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Sex Differences in Reconciliation Behavior After Romantic Conflict


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Prior research shows that patterns of mate selection, attraction, and expulsion are the product of evolved sex differences in computational adaptations. Within long-term romantic relationships, men typically prioritize information relevant to a mate’s reproductive (i.e., sexual) value whereas women more often prioritize a mate’s willingness to invest romantic (i.e., emotional) resources into a stable pair-bond. Although these differences in preference are well established within mate selection and relationship maintenance literature, relatively fewer studies have examined differences in how men and women reconcile after romantic conflict. Using an act nomination procedure, the present research tests the prediction that men and women differ by which partner reconciliation behaviors they evaluate as most effective in resolving a romantic conflict. In study 1, participants nominated common reconciliation behaviors which were subsequently sorted into 21 distinct actions. In study 2, participants rated each behavior by how effectively it would resolve conflict if performed by their romantic partner. Overall, acts suggesting emotional commitment were expected to be rated as most effective. Men were expected to rate actions which signal sexual accessibility as more effective compared to women. Women were expected to rate acts which signal emotional accessibility as more effective compared to men (study 2). Results were largely consistent with our predictions, though notable deviations are documented and discussed within the context of contemporary romantic relationship research.
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Sex Differences in Reconciliation Behavior After
Romantic Conflict
T. Joel Wade
&Justin Mogilski
&Rachel Schoenberg
#Springer International Publishing 2017
Abstract Prior research shows that patterns of mate selection,
attraction, and expulsion are the product of evolved sex differ-
ences in computational adaptations. Within long-term romantic
relationships, men typically prioritize information relevant to a
mates reproductive (i.e., sexual) value whereas women more
often prioritize a mates willingness to invest romantic (i.e.,
emotional) resources into a stable pair-bond. Although these
differences in preference are well established within mate se-
lection and relationship maintenance literature, relatively fewer
studies have examined differences in how men and women
reconcile after romantic conflict. Using an act nomination pro-
cedure, the present research tests the prediction that men and
womendifferbywhichpartnerreconciliation behaviors they
evaluate as most effective in resolving a romantic conflict. In
study 1, participants nominated common reconciliation behav-
iors which were subsequently sorted into 21 distinct actions. In
study 2, participants rated each behavior by how effectively it
would resolve conflict if performed by their romantic partner.
Overall, acts suggesting emotional commitment were expected
to be rated as most effective. Men were expected to rate actions
which signal sexual accessibility as more effective compared to
women. Women were expected to rate acts which signal emo-
tional accessibility as more effective compared to men (study
2). Results were largely consistent with our predictions, though
notable deviations are documented and discussed within the
context of contemporary romantic relationship research.
Keywords Reconciliation .Sex .Sexual accessibility .
Emotional commitment
Conflict between partners sometimes occurs within romantic
relationships. In some instances, this conflict leads to mate
expulsion (i.e., breaking up with a partner; Wade and Brown
2012). Mate expulsion allows individuals to extract them-
selves from relationships that may compromise their well-be-
ing, the well-being of their offspring, or their reproductive
opportunities, and can provide opportunity for personal
growth and change (Slotter et al. 2003; Slotter, Gardner, &
Finkel, 2010; Tashiro & Frazier, 2003). Nevertheless, mate
expulsion may entail costly outcomes such as increased psy-
chological distress (Field et al. 2010;Morrisetal.2015;
Sbarra 2006), decreased life satisfaction (Rhoades et al.
2011), lowered offspring well-being(AmatoandKeith
1991), and economic hardship (Avellar and Smock 2005).
Furthermore, mate expulsion may introduce novel challenges
such as a retributive ex-partner and stalking behavior (Lukacs
and Quan-Haase 2015; Perilloux and Buss 2008), cyclic rela-
tionship renewal (i.e., on-again/off-again relationships; Dailey
et al. 2009), friendship loss (Schneider and Kenny 2000),
family disapproval (MacDonald et al. 2012), and substance
abuse (Larson and Sweeten 2012). Lastly, mate expulsion is
physiologically painful (Fisher 2006) because rejection from a
partner involves subcortical reward/gain loss areas of the brain
that are crucial for survival (Fisher et al. 2010). To compen-
sate, individuals may engage in mate retention behaviors to
mitigate these negative consequences. Specifically, individ-
uals may use positive mate retention strategies such as giving
A version of this paper was presented at the 7th Northeastern
Evolutionary Psychology Society Conference, Lebanon Valley College.
*T. Joel Wade
Department of Psychology, Bucknell University,
Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA
Oakland University, Rochester, MI, USA
Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA, USA
Evolutionary Psychological Science
DOI 10.1007/s40806-017-0108-6
more affection, giving in to a partners demands, debasement,
sexual inducements, and appearance enhancement (see Buss
1988b; Buss and Shackelford 1997; Kaighobadi et al. 2010).
Individuals may also resort to negative forms of mate retention
such as concealment, vigilance involving knowing where the
partner is at all times, and derogation of the mate (see Buss
1988b; Buss and Shackelford 1997;Kaighobadietal.2010).
Another way individuals can forestall the possibility of
mate expulsion is via reconciliation strategies for preventing
relationship dissolution and minimizing the costs associated
with it (Mearns 1991;Seiffge-Krenke2011;PappandWitt
2010). Certainly, not all romantic conflicts lead to mate expul-
sion. Lesser conflicts such as spats and loversquarrels also
occur within relationships, and individuals are often able to
resolve these issues without relationship dissolution. Indeed, it
is possible that a small conflict such as a lovers quarrel could
enhance a relationship (e.g., Berry and Willingham 1997;also
see Cialdini et al. 1973). Specifically, an individual may feel
more attracted and attached to their partner when the partner
removes or attenuates the negative arousal associated with the
spat/quarrel (Barnes et al. 2007; Creasey et al. 1999). Post-
conflict reconciliation between partners is common insofar as
prolonged rumination over wrongs and clinging to conflicts
can have negative psychological and physiological conse-
quences (Witvliet et al. 2001). Engaging in forgiveness has
been linked to immediate and long-term cardiovascular health
improvement (Larsen et al. 2012), and individuals who for-
give have better self-reported health and health habits (Allan
and McKillop 2010). When accompanied by an apology, for-
giveness and reconciliation reduce the stress of an interper-
sonal conflict, and increase an individuals perception of con-
trol over their life experiences (Witvliet et al. 2001). Forgiving
a partner can likewise maintain or preserve a relationship into
which an individual has already invested time and resources
(Silk 2002).
Although both sexes may benefit from romantic conflict
resolution, men and women may differ with respect to how
effectively certain reconciliation tactics reduce negative out-
comes and experiences associated with that conflict, particu-
larly when conflict occurs over a partners sexual or emotional
availability. Men are more sensitive to costs associated with a
partners sexual infidelity (e.g., cuckoldry) whereas women
are more sensitive to cues of relationship divestment (i.e.,
emotional infidelity; reviewed in Sagarin et al. 2012). Prior
research shows that mate expulsion decisions can be driven by
a lack of sexual or emotional access to ones partner. Wade and
Brown (2012)andWadeandMogilski(2013)reportthatmen
whereas women are more likely to expel a mate due to a lack
of emotional access. This is unsurprising given that access to
these resources is paramount to mens and womensmate
selection, respectively (Buss 1989,2006; Buss and Schmitt
1993). To date, no research has examined whether there are
differences in mens and womens reconciliation tactics after
romantic conflict. Given the benefits of forgiveness and rec-
onciliation, it is likely that reconciliation behaviors have been
shaped, to some degree, by natural selection to address recur-
rent adaptive problems that typically arise after relationship
conflict (e.g., interpersonal tension, aggression, resource loss).
Specifically, men may use emotional and commitment-related
actions to make up with their female partner, and women may
use sexual access-related actions to make up with their male
partner. The present research tested these predictions in two
studies. Study 1 focuses on determining the actions men and
women engage in to reconcile with a partner after a fight.
Study 2 focuses on which of the reconciliation actions delin-
eated in study 1 are perceived as most effective by men and
Study 1
Participants (n= 74, 38 women, 36 men; age: M = 27.74,
SD = 11.43; range = 1854) were recruited from the introduc-
tory psychology course at a private University in the north-
eastern USA, and from Facebook groups. Facebook partici-
pants did not receive any compensation for their participation
while those from the introductory psychology course received
research participation credit towards the course requirement.
The demographic characteristics of the sample were as fol-
lows: 75.7% White, 12.2% Black, 1.4% Asian, 5.4%
Hispanic, 5.4% Other; 89.2% had sexual relationship experi-
ence, 10.8% had never been in a sexual relationship; 56.8% of
the sample was currently in a relationship, 39.2% were single,
4.1% were unsure of their current relationship status; 44.7% of
the women were presently using birth control, and 55.3%
were not using birth control. Birth control usage was included
since prior research shows that hormonal birth control usage
affects womens mate retention behavior (Welling et al. 2012)
and other parental investment theory-related perceptions (see
Geary et al. 2001; Wade and Fowler 2006).
Participants received an online questionnaire that included
demographic questions regarding age, sex, sexual orientation,
sexual history, relationship status, medication use, and birth
control use (women only). Following standard act nomination
procedures (Buss 1988a,b; Buss and Craik 1983;Wadeetal.
2009a;Wadeetal.2009b; Wade and Feldman 2016), partic-
ipants were given the following instruction:
Evolutionary Psychological Science
Please think of people you know of your own sex who
have been or are currently in a relationship. With these
individuals in mind, write down five acts or behaviors
that they have performed (or might perform) to recon-
cile (make up with) with their partner after they have
had a fight. Be sure to write down acts or behaviors. An
act is something that a person does or did, not some-
thing that they are. Do not say he is sorryor she
feels guilty.These are not behaviors. You should de-
scribe acts or behaviors that someone could read and
answer the questions: Did you ever do this?and
How often have you done this?
Following methodology used in prior research using act nom-
ination procedures (Buss 1988a,1988b;BussandCraik1983;
Wade et al. 2009a,2009b; Wade and Feldman 2016), the
responses men and women provided were separated into cat-
egories. Initially, all 220 responses given by participants were
compiled into one list. Next, these acts were examined by one
of the authors and one other individual, a psychology student,
and grouped into 21 individual categories. For example, nu-
merous participants listed Apologize,”“Apology,”“I would
apologize,. So, an Apology Category was created. Consistent
with act nomination research methodology, any discrepancies
were resolved via discussion. Next, a comparison was made
between males and females. The total number of females who
gave a certain response and the total number of males who
gave a certain response were calculated. In total, there were
157 female responses and 167 male responses. To adjust for
the differences in sample size, each female total was divided
by the total number of female responses, and each male total
was divided by the total number of male responses. Table 1
shows the adjusted scores for men and women. The most
common responses given by women were apologizing, com-
munication, gifts, affection, and sexual favors. The most com-
mon responses given by men were gifts, apologizing, nice
gestures, sex/sexual favors, spending time together, and com-
munication. Additionally, men reported giving gifts and doing
nice gestures more often than women did while women re-
ported giving more communication, and giving more affection
compared to men.
Mens results were consistent with prior mate expulsion re-
search showing that women are more likely toexpel a mate for
being emotionally inaccessible/uncommitted (Wade and
Brown 2012). In terms of specific actions nominated by
men, giving giftsand doing nice gesturesmay have been
nominated frequently because they are altruistic acts and
women find altruistic men appealing (Arnocky et al. 2016;
Phillips et al. 2010).
Wom e n s actions, overall, and in terms of the specific act of
communication,can be explained via the prior research on
love acts. Wade et al. (2009a) and Wade and Vanartsdalen
(2013) show that the most effective love acts for both men
and women are actions that are indicative of emotional com-
mitment. Since emotional commitment actions are perceived as
effective indicators of love by men, women use such actions to
also reconcile with their partners, and such actions are seen as
effective. Women may have frequently nominated giving affec-
tion because giving affection may be viewed by men as a sign
of sex/sexual accessibility and men are more likely to stay with
partners who are sexually accessible (Wade and Brown 2012;
Wade and Mogilski 2013). While these nominations are con-
sistent with prior research, it is unclear which reconciliation
acts are most effective for each sex. To examine this, study 2
was implemented to investigate sex differences in the perceived
effectiveness of each act.
Study 2
Based on prior research regarding effectively communicating
love to a partner (Wade et al. 2009a; Wade and Vanartsdalen
2013) and the results from study 1, actions suggesting emo-
tional commitment/emotional access should be rated as most
effective by both sexes. Additionally, sex differences are ex-
pected such that women should rate actions reflecting emo-
tional access and commitment as more effective than men do
while men should rate actions reflecting sexual access as more
effective than women do.
Participants (n= 164, 41 men, 123 women; M= 21.71,
SD = 7.10; range = 18 to 61) were recruited from social media
(e.g., Facebook) and an introductory psychology course at a
private University in the northeastern USA. Social media par-
ticipants did not receive any compensation for their participa-
tion while those from the introductory psychology course re-
ceived research participation credit. No individuals from study
1 participated in study 2. The demographic characteristics of
the sample were as follows: 87.4% White, 2.9% Black, 5.7%
Asian, 3.4% Hispanic, 6% Other; 86.9% had sexual relation-
ship experience, 13.1% had never been in a sexual relation-
ship; 47.4% of the sample was currently in a relationship,
Evolutionary Psychological Science
47.4% were single, 5.1% were unsure of their current relation-
ship status; 60.4% of the women were presently using birth
control, and 39.6% were not using birth control.
All materials were presented using online survey software.
Participants provided demographic information, and complet-
ed the short form of the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability
Scale (Strahan and Gerbasi 1972)tocontrolforsocialdesir-
ability biases that are common to behavioral self-report re-
search (Podsakoff et al. 2003) which can mask the true rela-
tionships between variables (Ganster et al. 1983). Participants
were also provided the 21 consensus reconciliation acts from
study 1 and asked to read the following prompt:
Below are listed acts that someone might perform to
make up/reconcile with their partner. In this study, we
are interested in how effective you think each act is at
achieving this goal for you (if a partner did this to rec-
oncile with you). Please read each act carefully, and
think about its consequences. Then rate each act on
how likely the act is to be effective in reconciling
with/making up with you. Use the 7-point scale below:
a7means that you feel the act is very likely to be
effective in reconciling with/making up with you. A 1
means that you feel the act is not very likely to be effec-
tive in reconciling with/making up with you. A 4
means that you feel the act is moderately likely to be
effective in reconciling with/making up with you. Use
intermediate numbers for intermediate likelihoods of
effectiveness in reconciling with/making up with you.
Cronbachs alpha (1951) revealed that the 21 reconciliation acts
were reliable, α= 0.75. A 2 (sex) × 21 (reconciliations) mixed
model ANCOVA with the social desirability scale sum score as
a covariate revealed a significant interaction, F(20, 143) = 2.88,
p< .0001, η
=0.29(seeTable2). Socially desirable responding
was not a significant factor, F(20, 140) = 1.53, p=.07,
= 0.18. Men rated the acts give sex/sexual favors
(t(162) = 4.15, p< .0001, d= 0.70) and do nice gestures
(t(162) = 2.14, p<.034,d= 0.41), as more effective than
women. Women rated the acts spend time together
(t(162) = 2.18, p< .031, d=0.38),cry(t(162) = 3.46,
p< .0001, d=0.62),andapologize(t(162) = 2.52,
p< .013, d= 0.41) There was also a main effect for reconcili-
ation acts, F(20, 143) = 65.73, p< .0001, η
= 0.90 (see
Tab l e 3). Pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni corrections
Tabl e 1 Relative percentage of
reconciliation acts nominated by
men and women
Act Women Men Difference
Gifts (flowers, etc.) 0.12 0.19 0.07
Nice gestures (favors, compliments, chores, etc.) 0.04 0.11 0.07
Say yes to anything/give in/give up 0.00 0.02 0.02
Give each other space/calm down 0.01 0.02 0.02
Spend time together 0.06 0.08 0.01
Wait for partner to apologize 0.01 0.02 0.01
Sex/sexual favors 0.09 0.10 0.01
Argue 0.00 0.01 0.01
Make them laugh/be silly 0.00 0.01 0.01
Drink alcohol 0.00 0.01 0.01
Forgive partner 0.01 0.01 0.01
Take the blame/admit you were wrong 0.01 0.02 0.01
Compromise 0.01 0.01 0.00
Pretend nothing happened/forget it 0.05 0.05 0.00
Ignore/avoid partner 0.02 0.01 0.01
Involve friend (venting, etc.) 0.03 0.01 0.01
Cry 0.03 0.01 0.02
Apologize 0.20 0.18 0.02
Cook/bake for partner 0.06 0.02 0.03
Affection (kiss, hug, etc.) 0.11 0.04 0.07
Communicate (talk, call, text, letter) 0.15 0.08 0.07
Note: Difference scores given in absolute value. Female and male scores are adjusted scores (frequency divided by
total number of responses)
Evolutionary Psychological Science
revealed that Communicate,”“apologize,”“forgive your part-
ner,”“spend time together,”“compromise,and give a
kiss/hug/affectionwere rated as most effective, in general.
Additional analyses did not indicate any significant interactions
with current relationship status, sexual relationship experience,
or birth control status (all p> .07).
In study 1, participants nominated actions that people perform
to reconcile with a romantic partner. In study 2, participants
rated these acts by how effective each would be in facilitating
reconciliation if performed by their current romantic partner, or
an imagined romantic partner. It was predicted that actions
which communicate emotional investment would be rated
highest on effectiveness by both sexes. This hypothesis was
supported. Communication, apologizing, forgiving onespart-
ner, spending time together, and compromising were all rated
more highly than other characteristics. Overall, these actions
may be viewed as most effective by both men and women
insofar as these actions communicate romantic investment in a
partner (see Wade et al. 2009a; Wade and Vanartsdalen 2013).
Reassuring a partner that one still loves her/him after conflict
may facilitate mate retention (Buss and Shackelford 1997), and
maintaining ones romantic relationship affords reproductive
and health benefits associated with forming a long-term pair-
bond (Braithwaite et al. 2010; Quinlan 2008).
We also found partial support for our prediction that men
and women would differ by which reconciliation tactics they
rate as most effective. Men, compared to women, rated a part-
ner doing nice gestures and giving sex/sexual favors as more
effective whereas women rated a partner spending time with
them, apologizing, and crying as more effective compared to
men. These findings are consistent with prior research show-
ing that men are more likely to expel a mate due to sexual
inaccessibility (Wade and Brown 2012; Wade and Mogilski
2013), and prefer mates who are sexually accessible (Buss
1989,2006; Buss and Schmitt 1993). Women may thereby
use sexual favors as a way to reconcile with their male partner.
Doing so may communicate to their male partner that they are
still sexually accessible and as such do not want to end the
relationship. By comparison, women are most likely to expel a
mate if that mate is emotionally inaccessible (Wade and
Brown 2012; Wade and Mogilski 2013) and women prefer
emotional accessibility in potential mates (Buss 1989,2006;
Tabl e 3 Mean perceived effectiveness of reconciliation acts
Act Mean (SD)
(a) Communicate 6.07 (1.11)
(b) Apologize 5.85 (1.22)
(c) Forgive your partner 5.62 (1.17)
(d) Spend time together
5.62 (1.11)
(e) Compromise
5.59 (1.25)
Give a kiss/hug/affection
4.98 (1.29)
Make you partner laugh/be silly
4.95 (1.38)
Take some space/give partner space
4.93 (1.26)
Take the blame/admit you were wrong
4.90 (1.52)
Do nice gestures (compliments, etc.)
4.90 (1.36)
Give gifts
4.09 (1.51)
Cook a meal or bake for your partner
4.03 (1.51)
Wait for partner to apologize
3.22 (1.61)
3.02 (1.55)
Give sex/sexual favors
3.02 (1.65)
Vent to a friend
2.92 (1.39)
Give in or give up
2.86 (1.49)
Argue with partner
2.55 (1.33)
Pretend the fight did not happen
2.29 (1.25)
Ignore or avoid partner
1.76 (1.09)
Drink alcohol
1.62 (1.08)
Higher numbers mean more effective; standard deviations are in paren-
theses. Superscripts denote significant differences, p< .05, e.g., mean for
row a, communicate,is significantly different from means for rows that
have an ain their superscript, etc. Comparisons were Bonferroni
corrected based on the number of comparisons computed. Comparisons
of all 21 means are not included in the table
Tabl e 2 Mean perceived effectiveness of reconciliation acts across sex
Action Men Women
Give gifts 4.20 (1.40) 4.05(1.55)
Do nice gestures 5.59 (1.08)* 4.77(1.43)*
Give in or give up 2.71 (1.68) 2.91(1.43)
Take some space 4.66 (1.15) 5.02 (1.28
Spend time together 5.29 (1.17)* 5.72 (1.07)*
Wait for partner to apologize 2.95 (1.69) 3.31 (1.57)
Give sex/sexual favors 3.90 (1.87)* 2.72 (1.47)*
Argue with partner 2.49 (1.49) 2.57 (1.27)
Make partner laugh 5.12 (1.25) 4.89 (1.42
Drink alcohol 1.83 (1.24) 1.55 (1.01)
Forgive your partner 5.63 (1.16) 5.62 (1.18)
Take the blame/admit being wrong 4.76 (1.63) 4.94 (1.48)
Compromise 5.27 (1.40) 5.70 (1.18)
Forget it/pretend it did not occur 2.34 (1.06) 2.27 (1.31)
Ignore/avoid partner 1.85 (1.06) 1.73 (1.09)
Vent to a friend 3.17 (1.40) 2.84 (1.39)
Cry 2.32 (1.49)* 3.25 (1.50)*
Apologize 5.44 (1.50)* 5.98 (1.08)*
Cook a meal 3.95 (1.66) 4.06 (1.47)
Kiss/hug/affection 5.15 (1.11) 4.93 (1.34)
Communicate 5.90 (1.04) 6.13 (1.13)
Note: Higher numbers mean more effective
*p< .05 (standard deviations)
Evolutionary Psychological Science
Buss and Schmitt 1993). Women may have rated spending
time togethermore highly to the extent that this behavior
signals a partners willingness to invest effort and limited re-
sources (e.g., time) into their romantic pair-bond. Such actions
by a man may signal the likelihood of a potentially high pa-
rental investment which women prefer (Trivers 1972).
Interestingly, women rated crying as more effective than did
men. Women may view male partners who cry after conflict as
men who are in touch with their emotions. Prior research
shows that men who cry are viewed positively, and as in touch
with their emotions, but not feminine (Labott et al. 1991).
Likewise, crying may honestly signal a mates emotional in-
vestment insofar as grief is a costly signal of relationship com-
mitment (see Winegard et al. 2014). Women also rated apol-
ogizing as more effective than did men. This is consistent with
Bevan et al. (2003) who report that apologizing is the most
common method used to reconcile with a partner. Indeed,
people are more likely to forgive a partner after romantic in-
fidelity if their partner apologizes (Gunderson and Ferrari
2008). In particular, women may find the act of their male
partner apologizing to be an effective reconciliation tactic be-
cause it is viewed as an altruistic act (Arnocky et al. 2016;
Ohbuchi et al. 1989). A mans apology may redirect the cost
of romantic conflict to himself rather than to his partner and
thereby demonstrate his ability to provide emotional support
and incur personal costs for his partner.
Limitations and Future Directions
The present research examined the perceived effectiveness of
mensandwomens reconciliation acts rather than the actual
effectiveness. Therefore, additional research is warranted. For
example, using observational methods, future research should
examine how effective these actions actually are for reconciling
with a partner. Likewise, future research could examine recon-
ciliation tactics within particular conflict domains. For exam-
ple, some tactics may be relatively more effective after conflict
over shared personal expenses (e.g., your partner makes a large
financial decision without consulting you) versus conflict over
jealousy (e.g., your partner is flirting with someone of the op-
posite sex). Giving sexual favors may be more effective for
alleviating conflict motivated by jealousy insofar as sexual con-
tact facilitates pair-bonding and confirms continued romantic
interest in ones partner. By comparison, sexual contact may be
relatively ineffective at resolving financial disputes compared
to communication, gift giving, and compromise.
Evolutionary theory predicts a number of sex differences in mate
selection, mate retention, and mate expulsion. The present
research expands this literature by documenting systematic differ-
ences in which actions men and women perceive as most effective
in promoting conflict reconciliation within romantic relationships.
Compliance with Ethical Standards This research was reviewed by
the Institutional Review Board at Bucknell University and complies with
Ethical Standards.
Conflict of Interest the authors declare that they have no conflict of
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... Men tend to report greater distress imagining a partner's sexual contact with another man whereas women report greater distress from a partner's emotional or financial investment in another woman (see Sagarin et al., 2012, for a review). Likewise, recent work suggests that romantic conflict reconciliation (Wade et al., 2017) and romantic relationship dissolution (i.e., mate expulsion; Wade and Brown, 2012) follow similar patterns. For example, Wade et al. (2017) asked men and women to rate the effectiveness of several reconciliation behaviors in resolving romantic conflict. ...
... Likewise, recent work suggests that romantic conflict reconciliation (Wade et al., 2017) and romantic relationship dissolution (i.e., mate expulsion; Wade and Brown, 2012) follow similar patterns. For example, Wade et al. (2017) asked men and women to rate the effectiveness of several reconciliation behaviors in resolving romantic conflict. Men reported that a partner's sexual accessibility (e.g., giving sex/sexual favors) would be more effective than did women, whereas women reported that "spending time together, crying, and apologizing" were more effective. ...
... Interestingly, we also found that emotional accessibility was overall more important than sexual accessibility when ignoring participant sex. These results are consistent with prior work (Wade et al., 2017) showing that men and women rate emotional commitment tactics as most effective for achieving reconciliation after romantic conflict. Likewise, Wade et al. (2009) report that men and women, overall, rate love acts that show emotional commitment as most effective for expressing love within a long-term pair-bond. ...
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Prior research examining mate expulsion indicates that women are more likely to expel a mate due to deficits in emotional access while men are more likely to expel a mate due to deficits in sexual access. Prior research highlights the importance of accounting for measurement limitations (e.g., the use of incremental vs. forced-choice measures) when assessing attitudes toward sexual and emotional infidelity, Sagarin et al., 2012, Wade and Brown, 2012). The present research uses conjoint analysis, a novel methodology for controlling several limitations of using continuous self-report measures in mate expulsion research. Participants (N = 181, 128 women) recruited from Bucknell University and several psychology recruitment listservs in the United States rated nine profiles that varied in three potential levels of emotional and sexual accessibility. Men were more likely to want to break up with a partner due to sexual accessibility deficits, whereas women were more likely to want to break up due to emotional accessibility deficits. However, regardless of sex, emotional inaccessibility was more likely to produce mate expulsion. These findings are consistent with prior theory and highlight the need to disentangle emotional accessibility into its constituent in-pair benefits. This research also illustrates the utility of conjoint analysis as a statistical tool for studying how humans resolve trade-offs among competing outcomes during romantic decision-making.
... This methodology has been used in prior research to ascertain the many reasons why men and women have sex (Meston & Buss, 2007). This type of methodology has also been used to understand sexual behaviors in previous studies focusing on love acts, mate poaching, flirting, and reconciliation (Buss, 1988;Moran & Wade, 2017;Wade et al., 2009Wade et al., , 2017. We hypothesized that the most popular reasons for having breakup sex would have to do with missing the ex-partner, missing sexual activity more generally, and obtaining closure. ...
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Popular culture has recently publicized a seemingly new postbreakup behavior called breakup sex. While the media expresses the benefits of participating in breakup sex, there is no research to support these claimed benefits. The current research was designed to begin to better understand this postbreakup behavior. In the first study, we examined how past breakup sex experiences made the individuals feel and how people predict they would feel in the future ( n = 212). Results suggested that men are more likely than women to have felt better about themselves, while women tend to state they felt better about the relationship after breakup sex. The second study ( n = 585) investigated why men and women engage in breakup sex. Results revealed that most breakup sex appears to be motivated by three factors: relationship maintenance, hedonism, and ambivalence. Men tended to support hedonistic and ambivalent reasons for having breakup sex more often than women. The two studies revealed that breakup sex may be differentially motivated (and may have different psychological consequences) for men and women and may not be as beneficial as the media suggests.
... Overall, these results indicate that women's actions which suggest a desire to bond emotionally or provide an opportunity for emotional connections to develop are most effective for attracting women friends. Emotional access is important for women's nonromantic relationships with women just as it is for women's romantic relationships with men (Buss, 1989(Buss, , 2006Wade & Brown, 2012;Wade, Mogilski, & Schoenberg, 2017). These findings are in contrast to research examining men's friendship formation which is most often a product of less intimate and less emotion based actions (Tognoli, 1980), and most often involves sharing physical activities such as sports (Adams, Blieszner, & De Vries, 2000;Clark & Ayers, 1993;Walker, 1994). ...
In species with internal female fertilization, males face the problem of paternity uncertainty, which refers to the risk of investing in unrelated offspring. As a result, a partner’s sexual infidelity may be particularly damaging for males given that it may result in allocating resources to genetically unrelated offspring, reducing a male’s inclusive fitness. As such, males invest considerable time and effort to retain their mates. Mate retention tactics involve cost-inflicting strategies that operate by reducing the partner’s self-perceived value to prevent the partner from leaving the partnership, and benefit-provisioning strategies that operate by boosting a partner’s self-esteem and improving relationship satisfaction. In this chapter, first, we discuss the benefits that men gain from long-term relationships, which include increased probability of paternity, prolonged proximity and sexual access to a partner, and increased probability of attracting a high-quality partner. Second, we discuss the main costs of infidelity for males, including the risk of investing in an unrelated child as well as costs to his reputation and future mating opportunities. Third, we define and discuss a taxonomy of mate retention tactics and explain that a male’s mate retention tactics are expected to respond to his female’s partner preferences, at least partly. Indeed, males have been found to engage in tactics such as resource display given that females value mates that are able and willing to provision them and their offspring with resources. Empirical evidence has also, surprisingly, found that men, more than women, engage in strategies such as submission and debasement. Empirical evidence also suggests that men also use threats and violence directed to rivals more than women do. Our review also demonstrates that males engage in both benefit-provisioning and cost-inflicting mate-retention strategies, and that the type of strategy chosen as well as its intensity is partly dependent on a man’s mate value and his ability to acquire resources. Finally, we discuss some of the main environmental factors that may influence the mate retention tactics displayed by males, including partner mate value and perceived infidelity threat.
Relationship maintenance processes include a wide range of activities and cognitions that romantic partners engage in to sustain or enhance their relationships. In this article, we review literature from the past two decades (2002–2021). We focus on key definitional and conceptual issues in the study of relational maintenance. Guided by a lens of intersectionality, we then perform a theoretically‐driven review of the empirical articles published over the last 20 years paying careful attention to the nature of the samples, methods, and privileged research questions. We conclude by offering a reflection on the current state of this literature and provide suggestions for future research.
Cambridge Core - Social Psychology - On-Again, Off-Again Relationships - by René M. Dailey
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The present research sought to determine whether or not there are sex differences in reactions to an inequity in one partner's love or sexual attraction towards her/his partner. Study 1 used a categorical measure where participants were asked to indicate which scenario, partner is less sexually attracted to you than you are to her/him, and partner loves you less than you love her/him was most upsetting. Study 2 used a continuous measure where participants were asked to rate the level of upset associated with those same two scenarios. Based on prior research examining deficits in emotional and sexual access and prior research examining the role of emotional and sexual actions in reconciliation, an inequity in love between partners was hypothesized to be chosen as most upsetting (Study 1) and rated as more upsetting (Study 2) for both sexes. The results were consistent with the hypothesis for Study 1 only. No significant differences occurred for Study 2. These findings are discussed in terms of prior research on love and reconciliation.
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Three studies were implemented in order to ascertain how men and women flirt with potential partners, and whether or not there are sex differences in which flirtatious actions are considered most effective. Study 1 (n = 40) and Study 2 (n = 60) sought to discover the actions that men and women, respectively, engage in to indicate romantic interest to a partner. Study 3 (n = 126) sought to determine which flirtatious acts from women and men are perceived as most effective. Men were expected to rate women’s flirtations that suggest sexual access as most effective and women were expected to rate men’s flirtatious actions that suggest emotional commitment and exclusivity as most effective. The results were consistent with the hypotheses and are discussed in terms of prior research.
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We gathered data that would allow us to examine evolutionarily informed predictions regarding emotional and physical responses to a breakup—a cluster of correlated responses we refer to as postrelationship grief (PRG). We tested predictions of the existing biological model of human mating and looked to replicate or expand on the extant literature by surveying 5,705 participants in 96 countries (Mage � 27 years). Seventy-five percent of respondents experienced a breakup and 75% of those individuals experienced multiple breakups. Most responses differed significantly by sex. Emotional response was more severe than physical, with women expressing higher levels than men in each instance. Distribution of responses was similar between sexes. Intensity of emotional response for both sexes was notable: median (and mean) response of nearly 7 (of 10). Component responses, both physical and emotional, again showed significant variation but similar distributions. Women initiated breakups more frequently. Rejected individuals experienced higher PRG levels than those initiating the breakup or breakups via mutual agreement; however, the PRG experience was still relatively severe for both parties. “Lack of communication,” was the most prevalent breakup cause. This initial investigation suggests that PRG requires continued study.
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Research on Facebook has primarily focused on the benefits of social connectivity, paying little attention to the ways in which this social networking site complicates the termination of romantic relationships. The present exploratory study employs a mixed-methods approach to examine the breakup practices of young people on Facebook and to develop new scales for measuring surveillance of an ex and Facebook breakup distress. The aim of the study is to better understand the relationship between internet electronic surveillance and breakup distress. Findings show that content on Facebook can be a significant source of distress for individuals after a breakup. Young people who engage in higher levels of internet electronic surveillance experience more breakup distress. A methodological innovation of our study is the integration of narrative data obtained from in-depth interviews with survey results, highlighting how qualitative analysis can enrich quantitative studies examining social networking. We discuss implications for research into social relations, breakups, and social media.
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Breakup distress and reasons for breakup including affiliation, intimacy, sexuality and autonomy reasons were stud-ied in 119 university students who had experienced a recent breakup of a romantic relationship. The sample was di-vided into high and low breakup distress groups based on a median score on the Breakup Distress Scale. The groups were then compared on their responses on the Breakup Reasons Scale. Only the intimacy subscale differentiated the high versus low breakup distress groups. These data highlight the importance of intimacy for romantic relationships and the loss of intimacy as a reason for breakups.
Scientists Making a Difference is a fascinating collection of first-person narratives from the top psychological scientists of the modern era. These readable essays highlight the most important contributions to theory and research in psychological science, show how the greatest psychological scientists formulate and think about their work, and illustrate how their ideas develop over time. In particular, the authors address what they consider their most important scientific contribution, how they got the idea, how the idea matters for the world beyond academic psychology, and what they would like to see as the next steps in research. The contributors, who were chosen from an objectively compiled list of the most eminent psychological scientists, provide a broad range of insightful perspectives. This book is essential reading for students, researchers and professionals interested in learning about the development of the biggest ideas in modern psychological science, described firsthand by the scientists themselves.
In order for non-kin altruism to evolve, altruists must receive fitness benefits for their actions that outweigh the costs. Several researchers have suggested that altruism is a costly signal of desirable qualities, such that it could have evolved by sexual selection. In two studies, we show that altruism is broadly linked with mating success. In Study 1, participants who scored higher on a self-report altruism measure reported they were more desirable to the opposite sex, as well as reported having more sex partners, more casual sex partners, and having sex more often within relationships. Sex moderated some of these relationships, such that altruism mattered more for men's number of lifetime and casual sex partners. In Study 2, participants who were willing to donate potential monetary winnings (in a modified dictator dilemma) reported having more lifetime sex partners, more casual sex partners, and more sex partners over the past year. Men who were willing to donate also reported having more lifetime dating partners. Furthermore, these patterns persisted, even when controlling for narcissism, Big Five personality traits, and socially desirable responding. These results suggest that altruists have higher mating success than non-altruists and support the hypothesis that altruism is a sexually selected costly signal of difficult-to-observe qualities.
Sexual conflict-what happens when the reproductive interests of males and females diverge-occurs in all sexually reproducing species, including humans. This book is the first volume to assemble the latest theoretical and empirical work on sexual conflict in humans from the leading scholars in the fields of evolutionary psychology and anthropology. Following an introductory section that outlines theory and research on sexual conflict in humans and non-humans, ensuing sections discuss human sexual conflict and its manifestations before and during mating. Articles in these sections address a range of factors topics and factors, including: sexual coercion, jealousy, and partner violence and killing; the ovulatory cycle, female orgasm, and sperm competition; chemical warfare between ejaculates and female reproductive tracts. Articles in the next section address issues of sexual conflict after the birth of a child. These articles address sexual conflict as a function of the local sex ratio, men's functional (if unconscious) concern with paternal resemblance to a child, men's reluctance to pay child support, and mate expulsion as a tactic to end a relationship. The book's concluding section includes an article that considers the impact of sexual conflict on a grander scale, notably on cultural, political, and religious systems. Addressing sexual conflict at its molecular and macroscopic levels, it is a resource for the study of intersexual behavior.
Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in the behavioral sciences. Despite this, a comprehensive summary of the potential sources of method biases and how to control for them does not exist. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which method biases influence behavioral research results, identify potential sources of method biases, discuss the cognitive processes through which method biases influence responses to measures, evaluate the many different procedural and statistical techniques that can be used to control method biases, and provide recommendations for how to select appropriate procedural and statistical remedies for different types of research settings.