Getting Married? Trust Your Gut

Wondering how your marriage will turn out? According to scientists, you may already know it in your gut.

A study published in Science found that newlywed’s implicit feelings about each other—feelings that they couldn’t or wouldn’t verbalize—were pretty good at predicting how happy they’d be four years later.

For the study, researchers had one hundred newlyweds participate in a reaction-time test, which is a test designed to test unconscious attitudes. If you’re interested, you can take tests like these online; they’ll measure your unconscious racism, sexism, homophobia, and all kinds of other wonderful personality defects. Anyway, researchers designed reaction-time tests tailored to the couples they were studying. Participants sat at a computer, and when positive words flashed on the screen, they had to press a “good” key, and when negative words appeared, they had to press a “bad” key. A few minutes into the test, once they were in the swing of things, images of their spouse flashed milliseconds before the words. If your attitude of your spouse is more positive, you tend to hit the “good” button faster. Differences of mere seconds in response time were good enough to help researchers predict whether the couple would be together in four year’s time.

According to Jim McNulty, one of the study’s co-authors, such tests aren’t at a level where they can be used on individual couples yet. His advice? “There’s some evidence that people can access their automatic feelings, their immediate gut-level reactions. And so if people do that and they feel that there are some doubts, I think probably the best thing to do would be to go talk to a professional, because it’s not certain that a person with doubts is going to be unhappy.”

So, have a bad feeling about your impending marriage? Maybe listen to it.


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