Daily Archives: May 1, 2010

Is love blind? Positive illusions in romantic relationships

You might have the similar experience. One of your friends Ann comes to you and starts talking about her new boyfriend Mark. He is not only charming, but also extremely smart, humorous, thoughtful. You think Ann is the luckiest girl in the world and cannot wait to see this amazing guy. Finally, when you meet this him, this perfect guy seems to have been turned into a bald, short and boring man. You run away from him and doubt that there is something wrong with Ann’s eyes. However, the same story happens to Mary, Ken, Chris, and Benny. Eventually, one day your friends ask you, what the hell do you see in that guy!? You wonder, is love really blind?

There has been a substantial amount research devoted to investigating this interesting question. Research showed that during their romantic relationship, partners frequently attempt to sustain a sense of felt security by weaving an elaborate story (or fiction) that both embellishes a partner’s virtues and minimizes his or her faults. For instance, several research found that individuals often rate their partner overly positive on characteristics such as “kind” and “intelligent,” a phenomenon that has been called positive illusions. Barelds and Dijkstra (2009) examined the existence of positive illusions about a partner’s physical attractiveness and its relations to relationship quality. They found that individuals rated their partner as more attractive than their partner rated him or herself, and such positive illusion about partner’s physical attractiveness was associated with high relationship quality. Researchers interpreted that feeling that one partner is very attractive will therefore enhance one’s satisfaction with one’s relationship. Partners may feel they are lucky to have such an attractive partner. So is love blind?  Perhaps not blind, but certainly magic.

People in Love Are Blind to Pretty Faces

Barelds & Dijkstra (2009).Positive illusions about a partner’s physical attractiveness and relationship quality. Personal Relationships,16,263 – 283.

“Me a bigot? No way, I hate them!”

After being caught calling one of his own Labour supporters a bigot when he thought he was off microphone, Gordon Brown has been apologizing and recanting his statement at every opportunity. His reference to Gillian Duffy as “a sort of bigoted woman” came after her comments about Eastern European immigration, something many in Britain feel is a growing problem. Of course, the news has focused on the aftermath of Brown’s gaffe and his attempts to apologize to Duffy. Meanwhile, Duffy seemed completely shocked that anything she said would have implied she was prejudiced. What the news has not focused on is whether or not she really is a bigot. Few people would agree they were in fact a bigot, despite their prejudicial views, because nobody ever thinks they are one.

Past research (using implicit measures and physiological responses) has shown that most people are prejudiced to some extent. But, most people, even those with extreme prejudices, deny such attitudes. According to recent research highlighted in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this may be because exposure to representations of prejudice in culture promotes the self-belief that individuals are not prejudiced. In a series of experiments, the authors exposed American participants to bigot stereotypes (through either priming or more explicit media representations) and found that those participants exposed rated themselves as less prejudiced than those who were not exposed beforehand. The authors suggest that this is due to cues of prejudice providing targets for downward social comparison. So, if exposure to bigot cues can lead people to believe they are less bigoted, then perhaps all the campaign focus on anti-immigration and the recent surge in support for racist parties like the BNP will lead other British people to think they are less bigoted than they actually are.

Read more: But I’m No Bigot: How Prejudiced White Americans Maintain Unprejudiced Self-Image

Read more: The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism