Psychology Magazine

The Embodied Cognition of Your Love Life.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds

MindBlog has done a number of posts on how physical changes in our bodies can influence social cognition (Holding a warm versus an iced cup of coffee makes you more friendly). In yet another example of embodied cognition, Forest et al. note an interesting relationship between physical instability and perceived social relationship stability.

What influences how people feel about and behave toward their romantic partners? Extending beyond features of the partners, relationship experiences, and social context, the current research examines whether benign, relationship-irrelevant factors—such as one’s somatic experiences—can influence relationship perceptions and interpersonal behavior. Drawing on the embodiment literature, we propose that experiencing physical instability can undermine perceptions of relationship stability. Participants who experienced physical instability by sitting at a wobbly workstation rather than a stable workstation (Study 1), standing on one foot rather than two (Study 2), or sitting on an inflatable seat cushion rather than a rigid one (Study 3) perceived their romantic relationships to be less likely to last. Results were consistent with risk-regulation theory: Perceptions of relational instability were associated with reporting lower relationship quality (Studies 1–3) and expressing less affection toward the partner (Studies 2 and 3). These findings indicate that benign physical experiences can influence perceptions of relationship stability, exerting downstream effects on consequential relationship processes.

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