Research

Research - Couple Holding Each Other

"In Europe as elsewhere, love has certain fundamental characteristics conferred upon it by human nature itself. Before being Italian or Europeans, we are men, and no sooner do those organs destined for reproduction begin to show that they are ready for their purpose than there at once appears in the man and in the woman all that complexus of centrifugal energy, acted upon by every element from the Olympus of thought to the lowest instincts of the flesh, the final object of which is to bring together the male and the female that they may rekindle the torch or life." (p.295).

Paolo Mantegazza, "The Sexual Relations of Mankind" (1885)

Mantegazza was a world traveler, a scientist, and a romantic. In his travels he witnessed a diverse array of human behaviors specific to certain cultures, behaviors that seemed extreme and bizarre compared to his own Western beliefs. But within this diversity he observed everywhere he went that people fall in love, often formed pairbonds, and raised children. The quote above speaks to the ubiquity and power of love, to the carnal forces that motivate our desire to seek out mates, to the cognitive energy devoted to evaluating potential relationships, and to the ultimate reason explaining why people may fall in love to begin with. It took almost 100 years after Mantegazza wrote these words, however, for the scientific study of love and relationships to begin in earnest. These empirical investigations are beginning to shed light on the physical and psychological features people find attractive, the developmental course of relationships, relationship maintenance, and relationship dissolution. But there are still many stones left unturned, and in our lab we use a variety of research tools to better understand these relational processes.

The research being conducted in our lab focuses on a variety of topics relating to the different stages that comprise romantic relationships. For example, we are investigating the qualities and characteristics that men and women seek in potential partners in different contexts, the type of information that can be gleaned about potential partners from minimal exposure to them, how people evaluate the quality of their relationships once begun, how they perceive their romantic partners, how they want to be perceived, how they interact with their partners, and factors that promote or hinder relationship stability. We adopt several theoretical perspectives in this research, including Attachment Theory, the Ideal Standards Model, theories of self-enhancement and self-verification, and evolutionary theories of human mating (e.g., Sexual Strategies Theory; Strategic Pluralism Theory). We also employ a multi-method approach within each program of research. The Social area at Western has excellent lab facilities, including many computers that are equipped with software that facilitates data collection (e.g., Medialab, DirectRT), and audio/video equipment for behavioral observation studies. Research in my lab has been supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Innovation Trust, and by a Premier's Research Excellence Award.