IARR Member Snapshot Archive

 

Geoff MacDonald, PhD., Associate  Professor, Department of Psychology at University of Toronto. 


How did you find yourself in the relationship research world?

It was sort of by accident. When I started grad school I was really interested in social influence, especially nonconformity. But Mark Zanna, who was the attitudes researcher at Waterloo, was on sabbatical. So I got assigned to John Holmes. Of course, I’ve had many opportunities to select myself out of relationship research since then but since this was what Bob Ross would call a “happy accident” I never really wanted to switch. 

What would you say has been your favorite project or series of projects to date?

Philipp-Muller & MacDonald (2017). I had done a paper on social connection with avoidantly attached people back in 2010, but as the replication crisis hit I realized that research was woefully underpowered. I was working with an amazing undergraduate, Aviva Philipp-Muller who is now in grad school at Ohio State, and we decided to try to replicate that avoidance work and publish the results no matter how they came out. We failed to replicate the original results. Besides just being proud of the great job Aviva did on that project, I hope it reflects the ethic that striving to get better is more important than being right in the first place. 

Which project would you say generated the most interest?

By far the paper I wrote on social pain with Mark Leary in 2005. Such a case of being in the right place at the right time. People liked it so much I sort of tried to be a social neuroscientist for a while until I found attachment theory which became my one true love. I still get a lot of requests to review social pain work, and when I do I think about those musicians whose fans only want to hear the songs off their first album. 

What is your favorite IARR conference memory?

I have so many good memories from IARR conferences…from Art Aron being one of 3 people to show up for my Sunday morning talk at my first conference in Banff, to driving the 9P with Dan Dolderman in Saratoga Springs, to the closing reception under the stars in Crete. But it’s hard to top watching the dance floor fill up at IARR in Toronto to the dance mix that I had put together. 

Who has been your research hero in the field and why?

I’ve been thinking lately that there’s arguably two types of people in psychology at least – those who got into it because they love science and those who got into it because they’re fascinated by people. I fall in the latter camp and resonate with others who do too. I admire researchers who are broad minded, idea-oriented, creative, generous, and genuinely good people – and whose work foregrounds the experiences of people at least as much as the perspective of the scientist. I had to give up on the idea of heroes when Donald Fagen got arrested for domestic violence (and then again when Joseph Campbell turned out to be anti-semitic), but one person who comes to mind who I admired very much was Caryl Rusbult.

What is your best source of ideas for research?

Time off. I strongly believe that creative people need time away from the work routine, and new experiences stimulate new perspectives.

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Emily Impett, PhD., Associate  Professor, Department of Psychology at University of Toronto, Mississauga. 

 

 

How did you find yourself in the relationship research world?

This is going to be really nerdy. When I was an undergraduate psychology major at James Madison University, my statistics teacher, Dr. Arnie Kahn, asked me to join his lab since I was getting the highest grade in the class. His research team was focused on unwanted sexual experiences and sexual harassment. As a Women’s Studies minor, I had always been interested in sexuality, but eventually wanted to study sexuality in the context of romantic relationships from a more positive perspective. This interest led me to pursue a PhD in Social Psychology at UCLA with Anne Peplau studying relationships, sexuality and gender, and since then (except for a brief stint in which I took a semester off of graduate school to learn how to sew), I have never looked back.

What would you say has been your favorite project or series of projects to date?

My favourite project is always the one I am currently the most excited about, so I’ll share that one. With my new PhD student, Rebecca Horne, and postdoctoral fellow Mariko Visserman, we are launching a new study to investigate the consequences of a major life sacrifice that is probably near and dear to many of our hearts—relocation to a new city (or country) for a romantic partner’s job. A lot of my work has been on the sort of small, fairly mundane sacrifices that people make in the course of daily life. But we wanted to look at larger, more costly, and life-altering types of sacrifices. Given that relocation is increasingly more prevalent in our global world, we figured that the sacrifice of relocation would be incredibly common and impactful for couples. We are currently planning a study in which we will recruit couples who know that they intend to move for one person’s job in the near future, and then follow them through the move, first with more intensive experience sampling methods in the immediate wake of the move, and then with longitudinal methods to follow them up to a year after the move. We are interested in MANY things but one thing we would like to examine—from the lens of self determination theory—is the strength of people’s relatedness, competence, and autonomy needs at different points in the move, and in particular, the possibility that these needs might shift over time, and differently for each partner (either the relocator or the “trailing” partner). Ultimately, we want to see if people can accurate detect and respond appropriately to the changing needs of their partner to maintain and possibly even improve the quality of their relationships during this challenging and exciting time. It’s a massive undertaking, so stay tuned over the coming years for results.

Which project would you say generated the most interest?

Without a doubt the project which has generated the most interest, especially from the media, is a paper I wrote with Amy Muise (as lead author) and Uli Schimmack examining the link between sex frequency in romantic relationships and well-being. We found in a series of studies including nationally representative datasets of more than 30,000 people that the link between sexual frequency and well-being is curvilinear—that is, the more frequently people have sex, the greater their satisfaction with life, but only up to a point. What is this point? About once a week! After this point—if people have sex more than this—they don’t experience any additional increases to their well-being, suggesting that it is important for people to try to maintain their connection with their partner, but not to have sex as frequently as possible.

However, since I have a captive audience, I will also say that the work that has generated the most controversy is my research on “sexual communal strength” (being motivated to meet your partner’s sexual needs even when those needs are different than your own). I’ve been called anti-feminist as people somehow seem to take it to mean that I am suggesting that they do whatever it takes to meet their partner’s needs, even if it means subjugating themselves or ignoring their own needs (which is, of course, not what I am saying at all and we have new work showing that when people neglect their own needs in the bedroom, neither partner benefits and there are even costs to doing so). I think it is really important—especially in this #metoo era—that people think critically about how some of the processes we are interested in might be quite different in the context of established romantic relationships than in the context of people just getting know one another. We know that sexual desire tends to decline normatively over time and that people live rich, busy lives with lots of work and family responsibilities. What this means is that if people are “waiting around” for a time when both partners are enthusiastically consenting to sex, sex might be an incredibly rare occurrence. And even if people begin sexual interactions when they are less than enthused, they can be (and often are) pleasantly surprised.

What is your favorite IARR conference memory?

I know this is going to sound totally crazy to anyone who knows me, but I have actually only been to three IARR conferences. In fact, I served as a Board-Member-at-Large for IARR before I had ever attended an IARR conference. I have three children (Dima, age 9, Niko, age 5, and Lila, age 2) and IARR conferences always seemed to map on perfectly to having a new baby or other major life changes like moving to a new country. My first IARR was the main conference in Melbourne, and my best memory was the penguin parade that people from our group, the Toronto Relationships Interest Group (TRIG) all attended together. My second was the mini conference in Amsterdam in 2014—which was glorious since my parents watched my kids and I got to take a much-needed “adults only” trip with my husband, Ruslan. My third IARR was the one I co-hosted with Geoff MacDonald in Toronto in 2016, so if Geoff is reading this, I will way that IARR Toronto was my favourite one J 

Who has been your research hero in the field and why?

I’m totally going to embarrass her, but Nickola Overall. I recently told her that I think she is the best relationship scientist alive today. Her work is fascinating, meticulous, and incredibly important. But on top of this, she is just the most likable, warm, fun, energizing person I know, and is such a fantastic, supportive mentor not only to her students but also to relationship scholars more broadly. She is also one of the best action editors I have ever had, not only because she puts so much into making relationship science better, but because SHE IS ALWAYS RIGHT. She says, “hmmm, I’m not sure about your model. What if you tested a model like this?” And sure enough, we test the model, and Nickola is right - she has nailed it AGAIN.

What is your best source of ideas for research?

Well, beyond Nickola telling me the answers to all of my questions, I would have to say my family and my own lived experiences. I remember when I got my dissertation data in. I was sitting down to analyze the data, feeling nervous that I maybe wouldn’t find what I expected to find, and thinking, “well, I KNOW the ideas are right, so if I don’t find support for them, it just means there is something wrong with my study.” It did work out as I thought it would (shoooo!), but I was really confident I would see evidence for my predictions since I had lived it and seen other people live it.

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Sue Sprecher, PhD., Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Illinois State University.  IARR President.

 

 How did you find yourself in the relationship research world? 

Picture me as a naïve undergraduate student at University of Wisconsin-Madison back in the early 1970s taking a large lecture class with Elaine Hatfield (then Elaine Walster). She announced one day that she wanted to hire someone to type. I ran up after class and told her I was a good and fast typist (at least that’s what I imagine my nerdy self at the time would have said).  She hired me to type the second edition of the Berscheid-Hatfield Interpersonal Attraction book (yes, on a typewriter!), and the rest is history.

 What would you say has been your favorite project or series of projects to date? 

Without question, my current research (which I wrote about in the 2016 May issue of RRN) using a version of the Art Aron Closeness Induction technique and studying the get-acquainted process in the lab.  Why do I love this?  For most of my career, I never had a “lab” or the opportunity to do lab experiments, but beginning in 2010, our sociology program acquired research lab space, and I became the main inhabitant of the space and designed my first experiment. Eight years later, I’m still doing them – same paradigm with minor tweaks, each experiment looking at a slightly different issue about the get-acquainted process, and giving a new group of sociology and psychology undergraduate students the opportunity to be involved in a research team doing fun, exciting research. 

Which project would you say generated the most interest? 

 I had a chance to tag along on a project with some intellectual giants of our field – Eli Finkel, Paul Eastwick, Ben Karney, and Harry Reis on the paper, “Online Dating: A Critical Analysis from the Perspective of Psychological Science”, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. This was a memorable experience to create such a great piece of work, and I predict that the paper will eventually be the most cited work that has my name on it. Thanks, Eli, for including me and allowing me to get a close-up of your brilliance!

 What is your favorite IARR conference memory?

Every IARR (and ISSPR and INPR) conference has been so special, actually.  I have been to so many, beginning with the first Madison conference in 1982. My favorite event at many of the conferences has been the sock hop, although these did not become a part of our conferences until the 1990s. I love to dance with my colleagues; it definitely gives me a high to see us all out on the floor moving to the music (Art Aron…I am thinking of some of your dance moves on the floor as I write this).  I have a very fond memory of many of the early conferences (Vancouver, Maine, Banff) when I was still young and could look up to the leaders of the field – Hal Kelley, Ellen Bersheid, Ted Huston, Anne Peplau (our early Presidents) – and be so excited if they gave me a service task to do. 

Who has been your research hero in the field and why?

I don’t have one particular hero, but so many.  I was very lucky to have been influenced by Elaine Hatfield early in my career.  I know I would not be here (as a relationship scientist) had she not tolerated this weird young student asking for research tasks to do (after I typed that book referred to in #1, she gave me other little research tasks to do, and then I decided I wanted to do just what she was doing). I also put Ellen Berscheid, Elaine’s partner in much early work, on a pedestal. Today, I have a special appreciation for those in our field who have contributed their service to help make the organization what it is, and I think especially of Dan Perlman, but so many others as well. I also feel it was an honor to have known Caryl Rusbult, and I so much enjoy her academic children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her work and spirit are continuing through them all. I also greatly admired Scott Christopher, who sadly passed away during the month I was working on this entry.  He and I did many projects together over the years related to sexuality and close relationships, including review chapters and editing a special issue on the topic.  He also contributed much to IARR, and I will miss him very much. And, I can’t name all of my heroes in the field (or this entry would be too long), but I’m a fan of so many.

What is your best source of ideas for research?  

I wish I had great ideas, and then I would tell you the source for them! Rather, I think I plod along in small steps, and become more excited about the process itself (of collaboration, of polishing a survey or a paper, of looking at SPSS output) than I am driven by the topic or the idea.  But, then, in the midst of my love affair with the process emerges an idea that seems worth exploring in future research.