This course will review scientific research findings on many issues relating to romantic relationships. Relationships are often depicted in television, movies, novels, and songs, and as a result we are inundated with stereoptypes and attitudes regarding love and marriage. During the course of the semester, we will compare research with our own expectations of relationships as perpetuated by the media and other sources. We will explore such topics as communication, conflict, love, and stresses and strains in relationships which will allow us to better understand the ingredients of happy relationships versus unhappy ones.
By the end of the semester you should be able to:
Recall research findings on a wide range of issues regarding romantic relationships
Compare and critique opinions and advice given in the popular press (i.e. self-help books) to empirical findings discussed in class
Apply some of the information learned to your own relationships
We want this to be a fun, enjoyable class with brief assignments that do not create much stress or anxiety. Therefore, attendance and participation are a big part of our assessment of your performance in this class. Two absences without penalty are allowed, but beyond that you must come and talk to us beforehand if you need to miss class or you will risk failing.
You are required to write 7 reaction papers to pass this course. These are to be written in response to the class material (readings, discussions, lectures) presented on a given day, and are due the week after that day. These papers should be 1-2 pages long, double spaced, and should address your reactions to the class material. You might want to discuss how you’ve learned something that you did not know before, or apply what you learned to your observations of your friends’ relationships, or your own experiences. You might also want to compare class material to a relationship in a movie or on a television show. These are fairly open ended, and must simply demonstrate that you have understood and are thinking about what we discuss in class.
Each student will be responsible for guiding the class through the assigned reading for a particular day. This is not a formal presentation, but requires that you come prepared to discuss the material and direct the rest of the group through its main points and questions. On the day you present, please come to class with a brief outline of the article and two or three questions designed to generate discussion in class. The readings are posted on the course website.
For your final paper you will be required to find a self-help book of your choice that gives specific advice on how to behave in a romantic relationship. You will write a 3-5 page paper, double spaced, on whether you agree or disagree with this advice. You must use research discussed in class to support your argument.
COURSE SCHEDULE: January 17th – Introduction
What are our expectations for love and marriage?
How is our expectation for marriage different from other cultures and periods in history?
What are the benefits of marriage and committed relationships?
What are the outcomes of marital discord?
Scheinkman, M. (2005). Beyond the trauma of betrayal: Reconsidering affairs in couples
therapy. Family Process, 44, 227-244.
Film clip:Pretty Woman January 24th – Attraction
What do we consider physically attractive and why?
Why are certain types of people attracted to one another?
What are other reasons for attraction besides personality and physical appearance?
Bressler, E.R., & Balshine, S. (2005). The influence of humor on
desirability. Evolution and Human Behavior (in press).
Schmitt, D.P., & Shackelford, T.K. (2003). Nifty ways to leave your lover: The
tactics people use to entice and disguise process of human mate poaching.
functioning: Comparison of spouses with continuous-secure, earned-secure, dismissing, and preoccupied attachment stances. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 580-597.
Film clip: Ainsworth’s Strange Situation
February 28th – Interdependency
How are relationships like economies? What is exchanged?
What determines if we’ll stay in our current relationships?
Why do some relationships fall apart quickly?
How can we remain satisfied in our relationships?
Drigotas, S.M., Safstrom, C.A., & Gentilia, T. (1999). An investment model prediction of dating infidelity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 509-524
Film clip: The 5th Element March 7th – Sexuality
Why do people have sex? Why don’t they?
What is “sociosexuality” and how does it relate to infidelity?
What determines sexual satisfaction?
How do we communicate desire?
Baumeister, R.F., & Vohs, K.D. (2004). Sexual economics: Sex as a female resource for social exchange in heterosexual interactions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, 339-363.