Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Breaking Up May Not Be As Hard As The Song Says

Date:
August 21, 2007
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
A new study shows that lovers, especially those madly in love, do much better -- almost immediately -- following a breakup than they imagined they would. Though the study's love-crazed participants may have felt the type of ecstasy and anticipated the type of despair immortalized in "Romeo and Juliet," their level of actual distress following their real-life breakups came nowhere close to the agony suffered by Shakespeare's tragic young lovers.

The devastation caused by a broken heart has been a dominant theme throughout the ages of great literature and pop culture alike.

Related Articles


But a new Northwestern University study shows that lovers, especially those madly in love, do much better -- almost immediately -- following a breakup than they imagined they would.

In other words, participants who forecast how badly they would feel over a breakup with a partner actually felt much less distress than they had predicted in the days prior to the relationship's demise.

Those most in love really got it wrong. Though the love-crazed participants may have felt the ecstasy and anticipated the despair immortalized in "Romeo and Juliet," their level of actual distress following their real-life breakups came nowhere close to the agony suffered by Shakespeare's tragic young lovers.

"Our research shows that a breakup is not nearly as bad as people imagine, and the more you are in love with your partner, the more wrong you are about how upset you are going to be when the dreaded loss actually occurs," said Eli Finkel, assistant professor of psychology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study.

The people most in love did experience a little more distress over their breakups.

"But the overestimates of the most-in-love participants, of how badly they would feel after a breakup, were much greater than the predictions of participants less in love," said Paul Eastwick, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in psychology at Northwestern. "Their levels of distress were nowhere near their catastrophic predictions."

The study "Mispredicting Distress Following Romantic Breakup: Revealing the Time Course of the Affective Forecasting Error," will be published online today (Aug. 20) in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Besides Eastwick and Finkel, the co-authors include Tamar Krishnamurti and George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University.

The study adds to a growing body of literature that shows that people demonstrate remarkably poor insight when asked to predict the magnitude of their distress following emotional events.

In anticipating a breakup, for example, people might not take account of the good outcomes that follow a breakup, such as the benefits of being single.

Whether the discrepancies between people's predicted and actual distress are caused by their inability to foresee positive life events on the horizon or their inaccurate theories about how quickly they can recuperate, a romantic breakup seems to be less upsetting than the average individual believes it will be, the study concludes.

To qualify for the nine-month longitudinal study of dating behavior, each participant needed to be involved in a dating relationship of at least two months duration. Participants still involved with their partners from study entry completed a set of questionnaires every two weeks for 38 weeks, for a total of 20 online sessions, to measure predicted and actual stress. The study utilized the data of 26 people (10 female and 16 male) who broke up with their partners during the first six months of the study. The forecasted distress reported two weeks prior to the report of the breakup was compared with actual distress at four different time points covering the initial weeks and months following the breakup. The questionnaires also included a measure assessing how much participants were in love.

"People tend to be pretty resilient, often more so than they realize," Eastwick said. "No one is saying that breaking up is a good time. It's just that people bounce back sooner than they predict."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Breaking Up May Not Be As Hard As The Song Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070820123608.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2007, August 21). Breaking Up May Not Be As Hard As The Song Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070820123608.htm
Northwestern University. "Breaking Up May Not Be As Hard As The Song Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070820123608.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins