Science of Close Relationships (PSYL10141)

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Science of Close Relationships (PSYL10141)

Semester 1, Thursday 2:10pm-4:00pm

BPS core areas - Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology


What will be covered?

Close relationships are frequently listed among the factors that make life most meaningful. At the present time, the field of relationship science is characterized by an enormous breadth of content, several unique methodological and statistical challenges, and meta-theories around which various empirical findings are integrated and organized.

In this course, we will cover the major theoretical perspectives and methodologies related to the scientific study of close relationships. With an emphasis on empirical evidence, we will focus on how relationship dynamics meaningfully influence human psychology, and vice versa. We will examine how relationship processes relate to multiple areas of psychology (e.g., biological, cognitive, developmental, differential, social), with particular attention to the social level. This course will likely challenge some of your (and society’s) preconceptions about close relationships.

How will it be delivered?

Each week we will explore a different facet of close relationships research and discuss how relationship processes relate to human psychology. Classes will consist of a mixture of lectures, large and small group discussions, and other activities.

Lecture recording policy: Lectures will be recorded.

What skills will be gained?

Assessments will emphasize independent learning, critical analysis, understanding and integrating scientific evidence, writing skills, and communication with different audiences.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Examine close relationships from an empirically-based, scholarly perspective, rather than from an intuitive or speculative perspective based solely on personal experience and observations.

2. Understand a number of classical and contemporary theoretical frameworks and methodologies that characterize the scientific study of close relationships.

3. Recognize several ways in which relationship processes occur in daily life and evaluate situations relevant to close relationships and make predictions about behaviour.

4. Explain the scientific study of close relationships to a non-academic/non-psychologist.

5. Identify critical questions that must be asked if a stronger, more complete, and more integrated science of close relationships is to emerge, and develop an empirical project that could test these questions.


30% Mid-term Lay Article (500 words; submission deadline Thursday 17th October, 12.00 noon )

This assessment requires students to summarize and briefly discuss recent close relationships empirical reading of their choice in a way that is accessible to non-academics/non-psychologists. Students should also comment on their reading in relation to the broader literature discussed in class. This assessment involves deep comprehension of close relationships readings, and requires students to think independently and analytically. Feedback on the mid-term assessment will also feed forward to the final assessment by improving writing skills and understanding of the course material.

70% Research Proposal (3000 words; submission deadline Monday 16th December, 12.00 noon)

This assessment requires students to develop a research question related to the science of close relationships and to write a study proposal designed to test this question empirically. This assessment involves integration of theoretical and methodological approaches covered in class, and requires students to think independently, creatively, and critically.

Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

The lay article assessment will help students develop a deep understanding of empirical readings related to close relationships and the ability to think critically about relationship science (LO 1-5). This assessment will also foster the ability to communicate effectively with different audiences (a necessary skill for many careers). The requirement to relate the chosen reading to the broader literature covered in class will also feed forward in terms of evidence-synthesis skills needed for the final assessment.

The research proposal assessment will help students identify major themes in the scientific study of close relationships and translate these themes into novel and empirical research questions (LO 1-4, 6). For students interested in pursuing postgraduate education in the future, this assessment will help develop and hone their ability to write research proposals (a necessary skill in postgraduate studies). 

Reading resources

Indicative reading:

Allan, G. (2008). Flexibility, friendship, and family. Personal Relationships, 15, 1-16.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.

Conley, T. D., Matsick, J. L., Moors, A. C., & Ziegler, A. (2017). Investigation of consensually nonmonogamous relationships: Theories, methods, and new directions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12, 202-232.

Finkel, E. J., Simpson, J. A., & Eastwick, P. W. (2017). The psychology of close relationships: Fourteen core principles. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 383-411.

Le, B., Dove, N. L., Agnew, C. R., Korn, M. S., & Mutso, A. A. (2010). Predicting nonmarital romantic relationship dissolution: A meta-analytic synthesis. Personal Relationships, 17, 377-390.

Muise, A., Maxwell, J. A., & Impett, E. A. (2018). What theories and methods from relationship research can contribute to sex research. The Journal of Sex Research, 55, 540-562.

Pepping, C. A., MacDonald, G., & Davis, P. J. (2018). Toward a psychology of singlehood: An attachment-theory perspective on long-term singlehood. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27, 324-331.

Slatcher, R. B., & Selcuk, E. (2017). A social psychological perspective on the links between close relationships and health. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 16-21.

Resources list:

27/08/2019 - 2:15pm