Using the famous Pavlov method of evaluative conditioning, the scientists asked 144 married couples to look at a stream of pictures once every three days for six weeks to determine if a partner’s affective associations would improve the relationship.
The stream included photos of their partner and, depending on which group each couple was randomly assigned to (positive or neutral stimuli), also included either photos of puppy images or neutral pairings.
Scientists found spouses who saw streams with photos of their partner and positive stimuli (like puppy images) showed more positive attitudes than the other group.
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"I was actually a little surprised that it worked," McNulty said in a statement. "All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should, but existing theories of relationships, and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage, made me skeptical."
Of course, cute puppies and kittens (as powerful as they may be) aren’t going to solve all your problems.
Though in the past, scientists have found viewing images of cute images can help improve focus and make you more productive.
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But the new research, funded by a grant from the Department of Defense, could help married couples in tough long-distance situations (like soldiers) cope with the stress of separation and deployment, McNulty said.
Read the full study.