When It Comes To Sexual Satisfaction Between Partners, Gut-Level Responses May Be Most Accurate

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Lindsey Hicks
Doctoral Student
Social Psychology
Florida State University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: My colleagues and I are very interested in the factors that differentially predict peoples’ self-reported relationship satisfaction and their gut-level feelings about their partners—the spontaneous feelings they have and may not articulate. Because explicit self-reports require conscious deliberation they are subject to the influence of biases and beliefs about relationships; gut-level, automatic attitudes do not require conscious deliberation and thus appear to better track actual experience.

With that in mind, we examined whether sexual frequency influences automatic but not explicit evaluations of the partner. Previous research has yielded inconsistent results regarding the influence of sexual frequency on relationship satisfaction, and we thought such inconsistencies may stem from the influence of deliberate reasoning and biased beliefs regarding the sometimes taboo topic of sex. Thus, we tested the association between partners’ sexual frequency and their gut-level feelings about each other.

Basically we found that the frequency with which couples have sex has no influence on whether or not they report being happy with their relationship, but their sexual frequency does influence their more spontaneous, automatic, gut-level feelings about their partners. This is particularly important in light of previous research done by my colleagues demonstrating that it these automatic attitudes ultimately predict whether or not they’ll end up becoming dissatisfied with their relationship.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Practitioners and clients should be aware that people’s gut-level, spontaneous responses may sometimes be a better mental record of their interpersonal experiences than their more rehearsed and well-thought-out verbal responses.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: I think parsing relationship evaluations into two distinct processes can lead to so many interesting questions about how people think and feel in their romantic relationships. People are typically highly invested in the success of their relationships and there are so many lay beliefs and theories that may lend themselves to the formation of explicit biases, yet there are likely many processes that are operating and influencing us outside of our own awareness. In the future, I’d like to examine when these processes are most likely to diverge and when they are most likely to converge.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


 L. Hicks, J. K. McNulty, A. L. Meltzer, M. A. Olson.Capturing the Interpersonal Implications of Evolved Preferences? Frequency of Sex Shapes Automatic, but Not Explicit, Partner Evaluations.Psychological Science, 2016; DOI: 10.1177/0956797616638650

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

More Medical Research Interviews on MedicalResearch.com

[wysija_form id=”5″]




Last Updated on April 26, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD