Monday, December 29, 2014

What Can Dating Tell Us About Attachment?

by Bonnie Eissner 

Depending on your outlook, dating can be anxiety-provoking or thrilling. For most of us, it’s both. Our ambivalence stems from two natural and opposing drives—one to connect with others and one to protect ourselves from getting hurt. Balancing these desires is at the core of initiating and sustaining romance. What happens, then, when a person is especially insecure and harbors a greater fear of rejection? M. Joy McClure, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, is intrigued by this question.

Dr. McClure is particularly interested in a form of insecurity known as attachment anxiety. Such anxiety develops when others have been inconsistently responsive to our needs. Dr. McClure describes the condition as being chronically torn between needing to connect with someone and worrying that the person will leave. People who are anxiously attached “tend to cling and protest separation,” she says.

Until now, most of the research on attachment anxiety has focused on ongoing relationships. Dr. McClure wanted to know whether such anxiety would be problematic from the get-go.
To examine this question, she set up studies involving speed dating and online dating as well as one in which participants created video profiles for potential partners and another in which they collaborated with potential mates on a mock assignment.

Dr. McClure is currently working with four Adelphi undergraduates to code the online dating study. But from the other three studies she has gleaned that attachment anxiety leads people to behave in ways that deter potential mates by seeming either too anxious or, even worse, aloof. “We see this display of anxiety that leads people to not really like you, which is kind of sad,” Dr. McClure says.

This piece appeared in the Erudition 2014 edition.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Allure of Romance in Literature and Life

by Charity Shumway

Adelphi professor of English Susan Ostrov Weisser, Ph.D., has long specialized in high literature like the Romantic poets or the 19th-century British novel, but her most recent book starts out with a close reading of The Bachelor. Yes, the reality TV show.

That’s because Dr. Weisser’s book, The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories, (Rutgers University Press, 2013) is about more than love stories in literature. It’s a broader cultural study of the linkage between women and romance and about romance as a kind of cultural script—a glass slipper—into which we fit our feelings.

In her book, Dr. Weisser looks at how narratives surrounding women and romance emerged, starting with Jane Austen and moving from there all the way through Victorian magazines to contemporary films, and even women’s Internet dating profiles.

“It certainly wasn’t always the case throughout history that romance was assigned to women,” Dr. Weisser says. “In the Victorian era, love and marriage became linked to women through another topic, which was also being intensely examined at the time—the nature of gender and the ‘proper role’ of women.”

Feminism, the sexual revolution and women’s increased economic independence have, of course, dramatically shifted our thoughts on the role of women, Dr. Weisser says, “but romance is still a story that is mainly aimed at women.”

So why has the link endured?

One possible explanation: “Just turn on the TV,” Dr. Weisser says. “You’ll see even for very young girls the idea of being on sexual display is hyped like never before. Romantic love is a way of ensuring that a woman is not going to be devalued or exploited. A man needs you emotionally, not just sexually. It ‘solves’ the problem.”

While Dr. Weisser is quick to point out that The Glass Slipper is far from an advice book, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any words of advice to pass along to young people. “I worry about the unquestioning acceptance of the models of romantic love out there,” she says. “I think they’re stifling. Who is to say it’s not love if it doesn’t have a happy ending?”

This piece appeared in the Erudition 2014 edition.