Study Reveals What Humans Need More Of For More Succesful Relationships

By Travis Greenwood

Because science and relationship goals: Couples that share cute animal pics together, stay together.

That's the surprising takeaway from a new study published this month in Psychological Science, an academic journal.

According to researchers at Florida State University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Minnesota, partners reported stronger feelings of affection for their S.O. ~after~ looking at images of them intermixed with unrelated snaps of flopping bunnies, tropical sunsets, and other #blessed, feel-good Instagram fluff.

guinea pig in glasses reading a book
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As the smart kids at the A.V. Club note, the project was anchored around something social psychologists have dubbed evaluative conditioning, "which tracks the changes in how much you like or dislike something after a positive or negative stimulus has been added to the mix."

Akin to mixing alcohol with something sweet and sugary to make it more palatable, this push-pull dynamic is one we experience all the time in our everyday lives.

Did your boss soften his email calling for an all-hands meeting late on Friday afternoon (ugh, again) with a series of smiley face and sunshine emojis? Then you already know the feeling. :)

Baby Koala Boosts Taronga Zoo's Breeding Program
credit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images News/GettyImages

In this study, 120 couples — all married a minimum of 3 to 4 years — were tasked with assigning a numeric score to the love they felt for their spouse.

They were then directed to look at a slideshow of that same spouse, only curated with a steady stream of happy, greeting card-type stuff — think sandy beaches, blooming flowers, and smiling labradors frolicking in a basket of freshly washed linens — every three days for a total of six weeks.

Happy Boston Terrier Dog on White Background
credit: Jovanka_Novakovic/iStock/GettyImages

And the results — hold onto your butts — were surprising but not all that shocking: Those same couples "reported having improved implicit feelings." (Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder; puppies do!)

Though the study sounds lighthearted, it was actually commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense in an attempt to curb "the suicide rate of active military members and veterans" and "find ways to strengthen soldiers' marriages and, therefore, their support systems.," both of which are truly estimable goals.

Are you interested in learning more about what you're reading? Then scroll through this article about what it means when your pet doesn't remember you. Also, like us on Facebook and join our newsletter to learn more about your pet's behavior.