Shelly Gable Discusses Close Relationships

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    • 00:04

      [What does the field of close relationships mean to you,or how would you describe it to your students?]

    • 00:10

      SHELLY GABLE: So the field of close relationshipsis the scientific study of our most interpersonalrelationships, the ongoing relationships we havein our lives. [Professor Shelly Gable, Professorof Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara]So it's the study of both how those relationships arefundamental to who we are as human beingsand also how those relationships influenceimportant outcomes in our lives like our learning, our health,

    • 00:32

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: our behavior, our well-being.So when we talk about close relationships,we talk about relationships that havesome kind of mutual interdependence on one another,so where are my outcome might influence your outcome,and your outcome might influence my outcome.So we talk about ongoing relationships, and mostthe time when we're talking about close relationships,we're talking about friends.

    • 00:53

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: Co-workers are not usually part of that equation,but sometimes they are.Family, spouses, or other romantic partners-- thosewould all go in the close relationship category.[How and when did the field of close relationships emerge?What other fields or disciplines is it relatedto theoretically?]Philosophers and poets for thousands of years

    • 01:14

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: have been interested in close relationships.They've talked about them, but the scienceof close relationships, the studyof close relationships as a science is relatively young.It started what we would refer to as modern.The modern field of close relationshipsreally started in the 1950s with some seminal publications,

    • 01:36

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: such as Stanley Schacter's work, The Psychology of Affiliation,and Fritz Heider published a book called The Psychologyof Interpersonal Relations.That really kind of kicked off the scientific studyof close relationships.Those were two watershed books I wouldsay that started the field.[What first inspired you to start research in close

    • 01:56

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: relationships?]So when I first started doing researchas a graduate student in psychology,I was interested in how people's emotions vary from day to day.And I quickly realized that most of that variationhappened in the context of close relationships,when we were with our close relationship partners, when

    • 02:17

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: we were interacting with other social,having other social interactions.So I quickly realized that the place to study these variationswas close relationships, and I was pretty much hookedimmediately.We're finding out just how important relationships areto our health and well-being.For example, the effect of being socially isolated

    • 02:40

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and not having close relationships, the tollthat that takes on one's health and the risk thatposes for your mortality is equivalent toor higher than most of the known health behaviors like smokingand excessive drinking and not takingcare of your hypertension.Those types of behaviors and conditions that we know

    • 03:04

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: are related so strongly to mortality-- lonelinessand social isolation trump all of those,and they are a better predictor of mortalityabove and beyond those behaviors.So we know that relationships are so important for our healthand well-being, so this is what keeps me goingand keeps me up at night trying to understand

    • 03:25

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: those links between how our relationships getunder our skin and in our head.[How does the quality of a close relationship affect wellbeing?]All close relationships are not equal,so it's really the quality of the close relationships,not the existence of the close-- of the bond thatis important in terms of health and well-being

    • 03:47

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and the other outcomes that we're interested in.Good relationships can help us in many ways.They can help us achieve our goals.They can buffer us from stress whenwe're under stress from life.They can provide some of the most fulfilling emotional needs

    • 04:08

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and experiences that we have as human beings.On the other hand, poor relationships or conflictualrelationships or stressful relationshipsare also one of the single most detrimental causefor mental health issues and actually detractfrom health and well-being.

    • 04:29

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: So it's a double-edged sword.So it seems to be that people need close relationships.Not having any is definitely being isolated,is definitely not a good thing for us to be as human beings.Having poor relationships is sometimeseven worse than being isolated, but having good relationshipsis the sweet spot.And trying to figure out what makes

    • 04:49

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: those relationships positive, what makes them fulfilling,and what keeps them, sustains them are part of the topicsthat close relationship scholars study.[What key thinkers have most inspired you, and why?]So some of the key thinkers early onwere people like Ellen Berscheid who

    • 05:11

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: talked about social exchange theoryand how we try to maximize rewards and minimizeour costs in relationships.And Hal Kelley introduced interdependence theory.Two close relationships were searched.He was a seminal person or a field,and has influenced a lot of relationships scholars who'vetaken his theories.

    • 05:32

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: A work by John Bowlby, who talkedabout the importance of attachment bondsearly in life and the functionality of thoseeven later in life and how those early bonds reallyhave an influence on the way we approach relationshipsthroughout our lifespan, those aresome of the seminal thinkers that have inspired

    • 05:55

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: not only my work but many in our field.[How has the field of close relationshipschanged in recent years?What are the fundamental questions at the moment?So the field of close relationshipsin the last few years has changed justlike other fields in psychology and in the social sciences.With rapid technological advances,we're seeing an integration of neuroscience principles

    • 06:15

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and neuroscience studies, for example,in close relationships research.We're starting to look also-- we'restarting to also incorporate big data setsand things like social media and the footprintthat we leave electronically in our lives.This has all become part of what social relationships

    • 06:36

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: scholars are studying, are using to help to understand,so understand close relationships.I would say a fundamental shift in the waywe think about relationships, but it'sinfluenced the kinds of questions that we can ask.For example, studies in neurosciencehave started us thinking about how maybe the brain might

    • 06:56

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: be wired to see relationships and cooperatewith other people, and we may be kind of wiredfor prosocial behavior and cooperation in living in groupsand having forming these bonds, and neuroscience developmentshave definitely helped us get into those questions.[How has technology, and especially social media,affected the field of close relationships?]

    • 07:21

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: So the rapid increase in social technology and social mediahas had an unknown impact at this pointon close relationships.As a field, we are trying to keep upwith the changes in terms of conducting researchto understand the-- for example, what

    • 07:42

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: is the difference between a Facebook friend and onethat you see every day in real life and interact with?And what are the fundamental differences there?So we have a lot of research yet to do,but it seems that a lot of our fundamental principlesand our theoretical positions play out even in social media.So for example, we see a lot of the same types

    • 08:04

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: of social support behaviors when people are reaching outon social media, same kinds of connections peopleare making, and talking with each other both on social mediaand via text messages and things like that.So people are connecting.But it does fundamentally change some of the classic studies

    • 08:25

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that we have to-- we need to go back and revisit someof the classic studies in close relationshipsand see how social media might have an impact on that.One good example of that is an early studyin the 1950s by Stanley Schacter showedthat one of the best predictors of who would affiliate with whoand who would be attracted to you,

    • 08:45

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: who would become friends with who,one of the biggest predictors was simply proximity.The physical proximity that people lived and workedand the chances of them meeting and passing by and havingmore interactions increased the probabilitythat they would become friends, that theywould find mutual liking for each other,and form a close relationship, form a bond.

    • 09:08

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: But the idea of proximity now, physical proximityis a little bit different, given that peoplecan reach out almost across the globe in the same amountof time they could walk to the next door neighbor,even in less time than they could walk to the next doorneighbor before social media and before the age of the internet.So these types of questions and trying to understand,

    • 09:29

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: is this the same kind of proximity?How does this influence the formation of bonds?These are questions that need to be answered in our field,and we're working on it.[How have findings from the field of cognitive neuroscienceimpacted the field of close relationships?]Findings from the field of cognitive neurosciencehave changed some of the questions that we've asked,

    • 09:51

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and we started looking at things like the role of hormonesin predicting affiliation, the role of various neural pathwaysand how they may contribute to the waywe interpret social relationships.So I think that the findings from neurosciencehave alerted us and provided evidence

    • 10:15

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that the way that people approach relationships maybe more fundamental than anyone suspected from the get-go.So our brains seem to be wired to be social,and in particular, to form and maintain close relationships,and understanding using principles and findings

    • 10:36

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: from neuroscience has helped us see those connectionsand link those to the informationwe already know from the researchthat we've done before.[How important are research methods for a rigorous analysisof close relationships?What are the key research methods being employed?]The close relationships field is one

    • 10:56

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: of the most methodologically intense fieldsin the social sciences, in psychology.We employ diverse methods in our toolbox, anythingfrom a classic experimental laboratorystudy, where you manipulate a variableand see what effect it has on a particular dependent variable

    • 11:17

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that you're measuring.We also do employee longitudinal studies, wherewe follow people over time.We try to capture interactions as they unfold in the field,and this is required.Many taking advantage of technology,such as audio recordings of people

    • 11:39

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: as they're going about their daily lives,but also bringing people into the lab-- couples, for example.Bring couples into the lab, and observing interactionsthat they have with one another.These are all methods that we needto use in close relationships research,because our fundamental issue is that what we're studyingis an existing relationship.That's what we're most interested in most

    • 12:01

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: the time in close relationships is either a naturally occurringor an already existing bond between two people.This is hard to create in a controlled laboratoryenvironment, and it's impossible almostto create in a controlled laboratory environment.So we have to rely on a lot of different methodologiesin order to triangulate on our questions.

    • 12:24

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: And the second piece that makes close relationship methodologyeven more complicated is the factthat we're often looking at the instead of a single predictor,multiple predictors.And that includes multiple predictorsfrom within the person, for example,like their life experience with their previous relationshipsand how that's unfolding, in addition to the current context

    • 12:45

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that they find themselves in.But also the fact that there's another person in the equation,by definition, it's a relationship.We're looking at not just one individualor another individual.We're looking at the relationship between those twopeople, and as a unique entity in and of itself.And this has required a lot of statistical hoops

    • 13:06

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that we've had to jump through to understand our data.[Can you provide any examples of key research in this field thathave had a direct impact on public or social policy,and what changed as a result?]The field of close relationships has oftenbeen interested in how intimate relationships influence healthand well-being and how, for example,

    • 13:27

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: the relationship between parents influenced children.And some of the work that was done over the last two decadeshas compared, for example, same sex couplesto opposite sex couples.And contrary to what many people might have thought initially,same sex couples have just as high quality relationshipson average as heterosexual couples.

    • 13:50

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: And their children, if they're raising children,seem to be doing just as well as thosefrom heterosexual couples.And our science in this regard played a direct rolein some of the marriage equality debateand is part of the Supreme Court case

    • 14:11

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that's being decided actually right now.So those types of findings have beenimportant to informing public policy.Actually gathering data about relationships and their impacthas been important.Another example of how close relationship science hascontributed to public policy is for many years,

    • 14:35

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: it was domestic abuse is a puzzle,and one of the questions that people have often askedis why women, for example, stay in an abusive relationship.And the assumption is often then that there'ssomething about that woman that she's choosingto stay in that relationship.There's something fundamental about herthat is causing her to sustain that relationship.

    • 14:58

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: Careful research by Caryl Rusbult and her colleaguesyears ago showed that there are actuallymany factors that predict why a woman chooses to stay or notstay in an abusive relationship.One of those is the investments that shehas in that relationship and thingsthat she would lose if she left that relationship,structural things like where would shelive, who's going to take care of the children,

    • 15:21

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: where will they go.So these fundamental insights from this basic researchshowed us that simple things like havinga shelter for battered women to go toin 24 hours with just a little bit of notice,it helps in terms of having options for women

    • 15:42

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: to be able to leave those abusive relationships.[Of all the studies that you and your lab have conducted,which do you feel is the most significant, and why?]In our lab, we've been interested in how closerelationship partners help people during the good times,and this may be a little counterintuitive,

    • 16:02

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: because many people think about close relationships, oneof the functions that they play is to help uswhen things go wrong.And while this is true, my lab hasbeen interested in how close relationship partnersand how they respond when we tell them good news,and how this plays a role in both

    • 16:23

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: the development of the person and the well-beingof the person who's sharing the good news, but alsothe maintenance and the satisfactionthat they have with that relationship partner.So we've done several studies wherewe've looked at how partners respondwhen the other person tells them something good happenedto them, and the data point criticallyto how important this process is in both personal well-being

    • 16:48

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: but also the satisfaction and commitment people haveto that relationship.So we found that when you have a partner thatresponds supportively when you share good news,when you have that partner in your life,you're more likely to be committed to that partner,satisfied with that partner, less likelyto end the relationship with that partner.

    • 17:09

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: And we found that how your partner respondswhen you tell them good news is, in some cases,a better predictor of how satisfiedyou are with that relationship later onand whether you're going to stay in that relationshipa better predictor than how they respondwhen you tell them bad news, or whenyou go to them with a problem.

    • 17:30

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: So these are some of the findings from our labthat I'm most excited about.[What's your sense of the trajectory for research in thisfield over the next 5 years?]The trajectory for research in close relationshipsis exponentially exploding.There are more and more studies about close relationships,and part of this is fueled by a convergence, I think,

    • 17:53

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: of the data showing just how important relationshipsare to some of the most critical outcomesthat we're interested in like health and well-being.But also some of the research on how our mind and our brainsare wired for relationships also is

    • 18:16

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: leading to an explosion in studies in our field.So this is a growing field.By all indicators, this is a growing field.[What are your own scholarly ambitions for the future?What would you like to investigate next?]Our lab is very much interested in the interplay between how

    • 18:39

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: automatic processes and deliberated processes play outin relationships.So one of the new areas that we're focusing onis how we react to our partner without thinking,and how that interplays with how wethink about our partner and the effect

    • 18:59

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that that has on a relationship.So we're trying to understand these implicit unknown feelingsthat people have towards their relationshippartners or potential partners and how this affectsthe way they behave with their partner,and the outcomes that we're interested in in termsof satisfaction and commitment and all these important things

    • 19:20

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: that we know contribute to the quality of life.[For students new to this field, what literature would yourecommend they read for a preliminary understanding,and why?]So there are several wonderful edited volumes and textbookson close relationships, and I would recommendthat any student who's interested in learningthe basics would pick up one of these textbooks

    • 19:40

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and skim through it.They're guaranteed to find many chapters that theyfind intriguing, and each of these textbooks alsoand edited volumes provide more references for deeper reading.But some of the classics, as well,I would recommend, which would beJohn Bowlby's three-book trilogy on attachment and loss.

    • 20:03

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: I think this is one of the fundamental readingsin the field that people can get a really good feel of whatclose relationships research is like.[What would you identify as the key challenges in this fieldfor students, and what strategies would you advisethem to use to counter these challenges?]So when I teach students about close relationships,one of the biggest challenges is separating their experiences

    • 20:24

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and their assumptions about close relationshipsfrom the science of close relationships.It's often difficult, because we have so much experiencefrom birth until death with relationships,it's difficult to separate our knowledge thatcomes from our own experience, from the largerempirical database that we want to make our hypotheses

    • 20:46

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and our conclusions upon.So it's very difficult. One of the challengesis for students to put their assumptionsand their experience aside and evaluatethe science more critically without those assumptions.And this is a challenge for not just studentswho are beginning, but also for seasoned researchers as well.

    • 21:07

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: [What are some common misconceptions or myths thatyou encounter about close relationships?]One misconception, which I think historicallyhas been that the study of close relationships is not important.That is people have assumed that close relationships are more

    • 21:28

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: the purview of poets and playwrights,and this played out early on in the fieldof close relationships.There was some resistance to fund, with federal dollars,to fund research on close relationships,again, thinking that they were unimportant.Recent studies that have looked at how relationships influence

    • 21:52

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: mortality and how they influence well-being reallyhighlight how critical it is to understand close relationshipsand the quality of close relationshipsfor society and for individuals.So I think that was a critical correction.[What are the key knowledge areas and skills that students

    • 22:13

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: develop pursuing study of close relationships,and how might these benefit students' academicor professional development?]So students studying close relationshipsdevelop a lot of skills.They understand the scientific methodfrom multiple perspectives.They learn many different tools for statistical analysis,but also for conducting research.So close relationships, the study of close relationships

    • 22:36

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: provides students with a big toolboxfrom which to draw for studying any kind of science, actually.But also the field of studying close relationshipshelps students think critically and evaluateinformation critically.I think that students in close relationships class

    • 22:57

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: learn how to separate, for example, advicefrom a self-help book from a well-drawnor well-concluded empirical study, the conclusionsthat you could draw from an empirical study.So I think students who study close relationships reallylearn how to understand the value of science

    • 23:17

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and the difference between scientific conclusions and onesthat are based on assumptions or myths.[What is the biggest lesson or takeaway you've learned overyour time studying close relationships?]One of the biggest takeaway messages,if you look at the findings of the field most broadly,is that people often take their relationships for granted,

    • 23:40

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: and this is a mistake, and reminding yourselfevery single day that your close relationships-- your friends,your family, and your partners-- arecritical players in your life, and these relationshipsneed to be nurtured every day.That really is a message that comes through in all

    • 24:04

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: of the relationship research.[What does the future hold for the field of closerelationships?]The loss of a close relationship is one of the biggest stressorsthat people experience in their life,whether this loss comes through a breakup or a divorce,in the case of marriage, or in some cases,

    • 24:24

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: the death of a spouse or another family member or loved one.These are some of the most impactful negative eventsthat people can experience, and people do recover from these,but one of the processes that helps them recoveris the support that they receive from the other members

    • 24:46

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: of their network.So while loss is inevitably a partof life in terms of losing relationship partners,it also seems that other relationshipstend to step in and fill some needs there.So people do tend to recover, but they

    • 25:07

      SHELLY GABLE [continued]: are very significant events in people's lives.And they should not be taken lightly.So they need to be addressed.

Shelly Gable Discusses Close Relationships

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Professor Shelly Gable discusses the idea of close relationships and how it moved from the purview of poets and philosophers to a field of science. Research has shown that close relationships or the lack of them have an enormous impact of health and well-being. She also explains that research in this field is having a public policy impact in the areas of domestic violence and same-sex marriage.

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Shelly Gable Discusses Close Relationships

Professor Shelly Gable discusses the idea of close relationships and how it moved from the purview of poets and philosophers to a field of science. Research has shown that close relationships or the lack of them have an enormous impact of health and well-being. She also explains that research in this field is having a public policy impact in the areas of domestic violence and same-sex marriage.

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