Scientific Advice on How to Handle Valentine’s Day

4 new studies approach love and science

1. A Different Kind of Gift Guide for Valentine’s Day

Research on gift giving from the University of Cincinnati shows that thoughtful lovers’ burning desire to show off just how well they know their partner could get them burnt. So instead, think romantically, but shop for versatility (just don’t get TOO versatile!). The research features data analysis from multiple experiments that show a giver’s preference for personalization often works against him or her.

“When it comes to choosing gifts for close others, like romantic partners, givers try especially hard to be thoughtful and demonstrate their knowledge of their partner,” says Mary Steffel, researcher and assistant professor of marketing in UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business. “Ironically, these attempts to be thoughtful can backfire.”


2. Don’t go for the pheromone perfume …

Is love at first scent a real thing—and more importantly, can it be bottled?


3. Oh, you don’t have anyone to shop for? Feeling Unloved? Just ‘Like’ This

Facebook is your friend.

A new study suggests that people who are generally insecure in their relationships are more actively engaged on the social media site—frequently posting on walls, commenting, updating their status or “liking” something—in hopes of getting attention. Because these people need a lot of reassurance that they are loved and are very sensitive to other people’s opinions about them, they turn to Facebook, with its 1.2 billion users, for feedback, according to the study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

“They report feeling much better about themselves when they get a lot of comments, likes and other feedback on their posts and worse about themselves when their Facebook activity generates little attention,” says Joshua Hart, associate professor of psychology and the lead author of the study.

“These studies are consistent with many people’s intuitions that some individuals use Facebook to fulfill emotional and relationship needs that are unmet in the ‘real’ world,” Hart says.

 

4. Speakling of the ‘real’ world … In Defense of Sexting

In her book “Sexting Panic” Dr. Amy Hasinoff, a professor of Communication at CU Denver, argues that sexting isn’t a problem, but malicious sharing of images is a major concern. Her research finds that criminalization and abstinence policies meant to curb sexting often fail to account for the distinction between consensual sharing and the malicious distribution of a private image.

Hasinoff encourages society to recognize young people’s capacity for choice and to rethink the assumption that everything digital is public. Hasinoff found that legal and educational authorities often blame and even prosecute girls who sext while paying little attention to people who maliciously distribute private images without permission.

“While it may be appealing to advise girls to simply abstain from sexting in order to protect themselves, ending the discussion there obscures the harm of privacy violations,” said Hasinoff. “I suggest that adopting the standard that explicit consent should be required for the circulation of private images and information could result in radically different responses to sexting and have profound implications for social media policies.”

“By examining the problematic responses to sexting and offering alternative ways of thinking about this new social issue, I contend that scholars, educators, and policymakers need to reconsider taken-for-granted ideas about digital media and young women’s sexuality,” said Hasinoff.

Here are her Do and Don’t lists for sexting:

  • Don’t simply prohibit sexting – Around one-third of teens are going to sext even if they’re told not to. We know abstinence-only sex ed has failed to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancy and STIs, so we can guess that abstinence-only sexting policies will fail, too.
  • Avoid the scare tactic of warning teens not to sext because all sexts will eventually be distributed – When teens hear the message that “all sexts will be distributed,” many will tune out because that doesn’t match up with their experience. Studies show that around 10 percent of private images are distributed without permission.
  • Don’t tell teens whose private images have been distributed that their future job and college prospects are ruined and that their images are being viewed by child molesters – This creates unnecessary fear and shame. In cases in which images are distributed among peers without permission, they are very rarely ever uploaded to public websites.
  • Avoid telling girls that abstaining from sexting proves and preserves their self-respect and self-esteem – This perpetuates shaming and blaming the victim.

What to say to teens about sexting:

  • Teach young people to recognize and respect consent in themselves and others.
  • Talk about (and respect) teens’ norms and expectations of privacy on the internet and mobile phones in different contexts. Focus on discouraging privacy violations.
  • Be a role model for the importance of digital privacy. Monitoring kids’ texts (or reading their diaries) sends the wrong message that privacy violations are ok.
  • Discuss sexting’s similarity to other sexual activities; talk about sexual ethics, consent, and respect between partners.
  • Discuss rape culture, shaming, homophobia, and the sexual double standard. Work with young people to collectively develop ongoing strategies to resist gender- and sexuality-based harassment and bullying.
  • Think about the potential legal consequences (to the victims and the perpetrators) before reporting sexting to law enforcement, though consider any applicable mandatory reporting laws or policies.

Image: Some rights reserved by Landin Hollis

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