Previous research finds that participation in exciting activities (compared to pleasant activities) has benefits for relationships (Coulter & Mallouf, 2013; Reissman, Aron, & Bergen 1993). However, the majority of research in this area has been done with younger couples. The goal of this project is to understand what types of activities are most beneficial for couples over the age of 55. According to Socioemotional Selectivity Theory (Lang & Carstensen, 2002), relationship goals change as we age, and people often focus on deepening and generativity goals in older adulthood. Thus, it is likely that the types of activities that would be most beneficial to the relationship are different compared to younger couples. In my own work with younger couples, I find that activities that might lead to growth benefit relationships more than activities that are physically arousing (Tomlinson, Hughes, Lewandowski, Aron, & Geyer, in prep). Along with student researchers, I will conduct two studies to understand what types of activities are most beneficial for retired couples. We will run the first study using Amazon Mechanical Turk to identify what types of activities retired couples typically participate in together. Next, we will recruit a sample of retired couples in Hamilton and randomly assign them to participate in either growth-promoting activities or pleasant activities together for a week. We will then assess changes in relationship satisfaction and life satisfaction as a result of activity condition.
Students should be psychology or neuroscience majors interested in relationships.