Try These ‘Love Hacks’ to Fix Your Marriage

Mar 03 2018


Pawel Mildner

After studying thousands of couples, the psychologist Eli Finkel has an explanation for the decline in people’s satisfaction with their marriages over the past four decades: It’s a matter of emotional supply and demand.

Many people are looking to their partners to replace the companionship and emotional support once provided by extended families and local institutions like churches, bowling leagues, bridge groups, fraternal lodges and garden clubs. Meanwhile, though, many couples are so busy with their jobs and parenting that they’re actually spending less time together by themselves.

What to do? Unless you’re willing to reduce your demands, the only solution is to increase the supply. You can devote a lot more effort to satisfying your partner, and Dr. Finkel tells you how to do that in his new book, “The All-or-Nothing Marriage.”

But if that sounds like too much work, he also offers a few shortcuts that he calls “love hacks.” If your schedule doesn’t allow a weekly date night, if you don’t want to take long walks on the beach or go on joint self-actualization vacations, you can use some quick fixes that have been tested successfully in Dr. Finkel’s relationships laboratory at Northwestern and elsewhere.

A love hack, as Dr. Finkel defines it, is a proven technique that takes little time or effort and doesn’t even require cooperation from your partner. “It’s a quick-and-dirty option that can take just a few minutes a month,” he says. “It’s not going to give you a great marriage, but it can certainly improve things. After all, simply allowing the relationship to slip off the priority list will probably yield stagnation, or worse.”

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He offers a variety of love hacks because he doesn’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions for relationships. He suggests picking whichever hack appeals and starting right away.

Touch Your Partner

Holding hands can win you points even when you don’t mean it, as demonstrated in an experiment with couples who watched a video together. Some people were instructed not to touch their partners during the video, while others were told to touch in a “warm, comfortable and positive way.”

Afterward, the people who had been touched reported being more confident of being loved by their partner — and this effect occurred even when the people knew that their partners’ actions were being directed by the researchers. Their rational selves knew that the hand-holding wasn’t a spontaneous gesture of affection, but it made them feel better anyway.

Don’t Jump to Bad Conclusions

If your partner does something wrong, like not returning a phone call, don’t over-interpret it. Researchers have found that one of the biggest differences between happy and unhappy couples is their “attributional style” in explaining a partner’s offense.

The unhappy couples tend to automatically attribute something like an unreturned phone call to a permanent inner flaw in the partner (“He’s too selfish to care about me”) rather than a temporary external situation, like an unusually busy day at work. When something goes wrong, before drawing any conclusions about your partner, take a few seconds to consider an alternative explanation that puts the blame elsewhere.

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Picture a Fight From the Outside

In an experiment with 120 married couples in Chicago, Dr. Finkel periodically asked questions about their marriages over the course of two years. During the first year, their satisfaction with their marriages declined, which unfortunately is typical.

At the start of the second year, some of the couples were instructed to try something new when they found themselves in an argument: “Think about this disagreement with your partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved; a person who see things from a neutral point of view. How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?”

Again, that little exercise made a big difference. Over the next year, marital satisfaction remained stable in those couples, whereas it continued to decline in the control group that hadn’t been instructed to take the third-party perspective.

Make a Gratitude List

Once a week, write down a few things your partner has done to “invest in the relationship,” as the participants in one experiment were instructed to do. Other participants were instructed to list things they had done themselves to invest in the relationship. The ones who patted themselves on the back subsequently felt a little more committed to the relationship, but the ones who wrote about their partners’ contributions felt significantly more committed — and also, not surprisingly, a lot more grateful toward their partners.

Accept a Compliment

One of the most common factors in failed marriages is the “rejection sensitivity” of one partner. People with low self-esteem have a hard time believing their partner really loves them, so they often preemptively discount their partner’s affection in order to avoid being hurt by the expected rejection. Eventually, even when they start off with a loving partner, their worst fear comes true because their defensive behavior ends up driving the other person away.

In testing ways to counteract this anxiety, researchers asked insecure people to recall a specific compliment from their partner. Giving a detailed account of the situation and the compliment didn’t have any effect, apparently because these insecure people could dismiss it as a lucky aberration: “For once I did something right.”

But there was a notable effect when people were asked to think about the compliment abstractly: “Explain why your partner admired you. Describe what it meant to you and its significance for your relationship.” That quick exercise helped them see why their partner could really care for them.

Celebrate Small Victories

When your partner tells you about something that went right in his or her day, get excited about it. Ask questions so your partner can tell you more about the event and relive it. Put some enthusiasm into your voice and your reactions. Researchers call this a “capitalization attempt.”

When researchers studied couples who were trained to use these techniques in their evening discussions, it turned out that each partner took more pleasure from their own victories, and both partners ended up feeling closer to each other. By sharing the joy, everyone came out ahead — and in true love-hack fashion, it didn’t take much time at all.

A version of this article appears in print on September 26, 2017, on Page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Easy Ways to Mend Your Marriage. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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from The New York Times

Link Between Hallucinations and Dopamine Not Such a Mystery, Finds Study

Mar 03 2018

Columbia University researchers explain the connection between auditory hallucinations and dopamine levels in the body

Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) found that people with schizophrenia who experience auditory hallucinations tend to hear what they expect, an exaggerated version of a perceptual distortion that is common among other people without hallucinations. Those with hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms are known to have elevated dopamine, the main area of focus for available treatments for psychosis, but it was unclear how this could lead to hallucinations. The researchers found that elevated dopamine could make some patients rely more on expectations, which could then result in hallucinations.

Guillermo Horga MD PhD © CU

The findings, published recently in Current Biology (link is external and opens in a new window), explain why treatments targeting the production of dopamine could help alleviate this condition.

“Our brain uses prior experiences to generate sensory expectations that help fill in the gaps when sounds or images are distorted or unclear,” said Guillermo Horga, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at CUIMC and a research psychiatrist at NYSPI. “In individuals with schizophrenia, this process appears to be altered, leading to extreme perceptual distortions, such as hearing voices that are not there. Furthermore, while such hallucinations are often successfully treated by antipsychotic drugs that block the neurotransmitter dopamine in a brain structure known as the striatum, the reason for this has been a mystery since this neurotransmitter and brain region are not typically associated with sensory processing.”

The researchers designed an experiment that induces an auditory illusion in both healthy participants and participants with schizophrenia. They examined how building up or breaking down sensory expectations can modify the strength of this illusion. They also measured dopamine release before and after administering a drug that stimulates the release of dopamine.

Patients with hallucinations tended to perceive sounds in a way that was more similar to what they had been cued to expect, even when sensory expectations were less reliable and illusions weakened in healthy participants. This tendency to inflexibly hear what was expected was worsened after giving a dopamine-releasing drug, and more pronounced in participants with elevated dopamine release, and more apparent in participants with a smaller dorsal anterior cingulate (a brain region previously shown to track reliability of environmental cues).

“All people have some perceptual distortions, but these results suggest that excess dopamine can exacerbate our distorted perceptions,” said Dr. Horga. “Novel therapies should aim to improve the processing of contextual information by targeting the dopamine system or downstream pathways associated with modulation of perceptual processing, which likely include the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex.”

The study is titled “A perceptual inference mechanism for hallucinations linked to striatal dopamine.”

Source: CU

Related: Guide to the Brain Part 8

from The Neuropsychotherapist – The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy

Ep 300: The Psychology of Jazz Piano Improvisation

Mar 03 2018 wonder how the fingers of really experienced pianists who are improvising seem to fly across the keyboard? How do they know where their fingers are going? How can they think that fast? In this…

Show notes and more available at

from Psychology in Everyday Life: The Psych Files

Mind-reading algorithm uses EEG data to reconstruct images based on what we perceive

Mar 03 2018

A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough can, for the first time, reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity gathered by EEG.

The technique developed by Dan Nemrodov, a postdoctoral fellow in Assistant Professor Adrian Nestor’s lab at U of T Scarborough, is able to digitally reconstruct images seen by test subjects based on electroencephalography (EEG) data.

“When we see something, our brain creates a mental percept, which is essentially a mental impression of that thing. We were able to capture this percept using EEG to get a direct illustration of what’s happening in the brain during this process,” says Nemrodov.

For the study, test subjects hooked up to EEG equipment were shown images of faces. Their brain activity was recorded and then used to digitally recreate the image in the subject’s mind using a technique based on machine learning algorithms.

It’s not the first time researchers have been able to reconstruct images based on visual stimuli using neuroimaging techniques. The current method was pioneered by Nestor who successfully reconstructed facial images from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in the past, but this is the first time EEG has been used.

And while techniques like fMRI — which measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow — can grab finer details of what’s going on in specific areas of the brain, EEG has greater practical potential given that it’s more common, portable, and inexpensive by comparison. EEG also has greater temporal resolution, meaning it can measure with detail how a percept develops in time right down to milliseconds, explains Nemrodov.

“fMRI captures activity at the time scale of seconds, but EEG captures activity at the millisecond scale. So we can see with very fine detail how the percept of a face develops in our brain using EEG,” he says. In fact, the researchers were able to estimate that it takes our brain about 170 milliseconds (0.17 seconds) to form a good representation of a face we see.

This study provides validation that EEG has potential for this type of image reconstruction notes Nemrodov, something many researchers doubted was possible given its apparent limitations. Using EEG data for image reconstruction has great theoretical and practical potential from a neurotechnological standpoint, especially since it’s relatively inexpensive and portable.

In terms of next steps, work is currently underway in Nestor’s lab to test how image reconstruction based on EEG data could be done using memory and applied to a wider range of objects beyond faces. But it could eventually have wide-ranging clinical applications as well.

“It could provide a means of communication for people who are unable to verbally communicate. Not only could it produce a neural-based reconstruction of what a person is perceiving, but also of what they remember and imagine, of what they want to express,” says Nestor.

“It could also have forensic uses for law enforcement in gathering eyewitness information on potential suspects rather than relying on verbal descriptions provided to a sketch artist.”

The research, which will be published in the journal eNeuro, was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and by a Connaught New Researcher Award.

“What’s really exciting is that we’re not reconstructing squares and triangles but actual images of a person’s face, and that involves a lot of fine-grained visual detail,” adds Nestor.

“The fact we can reconstruct what someone experiences visually based on their brain activity opens up a lot of possibilities. It unveils the subjective content of our mind and it provides a way to access, explore and share the content of our perception, memory and imagination.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

from ScienceDaily: Mind & Brain News

The public role of psychoanalysts in the Trump era: ‘We live in ominous times’

Mar 03 2018

Click Here to Read: The public role of psychoanalysts in the Trump era: ‘We live in ominous times’ by Michael Walsh Reporter on Yahoo News Finance website on February 21, 2018.

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from International Psychoanalysis

Relighting the Sexual Fire – Psychology Today (blog)

Feb 24 2018

Adam and Eve (1931) by Francis Picabia

Source: Anu Art Collection/Flickr

Many couples fail to maintain sexual desire in their long-term relationships. Two people who once could not keep their hands off each other gradually lose interest in having sex, at least with their current partner. What distinguishes couples who experience passionate long-term relationships from those who fail to sustain the passion? Are there effective strategies to prevent against the waning of sexual desire in long-term relationships?

A study1 published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seeks to answer those questions. Researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, the University of Rochester, and Cornell Tech collaborated on three studies to observe couples’ expressions of responsiveness and sexual desire. People often say that they have sex because they wish to feel understood and cared for and that a partner who is responsive to their needs would arouse their sexual interest. However, previous research has not provided conclusive evidence for whether an increased sense of intimacy actually promotes (or undermines) sexual desire. In this context, intimacy consists of feelings of understanding, closeness, and connectedness and involves mutual expression of affection, warmth, and caring.2

Indeed, some scholars have noted the intimacy-desire paradox, which indicates that high levels of intimacy may inhibit rather than increase sexual desire. These scholars have argued that the core of this paradox lies in the contradiction between the intimate and familiar relationships that many people strive for and the limitations of such familiar bonds for enhancing desire. In particular, the need for security that intimacy typically provides may clash with the sense of uncertainty, novelty, and separateness that fuels desire, such that high levels of intimacy between partners may stifle sexual desire.

The findings of this new research show that a partner’s responsiveness outside the bedroom does, in fact, contribute to the desire to have sex with this partner, and help explain why women’s desire is more strongly affected by their partner’s responsiveness than men’s desire. 

In Study 1, 153 participants were led to believe that they would interact online with their partner. In reality, they discussed a recent personally meaningful life event with a confederate who sent either responsive or unresponsive standardized messages.

Here is an example:

Participant: “I was hanging out with my friends, when my mom called me. She told me in a broken voice that her sister, my aunt, had a nervous breakdown. I knew that she had been going through a rough period after her husband had left her, but I was still upset to hear that.”

Confederate: “That must have been a very painful experience” (a responsive response) or, “That’s definitely not easy, but such things happen in life” (an unresponsive response)

Participant: “I thought of my mom: How she would cope with this. Then I thought how my grandpa would cope with this. He would definitely blame my aunt’s ex-husband. I was worried about her and uncertain about whether the two families would survive this.”

Confederate: “I completely understand what you have been through” (a responsive response) or, “You should try to take it all in proportion” (an unresponsive response)

Participant: “Since then, the relations between the two families deteriorated, contact nearly ceased. I guess anything can happen even to the most tightly-knit families following such events.”

Confederate: “It seems this event has had a powerful effect on you” (a responsive response) or, “Well, it is a sad story, but worse things could have happened” (an unresponsive response)

The findings showed that women experienced greater sexual desire while interacting with a responsive partner than while interacting with an unresponsive partner, whereas men’s desire was not significantly different in the two responsiveness conditions. 

In Study 2, 178 participants discussed a personal event face-to-face with their partner. Then, partners were invited to express physical intimacy (e.g., caressing, kissing, and making out) with each other. These interactions were videotaped and coded by independent judges for displays of responsiveness (e.g., listening and getting the facts right, making the partner feel respected, communicating feelings of affection for one’s partner) and desire (e.g., flirting, flashing seductive smiles, exchanging penetrating gaze). The results revealed that partner’s enacted responsiveness was associated not only with self-reported desire, but also with observed displays of desire, but once again mainly in women.  Nevertheless, perceived partner responsiveness was associated with self-reported and displayed desire in both sexes. 

In Study 3, 100 couples kept a diary for six weeks: Partners reported on their own level of sexual desire each day as well as their perceptions of their partner’s responsiveness (e.g., “Today my partner has expressed liking and encouragement for me”; “Today my partner seemed interested in what I was thinking and feeling”). Partners also reported their own levels of feeling special (e.g., “My partner has made me feel special”; “My partner has made me feel that our relationship is special and unique”) and perceptions of their partner’s mate value (e.g., “My partner would be perceived as an extremely desirable mate by other people”; “If my partner were single, he would have been romantically pursued by opposite-sex individuals”). The results indicate that for both men and women, perceiving a partner as responsive makes one feel special and the partner seem to be a valuable mate and thus sexually desirable. 

Responsiveness signals to partners that one genuinely understands, values, and supports important aspects of their self-concept and is willing to invest resources in the relationship. Unlike less-intimate expressions that signal general intentions to “act nice,” a partner’s provision of responsiveness indicates specific awareness of who one is at a relatively deep level, and what one truly wants. Recognizing this specific awareness in a partner makes the relationship feel special, which is, at least in Western life, what people seek from their romantic relationships.

Still, partner responsiveness had a significantly stronger effect on women’s perceptions of both themselves and their partners, suggesting that women experienced higher levels of desire for their responsive partner because they were more likely than men to feel special and value this partner as a result of the partner’s responsiveness.

Overall, the findings elucidate the intimacy-desire paradox, suggesting that, under certain circumstances, it may not be a paradox: What determines whether intimacy instigates or inhibits desire is not the mere existence of intimacy, but its meaning in the larger context of a relationship. Responsiveness is most likely to instigate desire when it conveys the impression that the partner is worth pursuing and when engaging in sex with such a desirable partner is likely to promote an already valuable relationship.

This post originally appeared on

from psychology – Google News

The Green Ribbon campaign is encouraging people to talk about mental health at work – Metro

Feb 24 2018

(Picture: The Lord Mayor’s Appeal)

Even when you’re taking steps to work on your mental health, ‘coming clean’ about what’s going on can feel tricky in the workplace.

There’s the very real fear of judgement. Worries that you’ll be seen as less capable.

The first woman to enter the Boston Marathon is running it again today – 50 years later

Concerns like these are common, but dangerous. Because if there’s one place we need to be talking about mental health and the impact high-stress careers can have, it’s the workplace.

The Green Ribbon Campaign aims to take down the silence.

The campaign, created by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal charity, encouraged people to wear green ribbons to work, to encourage a work culture where people can freely discuss mental health.

(Picture: The Lord Mayor’s Appeal)

Each green ribbon comes branded with the words: ‘Together we can #endthestigma’ – message in partnership with the This is Me initiative (which is working to end the stigma around mental health in high-powered careers).

To get involved, bosses and managers are being asked to order batches of green ribbons for their offices, which workers can then wear throughout Mental Health Awareness Week (that’s 8 May to 14 May) to show anyone struggling alone that it’s okay to open up.

‘Imagine everywhere you go during Mental Health Awareness Week you see thousands of people showing they want to help #endthestigma of mental health by wearing a green ribbon,’ explains the website.

(Picture: The Lord Mayor’s Appeal)

‘We are asking organisations to invite their employees to wear a green ribbon as a visible sign of support and to help destigmatise mental health by: Creating a visible movement of support for ending the stigma, showing those struggling that there is support and they are not alone, demonstrating the level of support for this issue in your organisation, [and] encouraging people to share their story and to create an inclusive cultures workplace.’

Along with a box of ribbons, workplaces that get involved will also receive resources for starting conversations around mental health.

So the campaign is more than just sticking a ribbon on your lapel and being done with it.

If you fancy getting involved, get your boss to order a box of green ribbons (batches of 50 cost 35p per ribbon) before 24 April.

MORE: How long will I have to wait until I get therapy?

MORE: Does it matter what time you take antidepressants?

MORE: I’m sorry for all the times my depression and anxiety made me a bit of a rubbish friend

from mental health – Google News

Britain needs a strategy for mental health care –

Feb 24 2018

Britain needs a strategy for mental health care
In his podcast interview with this newspaper, Prince Harry spoke of meeting men and women still suffering mental scars from the battlefield – and the Telegraph has done its best to publicise the failures in their care. Earlier this month, an extra £9
Prince William joins Prince Harry and opens up about mental healthMetro
Prince William: suicide callout shed light on men’s mental healthThe Guardian
Why Prince Harry’s mental health message to men is so important, according to expertsThe Independent
Daily Mail –The Sun –iNews –
all 320 news articles »

from mental health – Google News

Poppy Jaman: ‘I think there’s a wave of change coming in mental health’ – The Guardian

Feb 24 2018

Poppy Jaman, chief executive of the not-for-profit Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE), believes Theresa May meant business when she pledged in January to make mental health a priority. Despite ministers being accused of breaking their promises after £800m in cash earmarked for mental health was last month redirected to offsetting wider NHS budget problems, Jaman argues that the government will come good.

“I think this government has already set a precedent for change, with two consecutive prime ministers making commitments to improve the outlook for those with mental health issues and attending to the prevention agenda,” says Jaman, referring to NHS England’s Mental Health Taskforce national strategy published in 2016. “I think it’s massively a great step that the current PM has made a public commitment to mental health.”

MHFAE runs training courses in how to identify the warning signs of mental ill health in others and help steer them towards appropriate support. Jaman has headed the social enterprise for almost 10 years, since it evolved from a government initiative within the Department of Health. She says she’s “feeling confident” the Conservatives recognise the significant toll mental health problems can take on individuals and wider society. By way of illustration she points to the imminent roll-out for secondary school staff of a government-funded schools training course delivered by MHFAE to address mental health issues among young people. The goal is to have “mental health first aiders” in place who can help to identify pupils with mental health challenges, ideally before they reach a crisis point. The programme aims to train staff in more than 1,000 schools by 2020.

Evidence over the past decade from MHFAE’s training to more than 150,000 individuals – such as NHS staff, charity workers and employees at large corporations including Unilever and WH Smith – shows it can contribute to the broader “public health prevention” and wellbeing agenda, says Jaman, by “giving people the tools” to recognise signs of mental difficulty.

The mental heath first aid approach is ostensibly an adjunct to standard first aid and Jaman has been campaigning to put the two on a par. This includes supporting a push to amend regulations around first aid within the Health and Work Act, so that all organisations are required to have mental health first aiders in place, and an obligation to deliver mental as well as physical first aid. An early day motion last year calling for such a transformation was backed by about 500 MPs, including Norman Lamb and Frank Field. Implementing it would be “a big leap for equality” and parity of esteem between mental and physical health, Jaman argues.

“I truly believe that making this legislative change would have a big positive impact because it would shift the dial on how employers have to think about the mental and physical health needs of their workforce.”

A third-generation British Bangladeshi, Jaman, 40, says her early grassroots professional work, coupled with having experience of depression as a young woman, helped her to develop an understanding of the challenges facing people with mental health problems, especially among diverse groups. And having grown up in a deprived ward in Portsmouth and left school at 16 (she later got an MBA), she says she is cognisant of how poverty and racial inequalities affect mental wellbeing and access to care. “There is a plethora of data on health outcomes, job outcomes and opportunities for the black and minority ethnic community and when you overlay that with the prevalence of mental ill health and outcomes, the odds are stacked against them.”

Prince William and Lady Gaga discuss mental health for Heads Together – video

So it’s no surprise that Jaman does not underestimate the significant impact of current government policies such as sanctions and fitness-for-work tests for people living with mental health problems. One area in which she is anxious to see improvements is help for people who are unemployed, many of whom have a mental health diagnosis.

She refers to a recent public call by an alliance of mental health professional organisations including the British Psychological Society for a suspension of the government’s sanctions programme because of its negative impact on mental wellbeing and for statutory support for creating psychologically healthy workplaces.

The same group also recommended increased mental health awareness training for jobcentre staff, which Jaman agrees is necessary. “It [the jobcentre] service needs people who understand mental health so that people are getting the right support,” she says. Asked how this is conceivable in a jobseekers system that advocates have repeatedly argued is hostile to mentally vulnerable people, she responds that change needs to come from “the leadership” at the Department for Work and Pensions. “I think there is a wave of change coming around this,” she insists.

When it comes to nudging the government in the right direction, Jaman is clearly a pragmatist. It is important to challenge government policies “where we don’t think things are right”, she argues, but ultimately, “for me it’s about ‘let’s work with whoever we need to work with’.”

from mental health – Google News

Narcissism and social networking

Feb 24 2018

Social networks are an ideal stage for narcissists to showcase themselves. Accordingly, a lot of people with narcissistic traits are drawn to these platforms as a new study conducted by psychologists.

from ScienceDaily: Mind & Brain News