UH Study Shows People Willing To Keep Diaries About Their Feelings May Have Too Many Feelings

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A new study out from the University of Houston claims some people need to get a life. Okay, maybe it doesn't exactly say that, but it does talk about a phenomenon called "relationship-contingent self-esteem," which happens when people "place too much emotional weight" on their relationships. People with RCSE get depressed or anxious over "even the most minor or common relationship-based incidents."

A group of researchers at UH's Interpersonal Relations and Motivation Research Group, run by UH researcher and assistant professor of psychology Chip Knee, performed the study with the help of around 200 test subjects who recorded the highs and lows of their romantic relationships.

For a research credit, students checked in twice a day for two weeks to list the positive (when their partner said or did something to make them feel loved, listened to them, comforted them, showed interest in their day) and the crap (when there was an argument, or when a partner let them down, broke a promise, criticized them, failed to help when they were needed, or put their own interests first). And of course, the students disclosed how it all made them feel.

"What we found with this particular study was that people with higher levels of RCSE felt worse about themselves during negative moments in their relationships," Knee said in a press release. "It's as if it doesn't matter why the negative occurrence happens or who was at fault. The partners with stronger RCSE still feel badly about themselves."

Knee wasn't available to talk to Hair Balls, but Amy Canevello, who worked on the project when she was getting her Ph.D. at UH and is now on the research faculty at the University of Michigan, was, and she had some interesting comments on why UH is an excellent place for a psychologist to conduct research.

"I think [the University of] Houston is a great place to collect data," she says. "The Houston students make a better sample because they are real people more than the Michigan students. They have families, they have jobs, school is not the only thing they have going on."

In other words, they have lives. Wait...

-- Cathy Matusow         

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