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broken-relationship-photoResearchers recruited 81 participants averaging about 19-years-old from a New Zealand university. They were all either in a monogamous relationship, living with their significant other, or engaged. Each participant was asked to rate their current self-esteem, relationship satisfaction, and relationship commitment before participating in a video interview with three attractive strangers of the opposite sex. The participants thought they were being interviewed by developers for a new dating program that wanted the input of people already in relationships; but in reality, the other side of the “interview” was actually just a pre-recorded DVD.

Then the participants received feedback about how the interviewers viewed them as a potential date. The researchers manipulated this, giving half the participants positive feedback (yes, they would date them) or negative feedback (no, they wouldn’t date them) from the interviewers. Then the participants filled out their self-esteem and relationship questionnaires again.

Here’s what they found: The people who got glowing reviews from the interviewers (even though it was all fake) had an increase in self esteem, and a decrease in relationship satisfaction and commitment. Basically, they were feeling pretty good about themselves and it probably made them feel valuable—like they could trade up. On the other hand, the participants who were seen negatively by their interviewers had a decrease in self-esteem along with a boost in relationship satisfaction and commitment.

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