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EXPERIMENTAL study proposal.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Will Huggon

Running head: EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 1 Perceived Publicity of Romantic Relationships: Effects on Attitudes towards Infidelity, Probability of Engaging in Infidelity, and Commitment. Date submitted: 18/03/2013 PSY320H5 Attitudes EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 2 INTRODUCTION Infidelity is commonly defined as any sexual or emotional ties that an individual has outside of a romantic relationship where both partners have agreed to remain exclusive to each other. In the literature, it is also referred to as extradyadic involvement. Extradyadic involvement (EDI) appears to be a fairly common problem in today’s society; some studies have found that up to 60% of men and 50% of women have been unfaithful to their partner at some point in their serious relationship or marriage (Hackathorn, Mattingly, Clark, & Mattingly, 2011). Even though extradyadic involvement seems to be increasingly more prevalent, it does not seem to be perceived as acceptable by a majority of people (Sampat, 2005). It is important to understand predictors of dating infidelity because it can lead to jealousy, low self-esteem and in some cases to dissolution of the relationship. Understanding predictors for dating and marriage infidelity can help marriage and relationship counsellors better serve their clients. A person’s attitude towards infidelity can be an important predictor of their probability of having an EDI. A major complication in measuring individuals’ attitudes about infidelity is that its definition varies from person to person. For example, one person may view ambiguous acts such as going to see a movie with an extradyadic partner as infidelity while others will not. However, people generally agree that explicit flirting and fantasizing about and having sexual relationships with extradyadic partners are more concrete forms of infidelity (Hackathorn et al, 2011). Extradyadic permissiveness (an accepting attitude towards EDI) has been found to be the best predictor of infidelity, but for males more so than for females (Oikle, 2002; Sheppard, Nelson & Andreoli-Mathie, 1995). Sociosexual orientation- which is defined as an individual’s willingness to participate in non-committed sexual interactions- also seems to be a consistent predictor; People who have a permissive sociosexual orientation are more likely to engage in EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 3 infidelity (Hackathorn et al, 2011). It is not very surprising that low relationship satisfaction and commitment are also linked to increased unfaithfulness. In a longitudinal study, Jennifer Oikle (2002) found that individuals who reported lower relationship commitment and who had more permissive attitudes towards EDI at Time 1 were more likely to be unfaithful to their partner at Time 2. Other studies have found that people who cheat do so regardless of the level of satisfaction in their relationship, but they’re less likely to cheat if they have felt committed to the relationship for a long time (Dabrowski, 2009). Interestingly, no previous research has explored the effect of relationship publicity on cheating behavior, satisfaction and commitment. Relationship publicity can be defined as the extent to which individuals acknowledge to others that they’re in a relationship with someone. For example, listing your relationship status on Facebook as “in a relationship with (partner name)” can be considered making a relationship public. Relationship publicity could affect how individuals perceive their relationship, as well as their attitudes about cheating and level of commitment in the relationship. In light of the concept of social desirability, it is likely that having a more public and committed relationship reduces cheating behavior and increases negative attitude towards cheating, in an attempt to be seen positively by others. The present study will explore individuals’ attitudes towards 3 types of infidelity- ambiguous, explicit and implicit infidelity- before and after their relationship has experienced an increase in publicity. Perception of ambiguous infidelity varies greatly from person to person. These are behaviors such hugging/cuddling, excessive texting/chatting with and going to see a movie with an extradyadic partner (Hackathorn et al, 2011). Explicit infidelity constitutes engaging in sexual relations such as kissing, petting, and intercourse with someone other than the exclusive partner (Hackathorn et al, 2011). Implicit infidelity can be defined as a prelude to EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 4 infidelity, or “one-sided cheating”. It constitutes behaviours such as fantasizing about, and excessively looking at extradyadic partners. It would be interesting to explore if people generally view these milder and more implicit behaviors as cheating or not. Currently, no experimental studies related to relationship infidelity have been published in the literature. However, there is some experimental research on cheating in tests and games. In one study it was found that participants who believed they were treated unfairly in a previous game were more likely to cheat during a subsequent unrelated game (Houser, Vetter, Winter, 2012). It has also been found that poor performers cheat more under competition, which may be an attempt to retain a chance of winning (Schwieren & Weichselbaumer, 2010). These other types of cheating are not similar to relationship infidelity in that they do not involve interpersonal interactions and their motives are more focused towards bettering one’s circumstances, whereas motives or for infidelity can vary greatly. For the purpose of this study proposal, it would be more advantageous to focus on the correlational studies on dating relationships and infidelity. Hypotheses:  Individuals who have their relationship made more public at Time 1 (experimental group): would experience an increase in perceived relationship publicity and an increase in relationship commitment at Time 2. They would also perceive infidelity more negatively, and be less likely to engage in infidelity behavior at Time 2.  Most participants will perceive explicit infidelity more negatively than the other two types. Also, at Time 2, individuals in the experimental group will perceive explicit infidelity more negatively than those in the control group. EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 5 METHOD Participants: The participants of this study would ideally be about 200 (100 male, 100 female) first-year psychology students at UTM. The opportunity to participate in the study would be posted on the PSY100 experiment database and participants would sign up for the experiment with their partner. In order to participate in the study, individuals must currently be in a heterosexual relationship where both partners are expected to be exclusive to each other, and they must actively use a Facebook account (checking Facebook at least once a day). No married individuals will be included in this study. Materials: Time 1 Questionnaire. This Questionnaire will include an attitude scale which will measure attitudes towards cheating, as well as relationship commitment. Participants would also indicate their gender and duration of the current relationship. The attitude scale will be in the format of 3 sentence cheating scenarios which participants will rate on a 5-point scale from - 2 (completely unacceptable) to 0 (neutral) to +2 (completely acceptable). There will be 3 different types of scenarios: ambiguous, implicit and explicit cheating. An example of ambiguous cheating scenario would be “Tim’s girlfriend Lindy was away vacation for 3 months. He felt very lonely and bored without her. He decided to text his ex-girlfriend to ask if she would like to go and see a movie with him. What do you think about Tim’s behavior?” (Please refer to appendix 3 for examples of implicit and explicit cheating scenarios). In each scenario the second sentence would provide an excuse for the cheating behavior so that the participant will be required to think before they respond (to prevent automatically responding on negative extremes). There will be 18 scenarios in total; in half of the scenarios the unfaithful partner will be male, and the other half female. There will be an equal number of ambiguous, implicit and explicit cheating scenarios (3 each) for the unfaithful male group and female group (Appendix EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 6 1). Filler scenarios unrelated to infidelity will be included to prevent participants from guessing the hypotheses of the study. An example of filler scenario: “Jenna was mad at her boyfriend Curt for not paying attention to her all day. She refused to sleep with him that night”. Relationship commitment will be measured using a 4-item scale created by Oikle (2002). Participants rate their response on a 7-point scale from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7) to statements such as “I may not want to be with my partner a few years from now” Also, a one- item scale would measure participants’ perceived publicity of their relationship (Appendix 2). Photo-shoot. A talented photographer or research assistant and photography equipment such as lighting and cameras would be needed. A talented make-up and hair artist or RA would be needed to prepare the couple since it is a surprise photo-shoot. Costumes might also be needed in case participants refuse to pose with the clothes they’re wearing. Also, a fake Facebook page representing the photographer and his/her work would have to be created. Online Time 2 Questionnaire. The Time 2 questionnaire will consist of the same attitude, commitment, and perceived publicity scales used at Time 1 and additionally an infidelity behavior scale. The infidelity behavior scale will ask the participants to indicate how often (within the past month) they engaged in the same 18 cheating/pre-cheating behaviors given in the attitude scale at Time 1. For example, one question measuring ambiguous cheating behavior would be “How often did you go to see a movie alone with person of the opposite sex (other than your committed partner)?”, and for implicit cheating behavior: “How often did you spend more than an hour looking at photos of potential partners (other than your current partner)?”; And to measure explicit cheating: “How often did you have sexual intercourse with someone other than your exclusive partner?” Participants would rate their response on a 4-point scale from “never” EFFCTS OF RELATIONSHIP PUBLICITY ON INFIDELITY AND COMMITMENT 7 (1), “once” (2), “two to three times” (3) and “four or more times” (4). A participant’s score on this scale would be the sum of all ratings. Procedure: Initial Session. At Time 1, participants would come into the experiment with their partner and take the Time 1 questionnaire (Appendix 3). The two partners will take the questionnaire in different rooms so that the immediate presence of each other will not influence their responses. After the questionnaire, the couple would be given a casual 20-minute photo- shoot as a surprise gift (Appendix 4). Presenting this component of the study as a “gift” would make them more likely to consent to take part in it. The participants would be made to believe that this is a promotion for a private photography business unrelated to the study. Participants in the experimental group will be asked to sign a consent form for their pictures to be posted on the photography page, and they will be told that people on their Facebo
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