Social Psychology, Fall 2002 -- Instructions for Assignment #1 :
Introduction: One of the things that many social psychologists study is the formation and dissolution of romantic relationships. Since such relationships certainly involve the influence of individuals by others, they are clearly in the realm of social psychology. Yet, when social psychologists first started studying romantic relationships, they were sometimes ridiculed by people who said that it was impossible to study something as emotional and intangible as love. For example, in 1975, Senator William Proxmire, reacting to the news that one psychologist had been given a grant of $84,000 to study love, commented: "I object to this not only because no one not even the National Science Foundation can argue that falling in love is a science; not only because I'm sure that even if they spend $84 million or $84 billion they wouldn't get an answer that anyone would believe. I'm also against it because I don't want the answer. I believe that 200 million Americans want to leave some things in life a mystery..." Who is right: the critics, or the social psychologists who believe they can learn something valuable about romantic relationships by studying them? This assignment asks you to consider this question.
Task: Your task for this assignment is to examine a set informative sources about social psychological research on romantic relationships in order to (1) gain an overview of how social psychologists study romantic relationships and (2) draw a conclusion about whether or not it is possible to learn anything useful about romantic relationships and love using these approaches.
Process: 1. By searching the resources listed below, find two social psychologists who do research on romantic relationships. Use information provided about them to discover what aspect of romantic love they are interested in, what questions they are asking, and what methods they are using to ask these questions.
      2. By searching the resources listed below, find two social psychology labs that specialize in the study of close, or intimate, relationships. Use the information provided to discover what goes on in those labs: What questions are asked? How is the research done?
      3. Complete an online survey on this topic. Are the questions are good/useful questions (and why)
      4. At the address provided below, examine the table of contents for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology for the past year (i.e, back to September, 2001). On what aspects of romantic, or intimate, relationships is research being published in this major journal?
      5. At the address provided below, read a recent journalistic summary account of a study of romantic relationships.
      6. Write a one and one-half page descriptive summary of the "state" of social psychological research on romantic relationships. (What research questions are being asked? What themes seem to be of most interest to researchers? How is the research being done?) Add to this a half-page commentary giving your opinion of the current state of the research. How useful is it? What questions are being answered well? What questions are being ignored or overlooked? Attach to this the names and addresses of the web sites you visited.
Resources: 1. The starting point for this assignment is the Social Psychology Network web site at Use the search function on the welcome page to search for "romantic relationships" or "close relationships". This will lead to such resources as the professional profile pages of researchers who study romantic relationships, the web sites for social psychology labs that focus on this topic, and on-line surveys about romantic relationships.
     2. To get to the web site for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology so that you can examine the table of contents, you can either click on "professional journals" in the sidebar of the Social Psychology Network welcome page and follow the links until you reach it or you can go directly to the site at
     3. To find and read a journalistic account of a recent study on love, go to
Conclusion: You should now have an understanding of how social psychologists study romantic love and a well- justified opinion about whether the research is useful.
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