photo: Pixabay

What’s the secret to a happy relationship? While things like communication and honesty are frequently cited, a new study suggests: puppy pictures. That’s right, the key to a happy marriage could be cute animal photos.

Researchers looked at the effects of evaluative conditioning on relationships. That’s when our preferences are influenced by the presence of something we like or dislike strongly, like hating tuna salad because you had a bad batch once, or being told a song is good making you like it more. They wanted to know if being presented with positive and negative stimuli could affect the way we feel about our partners.

Their findings? Participants who looked at pictures of happy things while evaluating their marriage had better feelings about their spouse.

120 couples married for 3-4 years were shown images of their partner interspersed with either images of positive stimuli (like baby animals) or neutral stimuli once every three days. After six weeks, surveys showed that people who saw pictures of their spouse paired with positive stimuli became happier with their relationship, with feelings about the relationship and their partner both improving.

“It was like they went on 13 artificial good dates,” the study’s lead researcher Jim McNulty told The Wall Street Journal. McNulty also told Daily Mail, “One ultimate source of our feelings about our relationships can be… how we associate our partners with positive affect, and those associations can come from… unrelated things, like puppies and bunnies.”

Score one more for bringing baby animals together.

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