430 Marriage Satisfaction & Visual Association

Research by McNulty, James; Olson, Michael; Jones, Rachael; Acosta, Laura (2017) 

Written by Robin N. Fatovic B.S.

Do you ever feel warm and fuzzy when you see pictures of puppies or sunsets? Researchers questioned whether seeing these images while viewing pictures of a person’s significant other would improve relationship satisfaction.  140 married couples viewed either positive or neutral images alongside pictures of their spouse once every few days for 6 weeks.  

Results? People viewing the positive images reported more automatic, positive attitudes toward their partners compared to couples who viewed neutral pictures. These results were strongest after the 6 weeks and for those who viewed more images, implying that this practice may continue to strengthen the association with more exposure. Couples who viewed the positive images also reported greater marital satisfaction after the study.    

This study suggests that our brains subconsciously make associations that impact our beliefs and emotions.  

These associations get stronger when we have more exposure to the stimulus. Take photographs in beautiful settings with your partner in joyous moments, having fun together. When separated or in the hospital, surround each other with these meaningful photos to enhance your loving feelings toward each other! 


McNulty, J. K., Olson, M. A., Jones, R. E., & Acosta, L. M. (2017). Automatic Associations Between One’s Partner and One’s Affect as the Proximal Mechanism of Change in Relationship Satisfaction: Evidence From Evaluative Conditioning. Psychological Science, 28(8), 1031-1040. doi:10.1177/0956797617702014 

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