Why singles tend to tell couples singles are happier
Washington, Feb 12 : People like to believe that their way of life ‚Euro" whether single or coupled ‚Euro" is the best for everyone, especially if they think their relationship status is unlikely to change, according to a new study.
The study suggests that this bias may influence how we treat others, even in situations where relationship status shouldn't matter.
Research shows that feeling "stuck" within a particular social system leads people to justify and rationalize that system.
Researchers Kristin Laurin of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and David Kille and Richard Eibach of the University of Waterloo wondered whether this kind of rationalization might also apply to a person's relationship status.
"We often become evangelists for our own lifestyles. When it comes to our relationship status, we are rarely content to simply say 'being single works for me' or 'being in a relationship suits my disposition," the researchers said.
Ironically, people may idealize their own status as a way of dealing with the unsatisfactory aspects of that status.
Laurin and colleagues hypothesized that this would happen most often when people think their relationship status won't change. And this is exactly what they found.
Their first study revealed that the more stable participants considered their relationship status to be, the more they idealized that status as a norm for others to follow. This applied to both single and coupled participants, regardless of how personally happy they were with their status.
For their second study, the researchers decided to take advantage of Valentine's Day, an annual event that seems to put everyone's relationship status front and center.
They recruited participants on Valentine's Day and asked them to imagine a Valentine's Day evening for a hypothetical person of the same gender, Nicole or Nick.
Participants who judged their own relationship status to be stable imagined that Nicole/Nick would have a happier and more fulfilling Valentine's Day if s/he had the same status as them; they gave less positive judgments when Nicole/Nick's relationship status was different from theirs.
Given well-documented cultural prejudice against singles, Laurin and her colleagues expected that coupled people would have no trouble rationalizing their status, but they were more surprised to see that this effect was just as strong for single people.
According to the researchers, this study is "the first to show relationship-specific patterns of prejudice whereby both single and coupled people favor others who share their relationship status over those who don't."
As a next step, the researchers plan to explore whether people idealize other aspects of their lives, such as the decisions they've made, the type of community they live in, or the career path they've chosen.
The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.