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The Boston Globe


Uncommon Knowledge

When your eyes see imaginary light

And more surprising insights from the social sciences

Will marriage be fun? Part of you knows

If you’re contemplating marriage, you inevitably worry about whether you and your spouse will really be able to live happily ever after. It turns out that you may not know on the surface—but your unconscious is a good predictor. Psychologists recruited 135 newlywed couples in eastern Tennessee and measured their automatic attitudes towards each other—by comparing how fast they responded to positive versus negative words after briefly seeing a picture of their spouse. They also asked the newlyweds directly how they felt about the relationship. Then they followed up with the couples every six months for four years to see how the relationship was going. An initially more positive automatic attitude correlated with less deterioration in marital satisfaction over time, while an initially more positive explicitly reported attitude was correlated with more deterioration in marital satisfaction.

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