Sex Differences in Reconciliation Behavior After Romantic Conflict

Abstract

Prior research shows that patterns of mate selection, attraction, and expulsion are the product of evolved sex differences in computational adaptations. Within long-term romantic relationships, men typically prioritize information relevant to a mate’s reproductive (i.e., sexual) value whereas women more often prioritize a mate’s willingness to invest romantic (i.e., emotional) resources into a stable pair-bond. Although these differences in preference are well established within mate selection and relationship maintenance literature, relatively fewer studies have examined differences in how men and women reconcile after romantic conflict. Using an act nomination procedure, the present research tests the prediction that men and women differ by which partner reconciliation behaviors they evaluate as most effective in resolving a romantic conflict. In study 1, participants nominated common reconciliation behaviors which were subsequently sorted into 21 distinct actions. In study 2, participants rated each behavior by how effectively it would resolve conflict if performed by their romantic partner. Overall, acts suggesting emotional commitment were expected to be rated as most effective. Men were expected to rate actions which signal sexual accessibility as more effective compared to women. Women were expected to rate acts which signal emotional accessibility as more effective compared to men (study 2). Results were largely consistent with our predictions, though notable deviations are documented and discussed within the context of contemporary romantic relationship research.

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Correspondence to T. Joel Wade.

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This research was reviewed by the Institutional Review Board at Bucknell University and complies with Ethical Standards.

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Wade, T.J., Mogilski, J. & Schoenberg, R. Sex Differences in Reconciliation Behavior After Romantic Conflict. Evolutionary Psychological Science 4, 1–7 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0108-6

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Keywords

  • Reconciliation
  • Sex
  • Sexual accessibility
  • Emotional commitment