1. Study suggests music can alter evaluation of male faces’ attractiveness

    September 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Vienna press release:

    Music is a worldwide phenomenon and part of every culture, but the origin of music remains a longstanding puzzle. Why do people invest so much energy, time and money in music? Various theories have been proposed, some of which emphasize the biological and social aspects of music. For instance, Charles Darwin said, within the framework of his theory of evolution that music has developed through sexual selection. The motor and cognitive abilities necessary for making music serve as an indicator for good genes and thus increase the reproductive success. This is similar to the singing of birds in the mating season. “There are currently few empirical findings that support Darwin’s theory on the origin of music. We wanted to use a new experimental paradigm to investigate the role of music in choosing a mating partner” says Manuela Marin, the leader of the study and former associate of the Institute for Basic Psychological Research and Research Methods at the University of Vienna.

    In the current study, Marin and her colleagues investigated the impact of musical exposure on the subjective evaluations of opposite-sex faces. “Facial attractiveness is one of the most important physical characteristics that can influence the choice of a partner. We wanted to find out how music can alter the perception of this feature” says Helmut Leder from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Vienna. Since music, especially before the advent of modern technology, has always been experienced in the here and now, and mostly in a social context, it is plausible to assume that music could positively influence the visual perception of faces. “There is some evidence in the psychological literature that so-called arousal transfer effects can occur if two stimuli are processed consecutively. The processing of the first stimulus produces internal arousal, i.e. increased physiological activity, which is then attributed to the second stimulus. This mostly unconscious mechanism can then influence our actions, in this case, the choice of a partner” explains Manuela Marin.

    In their experiment, the scientists presented heterosexual participants with instrumental musical excerpts that varied in their emotional content, followed by a photograph of a face from the opposite sex with a neutral facial expression. The face was assessed in terms of its attractiveness on a scale. In addition, participants were asked to rate whether they would date the person pictured. In the control condition only faces without music were presented. There were three groups of participants: women in the fertile phase of their cycle, women in the nonfertile phase of their cycle, and men. These groups were similar in their musical preferences and musical training, as well as in their mood before the experiment and in their relationship status. The results showed that female participants rated the male faces as more attractive and were more willing to date the men pictured when previously exposed to music. The fertility cycle did not have a large influence on the ratings. Overall, highly stimulating and complex music led to the greatest effect compared to the control condition. This effect was not present among male participants.

    These results are promising and open up new possibilities to investigate the role of music in partner selection in connection with aspects of physical attractiveness. “Our goal is to replicate these results in a larger sample and to modify some aspects of the experiment. For example, we would like to clarify whether musical abilities and creativity can compensate partially for deficiencies in terms of physical appearance and fitness” says Bruno Gingras from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Innsbruck. Helmut Leder adds: “Our results also recall the well-known Capilano Suspension Bridge experiment of Dutton and Aaron from the early 1970s. In that case, male participants crossed either a suspension bridge or a sturdy bridge and were then interviewed by an attractive female confederate who gave them her phone number. Participants who walked over the suspension bridge were much more likely to contact her later. We are planning similar experiments with music in a social context.”

    These results could have broad implications: “There is an increasing number of empirical findings showing that music has the power to influence human behavior with regard to partner selection. But how can Darwin’s theory be reconciled with other biological and social theories on the genesis of music? Music can promote social cohesion, and it also plays a role in the mother-child relationship. Until we understand these connections, there will be a long way to go” concluded Manuela Marin.


  2. Study suggests you are what you think you eat

    September 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the British Psychological Society (BPS) press release:

    Despite eating the same breakfast, made from the same ingredients, people consumed more calories throughout the day when they believed that one of the breakfasts was less substantial than the other.

    The research, funded by the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services at the Rowett Institute, is the key finding of research led by Steven Brown from Sheffield Hallam University which is being presented today at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology.

    Previous studies have investigated the link between how filling we expect liquids (e.g. drinks) or semi-solids (e.g. smoothies/soups) to be and people’s subsequent feelings of hunger up to three hours later.

    These initial expectations have also been shown to be an important determinant of how much people eat at a meal provided a short time later. The current research shows that a similar effect can be seen when using solid foods (i.e. an omelette) and that the influence of those expectations is still present after a longer period of time (four hours later and the total day’s calorific intake).

    A total of 26 participants took part. Over two visits, participants believed they were eating either a two or four egg omelette for breakfast. However, both of the omelettes actually contained three eggs.

    When the participants believed that the omelette was smaller they reported themselves to be significantly hungrier after two hours, they consumed significantly more of a pasta lunch and, in total, consumed significantly more calories throughout the day than when the same participants believed that they were eating a larger omelette.

    Steven Brown said, “Previous studies have shown that a person’s expectations can have an impact on their subsequent feelings of hunger and fullness and, to a degree, their later calorie consumption. Our work builds on this with the introduction of solid food and measured people’s subsequent consumption four hours later, a period of time more indicative of the gap between breakfast and lunch.

    “We were also able to measure participants’ consumption throughout the rest of the day and found that total intake was lower when participants believed that they had eaten a larger breakfast.

    “As part of the study, we were able to take blood samples from participants throughout their visits. Having analysed levels of ghrelin, a known hunger hormone, our data also suggest that changes in reported hunger and the differences in later consumption are not due to a differences in participants’ physical response to the food.

    Therefore, memory for prior consumption, as opposed to physiological factors, may be a better target for investigating why expectations for a meal have an effect on subsequent feelings of hunger and calorie intake.”


  3. Contagious yawning more closely associated with perceptual sensitivity than empathy

    September 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Tohoku University press release:

    Contagious yawning is a universal phenomenon, but why it happens remains a mystery.

    A new study out of Tohoku University suggests that contrary to common belief that the yawning contagion is associated with empathy, it is in fact, more likely that perceptual sensitivity is to blame.

    In the study, healthy volunteers were shown photos and videos of people yawning. The intention was to induce contagious yawning. The participants were observed through hidden cameras, which recorded their reactions, and an eye-tracking machine, which registered their gazing patterns.

    To test the participants’ sensitivity towards yawning expressions, they were later given 60 photos containing four intensity levels of yawning, and asked to judge (yes/no) if the person in each photo was yawning.

    For control comparisons, participants were also shown 60 happy and 60 angry photos with four intensity levels, after which they were asked if the people in the photos looked happy/angry.

    Researchers found that those who were more likely to detect yawning from a face were also more likely to be induced to yawn. However, sensitivity to happy or angry faces appeared to have little relation to the frequency of contagious yawning.

    To study whether contagious yawning relates to empathy in healthy people, the participants’ autistic tendency (or AQ, autistic quotient measured by an autism-spectrum quotient questionnaire) was measured but showed little effect. However, female participants in the study registered a significantly higher susceptibility towards catching a yawn contagiously.

    The study, titled “Yawning Detection Sensitivity and Yawning Contagion” was published in i-Perception on August 25, 2017. It is the first study to investigate the perceptual limitations on yawning contagion behavior in a non-clinical population.

    “Recent clinical observations showed that individuals diagnosed with Autism or Schizophrenia did not yawn contagiously like typical individuals. This has led many to think that impaired social ability (e.g. empathy) might contribute to a person’s inability to yawn contagiously,” said lead researcher, Dr. Chia-huei Tseng, an associate professor at the Research Institute of Electrical Communication (RIEC) at Tohoku University. However, it is unknown if the clinical speculations also apply to the general population.

    “We find that for non-clinical population, perceptual ability is more closely related to contagious yawning than empathy is,” said Tseng. “Since it’s been documented that people with autism tend to suffer from impaired perception such as an atypical eye gazing on faces and a difficulty in judging facial emotions, it’s possible that their perceptual limitation causes them to be unable to detect someone else’s yawning expression. This is a possible explanation for their lack of contagious yawning.”


  4. Sleep may influence an eyewitness’s ability to identify guilty person

    by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    Sleep may influence an eyewitness’s ability to correctly pick a guilty person out of a police lineup, indicates a study by Michigan State University researchers.

    Published in PLOS ONE, the research found that eyewitnesses to a crime who sleep before being given a lineup are much less likely to pick an innocent person out of a lineup — at least when the perpetrator is not in the lineup.

    Some 70 percent of wrongful convictions in the United States are related to false eyewitness accounts. This study is the first scientific investigation into how sleep affects eyewitness memory of a crime, said lead author Michelle Stepan, a doctoral student in psychology.

    “It’s concerning that more people aren’t making the correct decision during lineups; this suggests our memories are not super accurate and that’s a problem when you’re dealing with the consequences of the criminal justice system,” Stepan said. “Putting someone in jail is a big decision based on somebody’s memory of a crime.”

    Stepan and Kimberly Fenn, associate professor of psychology and director of MSU’s Sleep and Learning Lab, conducted an experiment in which about 200 participants watched a video of a crime (a man planting a bomb on a rooftop) and then, 12 hours later, viewed one of two computer lineups of six similar-looking people. One lineup included the perpetrator; the other lineup did not.

    Some participants watched the crime video in the morning and viewed a lineup that night, with no sleep in between. Others watched the crime video at night and viewed a lineup the next morning, after sleeping.

    When the perpetrator was not in the lineup, participants who had slept identified an innocent person 42 percent of the time — compared to 66 percent for participants who had not slept.

    “This is the most interesting finding of the study — that individuals are less likely to choose an innocent suspect after a period of sleep when the perpetrator is absent from the lineup,” Fenn said. This is relevant, she added, because false convictions too often stem from an incorrect eyewitness identification of a suspect who did not commit the crime.

    When the perpetrator was in the lineup, there was essentially no difference between the sleep and no-sleep groups’ ability to choose the guilty man. Both groups correctly identified the perpetrator about 50 percent of the time.

    “In other words,” Fenn said, “sleep may not help you get the right guy, but it may help you keep an innocent individual out of jail.”

    The results could reflect both changes in memory strength and decision-making strategies after sleep.

    The researchers believe participants who slept were more likely to use an “absolute strategy,” in which they compare each person in the lineup to their memory of the suspect, while participants who didn’t sleep were more likely to use a “relative strategy,” in which they compare the people in the lineup to each other to determine who most resembles the perpetrator relative to the others.

    Using a relative strategy is believed to increase false identifications relative to an absolute strategy in perpetrator-absent lineups, Stepan said.

    “These findings tell us that sleep likely impacts memory processes but that it might also impact how people search through a lineup, and those search strategies might be a critical factor when the perpetrator is not in the lineup,” she said.

    Fenn noted that the key findings of the study have since been replicated.

    The MSU team is conducting research that further explores how sleep may directly or indirectly affect eyewitness memory.


  5. Study suggests understanding perceptions of reputation, identity offers opportunity

    September 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Notre Dame press release:

    Though we are taught from an early age not to judge others, we can use our perceptions of others to work toward positive outcomes, both socially and professionally, according to a study from the University of Notre Dame.

    Recognizing when our understanding of someone differs from that individual’s self-perception and also from how others see that same person can provide important insights into managing those relationships, according to “Knowledge of identity and reputation: Do people have knowledge of others’ perceptions?” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Brittany Solomon, research assistant professor of management and organization in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

    The research found that, regardless of how people personally view another person, they also are aware of how that person sees themselves, as well as how they are generally perceived by others.

    “Understanding others’ subjective realities can enhance empathy, cooperation and communication and may also influence one’s own opinions,” Solomon says. “This can prompt people to deliberate and even re-evaluate their own views or enable them to influence others.”

    Specifically, Solomon examined the extent to which people have insight into another person’s identity and reputation. Hundreds of study participants were asked to provide a range of personality perceptions from different points of view, while their friends and acquaintances did the same to show whether people can really see beyond their own views and accurately realize others’ perceptions.

    “Any time you’re interacting with other people, understanding their perspectives is important,” Solomon says. “For example, if I’m a manager or supervisor and I’m trying to motivate an employee, I can assign tasks that will really highlight their strengths or help boost self-esteem in areas of weakness. This approach can affirm people’s identities, build confidence and help uncover hidden talents.”

    Solomon, who studies personality as a predictor of a variety of individual and organizational level outcomes such as job satisfaction and career success, says the research results can greatly improve team dynamics.

    “If you know that one person is seen in positive or negative ways, you can highlight their attributes that perhaps other group members aren’t aware of,” Solomon says. “Or, you could avoid potential conflict by not grouping certain individuals together in the first place.”

    It’s not about determining whose perception is right or wrong. It’s about recognizing that multiple perspectives exist and how that awareness can help inform our interactions with one another.

    “People’s self-perceptions obviously are going to be skewed,” Solomon says. “What matters is that we’re aware of each other’s subjective realities. I think that sometimes people get along because they mistakenly assume everyone is on the same page. The more insight we have into the discrepancies and views of others makes our interactions legitimate. Ultimately, we don’t want to live in a world where we are deluded.”

    The findings can prove valuable in most contexts of life, including negotiation.

    The person who has greater insight into an opponent’s identity can, of course, leverage that information in various ways to win,” Solomon says. “Much of life involves interacting with others. As a friend, parent or teacher, understanding someone else’s identity can help that other person feel understood and provide the groundwork for effective motivation.”


  6. Scents and social preference: Neuroscientists ID the roots of attraction

    September 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of California – San Diego press release:

    A baby lamb is separated from its family. Somehow, in vast herds of sheep that look virtually identical, the lost youngling locates its kin. Salmon swim out to the vast expanses of the sea and migrate back home to their precise spawning grounds with bewildering accuracy.

    Scientists have long known about such animal kinship attachments, some known as “imprinting,” but the mechanisms underlying them have been hidden in a black box at the cellular and molecular levels. Now biologists at the University of California San Diego have unlocked key elements of these mysteries, with implications for understanding social attraction and aversion in a range of animals and humans.

    Davide Dulcis of UC San Diego’s Psychiatry Department at the School of Medicine, Giordano Lippi, Darwin Berg and Nick Spitzer of the Division of Biological Sciences and their colleagues published their results in the August 31, 2017 online issue of the journal Neuron.

    In a series of neurobiological studies stretching back eight years, the researchers examined larval frogs (tadpoles), which are known to swim with family members in clusters. Focusing the studies on familial olfactory cues, or kinship odors, the researchers identified the mechanisms by which two- to four-day old tadpoles chose to swim with family members over non-family members. Their tests also revealed that tadpoles that were exposed to early formative odors of those outside of their family cluster were also inclined to swim with the group that generated the smell, expanding their social preference beyond their own true kin.

    The researchers discovered that this change is rooted in a process known as “neurotransmitter switching,” an area of brain research pioneered by Spitzer and further investigated by Dulcis in the context of psychostimulants and the diseased brain. The dopamine neurotransmitter was found in high levels during normal family kinship bonding, but switched to the GABA neurotransmitter in the case of artificial odor kinship, or “non-kin” attraction.

    “In the reversed conditions there is a clear sign of neurotransmitter switching, so now we can see that these neurotransmitters are really controlling a specific behavior,” said Dulcis, an associate professor. “You can imagine how important this is for social preference and behavior. We have innate responses in relationships, falling in love and deciding whether we like someone. We use a variety of cues and these odorants can be part of the social preference equation.”

    The scientists took the study to a deeper level, seeking to find how this mechanism unfolds at the genetic level.

    Sequencing helped isolate two key microRNAs, molecules involved in coordinating gene expression. Sifting through hundreds of possibilities they identified microRNA-375 and microRNA-200b as the key regulators mediating the neurotransmitter switching for attraction and aversion, affecting the expression of genes known as Pax6 and Bcl11b that ultimately control the tadpole’s swimming behavior.

    “MicroRNAs were ideal candidates for the job,” said Lippi, a project scientist in Berg’s laboratory in the Division’s Neurobiology Section. “They are post-transcriptional repressors and can target hundreds of different mRNAs to consolidate specific genetic programs and trigger developmental switches.”

    The study began in 2009 and deepened in size and scope over the years. Reviewers of the paper were impressed with the project’s breadth, including one who commended the authors “for this heroic study which is both fascinating and comprehensive.”

    “Social interaction, whether it’s with people in the workplace or with family and friends, has many determinants,” said Spitzer, a distinguished professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, the Atkinson Family Chair and co-director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at UC San Diego. “As human beings we are complicated and we have multiple mechanisms to achieve social bonding, but it seems likely that this mechanism for switching social preference in response to olfactory stimuli contributes to some extent.”


  7. Caffeine tempers taste, triggering temptation for sweets

    September 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Cornell University press release:

    Caffeine, the widely consumed stimulant and igniter of sluggish mornings, has been found to temper taste buds temporarily, making food and drink seem less sweet, according to new Cornell University research.

    Caffeine is a powerful antagonist of adenosine receptors, which promote relaxation and sleepiness. Suppressing the receptors awakens people but decreases their ability to taste sweetness — which, ironically, may make them desire it more.

    The research demonstrates taste modulation in the real world, said senior author Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science: “When you drink caffeinated coffee, it will change how you perceive taste — for however long that effect lasts. So if you eat food directly after drinking a caffeinated coffee or other caffeinated drinks, you will likely perceive food differently.”

    Dando, along with lead authors Ezen Choo and Benjamin Picket published, “Caffeine May Reduce Perceived Sweet Taste in Humans, Supporting Evidence That Adenosine Receptors Modulate Taste,” in the Journal of Food Science.

    In the blind study, one group sampled decaffeinated coffee with 200 milligrams of caffeine added in a laboratory setting, making a strong cup of coffee. The stimulant was added to make that group’s coffee consistent with real-life amounts of caffeine. The other group drank just decaffeinated coffee. Both groups had sugar added. Panelists who drank the caffeinated brew rated it as less sweet.

    In a secondary part of the study, participants disclosed their level of alertness and estimated the amount of caffeine in their coffee. Further, panelists reported the same increase in alertness after drinking either the caffeinated or decaffeinated samples, all the while panelists could not predict if they had consumed the decaffeinated or the caffeinated version.

    “We think there might be a placebo or a conditioning effect to the simple action of drinking coffee,” said Dando. “Think Pavlov’s dog. The act of drinking coffee — with the aroma and taste — is usually followed by alertness. So the panelists felt alert even if the caffeine was not there,” said Dando.

    “What seems to be important is the action of drinking that coffee,” Dando said. “Just the action of thinking that you’ve done the things that make you feel more awake, makes you feel more awake.”


  8. How the emotions of others influence our olfactory sense

    by Ashley

    From the Ruhr-University Bochum press release:

    The emotional facial expression of others influences how positive or negative we perceive an odour. The basis of this effect seems to be the activity of a brain area that is relevant for smelling and is activated even before we perceive an odour. This is what neuropsychologists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum found out. They published their findings in the Journal Scientific Reports. “When we see someone that makes a face, because a bad smell stings his nose, the same odour appears to be unpleasant for us as well,” says Dr Patrick Schulze, one of the authors.

    The same scent smells always different

    The research team around Dr Patrick Schulze, Dr Anne-Kathrin Bestgen and Prof Dr Boris Suchan investigated via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) how the brain processes the combination of emotional information and odours. They had their participants look at a picture of a person with a happy, neutral or disgusted facial expression. Afterwards they had them rate one of twelve scents.

    The picture of the facial expression affected the way the odours were perceived. The participants rated the valence of a scent higher, when they saw a happy face first and they rated the valence as poorer when they saw a disgusted face before. That applied to aromas like caramel and lemon, as well as to the smell of sweat or garlic. Only the smell of feces could not be up valued by a positive facial expression.

    Expectations influence perception

    Accountable for the different perception is a particular part of the olfactory brain — the piriform cortex. This brain area is activated before someone senses an odour. The piriform cortex processes what we see und creates an expectation about how a something is going to smell. This expectation influences how we actually experience the smell. The fMRI-data showed that the cells of the piriform cortex got active, before a scent was in the air.

    In previous studies, researchers had always presented the pictures and the odours at the same time. “Only now that we analyzed the interaction of olfactory and visual information in a timely separated manner, we were able to see that the piriform cortex is activated before we smell something,” explains Suchan his study. The neuropsychologists plan a future study about the role of the piriform cortex in body perception. “We assume a social component,” says Suchan.


  9. Study suggests song’s structure can be linked to its popularity

    September 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Think of your favourite pop song. Can you explain why you like it so much? It might remind you of a memorable event, or move you in a way that makes you feel happy or sad. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has uncovered a simple, measurable explanation that can determine your preference for one song over another. It has linked the harmonic structure of pop songs to their placement in the charts.

    The most popular songs tend to include relatively rare chords, that is, they typically have high harmonic surprise,” says Norberto Grzywacz, a Professor of Neuroscience and Physics, who conducted this research at Georgetown University, Washington, USA. “These songs also tend to have choruses with relatively low harmonic surprise preceded by sections with many rare chords.”

    Harmonic surprise can be described as where the music deviates from the listeners expectations. Scientists have predicted that these changes in structure could elicit a pleasurable reward response in the brain. In other words, harmonic surprise can increase the likelihood a song will be a hit.

    Professor Grzywacz explains, “When listening to music, we enjoy some pieces and dislike others. Multiple reasons govern how much we like a piece of music, including compositional, emotional and cultural. We evaluated the role of a compositional element — the harmonic surprise. Surprise is important because it is a measure of new information; something that the reward centers of the brain recognise as being of value, leading to a positive emotional response. Therefore, our finding that the most popular songs tend to include surprising chords reflects our brains in-built preference.”

    It is not just the surprise element of a song that the brain deems as pleasurable, but the return to normality too.

    “The brain enjoys surprise only up to a point, because unexpected events indicate a failure of prediction,” says Professor Grzywacz. “Hence, the release of tension from surprising sections of a song to common choruses is also signalled positively by the reward centers. Our research reveals that the brain has a deep-rooted preference, which can affect whether people enjoy a piece of music.”

    The study analyzed chord-by-chord transcriptions of the harmonies of 545 songs that entered the American Billboard Hot 100 charts between 1958 and 1991. Professor Grzywacz and his colleagues measured how far the chords of the song deviated from what was expected. For example, C major is usually followed by G and F major in Western tonal music and a change from this would be classed as a surprise. These measures of surprise were compared throughout the entire song and between song sections.

    “We then used the peak position of the song in the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart to determine its popularity,” says Professor Grzywacz.

    It revealed that verses, not the choruses or bridges, accounted for much of the difference in harmonic surprise between the most and least popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Professor Grzywacz and his colleagues suggest that high surprises in the harmony of a song, as well as high surprises followed by a lower-surprise section, can both contribute to the enjoyment of an unfamiliar piece of music.

    Professor Grzywacz details where the research is heading next, “Our group is taking this line of inquiry in many directions. We are assessing whether harmonic surprise has a historical memory; does a song released in 1980 have to be surprising relative to songs released in that year, or to songs released in previous years — 1979, 1978, 1977, …or 1950…? We have a theory that chords from past music matter for surprise in new songs. For example, imagine that someone today composes a piece of music like Mozart. They would not be deemed a creative genius, even if the composition was excellent.”

    The group also hopes to measure the effect of harmonic surprise — how big it needs to be to make a song popular. “We’ve composed artificial music that have different levels of surprise and contrasts between high and low surprise sections. Volunteers will evaluate preference for these pieces of music, to assess how much these factors can affect their preference,” says Professor Grzywacz.

    He continues, “My colleagues and I are performing similar measurements and experiments with portrait paintings. Our overall goal is to use this knowledge to develop a general theory of how the brain experiences beauty in art.”


  10. ‘Tightwads and spenders’ study examines financial perceptions that hurt couples

    August 30, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Brigham Young University press release:

    When a husband thinks his wife spends too much money, whether it’s reality or perception, financial and marriage problems follow.

    A new multistate study from researchers at BYU and Kansas State University looked at contrasting financial personalities in a marriage. They titled the personalities “tightwads and spenders,” as seen in the Journal of Financial Planning.

    What shaped these personalities in marriage wasn’t concrete attributes the individuals displayed or even the circumstances they were in. Rather, it was the perception about how spendy the other spouse was.

    “The fact that spouses’ perceptions of each other’s spending behaviors were so predictive of financial conflict suggests that when it comes to the impact of finances on relationships, perceptions may be just as important, if not more important, than reality,” said Ashley LeBaron, BYU graduate student and study co-author.

    The study found that for husbands, having a wife who they saw as a spender was the highest contributor to financial conflict. For wives, having a husband who viewed them as a spender was the highest contributor to financial conflict. This was seen for couples with high incomes and low incomes as well as with couples who spent a lot and those who did not spend much at all. The views were completely relative to perception.

    LeBaron worked with BYU family life professor Jeffrey Hill as well as a national expert in the area of finances in marriage, Kansas State professor Sonya Britt-Lutter.

    “Couples need to communicate about finances, especially early in marriage,” Britt-Lutter said. “Don’t think that financial problems will magically go away when circumstances change. The study showed that circumstances weren’t the issue here, perception was, and perception doesn’t always change when circumstances do.”

    Secondarily to the perception of a spendy wife, the study found that men saw having more children as impacting financial conflict, and women saw a lack of financial communication overall as impacting financial conflict.

    Of those who participated in the study, 90 percent of women and 85 percent of men reported that they experienced some kind of financial worries.

    The researchers suggest that no matter what the perceptions or realities are exactly, if finances are causing problems in a marriage, help is possible.

    “The good news is that couples can benefit from clinical help,” Hill said, “whether that be a financial planner or a marriage and family therapist.”

    There are also a host of resources available online, paid and free, to assist in budgeting and money management.

    Data for this study came from BYU’s Flourishing Families Project, which is a longitudinal, multi-informant, multi-method look at inner-family dynamics. The project began in 2007 and to date includes 10 waves of data (including questionnaire, video and physiological data) on nearly 700 families from two locations. Hundreds of BYU undergraduate and graduate students have been involved over the course of the project.