love and care for it.

Knock-on chemical and behavioral effects occur when humans bond: eye contact leads to release of the “love hormone” oxytocin, which elicits caring behavior, and this in turn causes the release of more oxytocin. This loop has been shown to be important for human bonding, for example between mothers and their children.

Oxytocin bonding occurs in other mammals, too, but humans were thought to be unique in using eye contact as part of this cycle. “Facing others is a threatening behavior in other animals,” says Miho Nagasawa at Azabu University in Japan.

But when she and her colleagues got a bunch of dog owners to gaze into their pets’ eyes, they found that oxytocin levels rose not just in the humans – but in the pooches too.

In contrast, when Nagasawa’s team tested hand-reared wolves, they found no such effect, and wolves spent little time gazing into their owners’ eyes.

They then sprayed either oxytocin or a placebo into 27 dogs’ noses, in a randomized experiment. Female dogs that received the hormone spent more time staring longingly at their owners, and oxytocin levels also rose in those people.

This means that the tendency to gaze into eyes must have evolved during the domestication of dogs, says Nagasawa. She adds that it’s the first demonstrated case of convergent evolution in cognitive traits between a human and another species.

The only hitch was that although both male and female dogs – and their owners – received an oxytocin boost from eye contact, male dogs didn’t spend more time looking at their owners’ eyes when they were sprayed with the hormone.

Nagasawa suggests that this could be because among males oxytocin is known to increase hostility towards members of other groups, so the sprays might have made the male dogs more vigilant about strangers in the room during the experiment.

Pat Shipman at Penn State University in University Park has argued that the co-evolution of dogs and humans – possibly starting as long as 36,000 years ago – gave humans the edge over Neanderthals.

“I had predicted that both domestic dogs and humans would show adaptations to enhanced non-verbal communication, but I had not thought of the oxytocin link,” she says. “As the first species to be domesticated, dogs have a very ancient and very profound link to humans that affected both of us.”

But not everyone is convinced this shows that dogs evolved to hijack our bonding mechanism through staring into our eyes.

Jessica Oliva at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, agrees that oxytocin was key to the evolution of dogs from wolves, allowing them to bond with humans. But she thinks that the eye-gazing behavior could be learned rather than having evolved over time. “It could be a conditioning thing,” she suggests.

Clive Wynne of Arizona State University in Tempe agrees. He says that wolves he works with do make eye contact if they’ve been brought up in close contact with people. “I’m questioning the attempt to interpret these results as an evolutionary process,” says Wynne.

Nagasawa agrees that wolves and other animals can learn to make eye contact, but says it comes easier to dogs. And to her, that suggests the behaviour has evolved.

She says this might just be the tip of the iceberg, too. Next, she wants to study whether dogs feel empathy with humans. “Most dog owners say when they feel sad, their dogs feel sad too. And when the owners feel happy, maybe the dogs feel happy too. So maybe the dogs are very sensitive to the owners’ feelings,” she says.

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Signs That You’re Actually in a Relationship With Coffee

1. Your idea of a perfect date is just you, a cup of coffee (with a full pot on standby), and a good book.

2. It’s the first thing you think about every morning. The only thing that convinces you to get out of bed is the beautiful coffee aroma that wafts into your room every morning. You would take that smell over sweet nothings whispered in your ear any day of the week.

3. You think it’s beautiful at all hours of the day, no matter what it looks like. Hot, iced, latte, black, any form it chooses to take, you love it just as it is.

4. If you ever had to choose between the boyfriend/girlfriend and coffee, you would choose the coffee. A life without coffee is no life at all.

5. You spend all of your extra money on it. Oh my gosh, this mug would look great around my Morning Joe. I should really upgrade my grinder to make sure my coffee is getting the absolute best treatment…

6. You can’t imagine a future without it. It’s always been there for you; it will always be there for you. Your life will always include coffee. Always.

7. It’s constantly on your mind. Constantly. Where’s the closest coffee shop? Do I have time to go grab a cup? What kind should I get? Oh god, I miss it…

8. You only want to go places if you know coffee will be there. Every event invitation you get is immediately followed by the question, “But will they be serving coffee as well?”

9. It’s always your first priority. If you’ve got a to-do list that includes: grab a cup of coffee, pick Mom up from the airport, and save a cat from a tree, you’re grabbing that cup of coffee first.

10. You ache when you’re apart for too long…. Ok, so this might just be a sign of addiction withdrawal. But really, when you’re crazy about someone, don’t you kind of feel addicted to their presence? I’m counting it. It’s not a problem.

11. Ninety-percent of your Instagram includes pictures of you with your coffee.

12. You feel more comfortable when it’s around. There’s just something about walking around with a mug full of coffee that just puts you at ease. You can talk with people without having to worry about what you’re doing with your hands; it’s great!

13. It’s one of the few things that’s guaranteed to cheer you up on a bad day. It gives you that welcome kick to get through every other obstacle in your day, and no matter how poorly the day’s been going, it’s impossible for you to feel sad when you’re sipping on pure happiness.

14. When you clicked on this article, you took a moment to gaze at the coffee picture, and thought, God damn, that’s beautiful. I should go get some coffee.

Apple, Facebook, Other Tech Companies Back Gay Marriage

Some of the biggest tech companies in the world want to convince the Supreme Court that gay marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are a few of the 379 companies that added their names to an amicus brief that says they are “distinctly disadvantaged when looking to hire qualified, talented personnel in the states that do not allow same-sex couples to marry, or in asking current personnel to relocate to such states.” The brief argues that people in gay marriages could avoid jobs in states where their previously recognized benefits might be denied. Such an environment, the companies wrote, could also leave employees feeling “isolated and fearful.” The brief was filed on Thursday by law firm Morgan Lewis. “Employees with partners of the same sex should be permitted to marry if they so choose, and then should be treated identically to their married heterosexual counterparts,” the companies said. “State laws that require otherwise impose a significant burden on us and harm our ability to attract and retain the best employees.” The Supreme Court is expected to rule in June whether states can ban gay marriage.

The Scientific Reasons You Should Definitely Date Someone With Tattoos

Tattoos have long been associated with the rebellious and the reckless, the irresponsible and the unprofessional. But today, tattoos aren’t the bold symbol or social statement they were a few decades ago. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 4 in 10 millennials have a tattoo. Of those who do, about 50% have two or more.

Tattoos are officially the new normal. That might be because getting inked does not signify living an unconventional lifestyle or having fringe values. In fact, tattoos indicate many wonderful qualities about a person, particularly in the context of relationships.

Here are some reasons, according to science, that people with tattoos may actually be the greatest to date.

1. Since tattoos are so visible to the outside world (especially in the summer), they serve as compelling conversation starters. In fact, a 2013 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that placed non-inked and tattooed women on a beach found that men were much more likely to approach women sporting tattoos. In the study, it took the men an average of 11 minutes less to approach the inked women. The study also concluded, “Men estimated to have more chances to have a date and to have sex on the first date with tattooed” participants.

Not only do people make assumptions that those with tattoos might be more willing to talk to a stranger, but tattoos are a conversation piece for that opening line — “Where’d you get that?” or “Nice tattoo. What’s it mean?”

“If a girl is attracted to me, it’s definitely a great topic,” Mark Fuentes, a Massachusetts-based tattoo artist.

2. While getting tattoos isn’t necessarily compulsive or irresponsible, studies have shown that people who get inked are more prone to risk-taking. While some risky behaviors are less desirable than others, an adventurous person can bring all sorts of benefits to a relationship.

“I have nine tattoos so far and I have dated two women with tattoos. I do find women, and a handful of men, with tattoos attractive. There’s something kind of cool and wild about them that I guess I don’t see in myself,” explains Ryan, 26, to Mic.

And that “wildness” and openness to new experiences means they’re more likely to find unexpected opportunities in relationships.

3. “I think it shows a certain bravery, and overall badassness,” Fuentes says of when he first sees somebody with a tattoo. Indeed, a tattoo might mark someone as brave and confident. And confidence pays off in relationships — a person with more confidence feels less insecure and more trusting.

A 2011 study discovered that tattooed men and women reported high self-esteem, low appearance anxiety and high body appreciation in three weeks after getting their tattoos.

As Fuentes put it to Mic, “Do tattoos have the power to effect the perception of every single person you meet or even just sees you? Yeah.”

A small survey conducted by therapist John D. Moore found that 85% of the women surveyed viewed men with tattoos as more fun, and 68% associated them with confidence. In fact, OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder analyzed what makes people appear attractive on the dating site and found that women garner interest by playing up what makes them unique. Tattooed women “show off what makes them different, and who cares if some people don’t like it. And they get lots of attention from men,” he concludes.

This level of confidence and self-awareness might translate to a more liberal attitude towards sex. A 2012 study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people with tattoos usually have their first sexual encounter at an earlier age and had sex more frequently than their non-tatted counterparts. While the study confirmed that tattoos weren’t associated with risky sexual behaviors, the study suggests tattooed people are open sexually and might sooner act on those desires.

4. Tattoos inevitably send all sorts of messages out to the world. Whereas historically tattoos were used to mark ourselves as part of a tribe or community, their messages are now more personal. Professor Nicholas Thomas, Director of the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, told CNN that “body art is becoming the opposite of conformity, a sort of badge of travel, or internationalism. People visit places and make them parts of themselves, so that they will forever bear marks of their unique visit.”

He added, “Our identities are far more particular, linked to our interests, affinities to cultural or spiritual traditions, tastes in music, and subcultural allegiances. The tattoo has become a vehicle for that sort of particular identification.”

Using a visible mode of expression contributes to the perception of tattooed people as being more open and unguarded. For some, a tattoo can indicate a generosity of spirit. “A tattoo allows me to permanently express myself and hold a moment forever. My tattoos are a bouquet of memories that I’ve shared with people I love, people I used to love, and most importantly, memories with myself,” said Kristin Collins Jackson on Bustle.

Ryan sees tattooed people as ready to share more stories and share their own “cultural beliefs.” And science has shown that self-disclosure and free expression are the cornerstones of intimacy.

Since tattoos are almost always symbolic of something else, they can also indicate depth. “Personally, I always have a sense of ‘there’s more to this person than I think’ when I see a tattoo. Tattoos are commitments. In a way, it’s a commitment to standing for something for the rest of your life,” explains Susan, 26, who tends to date tattooed guys.

And who isn’t looking for more signs of commitment when dating?