Why the military got scientists to show married couples puppy pictures.

Marriage losing that spark? You know what could help? A corgi puppy running through a field of grass.

Image via iStock.

Or, more specifically, the picture of a corgi puppy.


Florida State University professor James McNulty and a colleague, University of Tennessee professor Michael Olson, got a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to find a way to help military couples cope with the stress of separation.

McNulty, knowing the human being's love of things like adorable animals, chose to show people cute bunnies and puppies to test the idea of automatic association.

As you see, hear, and feel things, your brain sifts and categorizes it, building unconscious associations. A picture of your spouse, for instance, might be tied to feelings of home, safety, and love. The next time you see them, your brain is immediately ready with a slew of positive emotions.

Unfortunately for newlyweds or military spouses separated by distance, their brains never shut off this sorting machine. Over time, the stress, boredom, and dark clouds of daily life can creep in and dull that emotional spark.

What the researchers suspected is that, just as any negative association could dull the spark, any positive association could rekindle it.

Positive associations like, say, bunnies.

OK, this was just an excuse for another bunny picture. Image from skeeze/Pixabay.

They recruited 144 different couples. Every three days, the couples would be emailed short slideshows featuring pictures of their spouse mixed in with either positive words and pictures (puppies, beautiful sunsets, etc.) or neutral images (like drinking straws or buttons).

The paper did not say anything on the possibility of avid button-ophiles. Photo from Richard Wheeler/Wikimedia Commons.

At the end of the trial, the scientists compared both self-reported satisfaction and measurements of unconscious reactions from the two groups. The couple who saw the positive images (bunnies and puppies) not only had more positive unconscious reactions, they actually reported greater real-world satisfaction as well.

"I was actually a little surprised that it worked," said McNulty in a press release.

More than just an interesting psychological trick, this could actually help people.

McNulty and Olsen aren't saying this will empower each and every relationship. How we actually talk with and treat each other is still far more important. But they do think this kind of intervention could be helpful to people in marriage counseling or in long-distance relationships. Like, say, those deployed overseas.

And, for those not traveling abroad, maybe it's just a good reminder that our brains can both help and hurt our relationships but that either way, we have a bit of power over it.

McNulty and Olsen's work appeared in the journal Psychological Science on May 31, 2017.

Family

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture