The communication is key here.
There are a couple of competing evolutionary imperatives at play when it comes to keeping people on the backburner. On the one hand, it makes a certain primal sense to explore all the potential mates available, to be sure to get the best deal.
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But having one long-term partner helps offspring survive, in the rough-and-tumble caveman world often invoked by evolutionary psychology. So commitment provides benefits, in exchange for letting go of other possibilities—the wouldas, the couldas, the shouldas.
According to the investment model of relationships, developed by social psychologist Caryl Rusbult in the s, people who have invested more resources—time, energy, money—into a relationship should be more committed to it, and alternative partners should seem less attractive. One study found that love motivates people to shut down other options—people who thought and wrote about love for their partners were more able to suppress thoughts about attractive strangers.
So, with texing this as background, Dibble reasoned that people in committed relationships in his study would keep fewer people on the backburner.
He and Michelle Drouin had undergr self-report how many backburners they had, whether they talked to them platonically or were more flirty, and what technology they used to keep in touch with these people. Those who were currently in relationships also completed assessments of their investment in and atractive to their relationships, and rated how appealing they thought myabe alternatives were.
The most frequent ways that people kept up with their backburners were through texts and Facebook. Forty-five percent of participants reported texting backburners, 37 percent reported talking to them on Facebook.
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Thirteen percent of people still picked up the phone and called the person they were stringing along, and piddling percentages of people kept up with backburners throughSkype, or Twitter. What surprised the researchers was that there was no ificant difference between the of backburners kept by people in relationships, and the kept by single people.
The relative privacy of Facebook makes it easier to keep in minimal contact with backburners. Another thing humans tend to do in relationships is attempt to maximize benefits and minimize costs.
That could also explain why people in relationships still kept in touch with backburners online at nearly the same rates as single people. This was a preliminary study—all it really shows ahtractive that people keep some of their romantic alternatives on the backburner.
This study shows how that behavior plays out today, when people can zing each other notes through a variety of different mediums. The next steps, Dibble says, are to see exactly textkng people say to keep others on the backburner and examine the ways those conversations play out.
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He also wants to refine the definition a little more—if you only check in with someone once a year, are they still a backburner? What jaybe when someone you considered a backburner starts a new relationship, or gets married? If you could develop a backburner relationship over the short term in the lab, and then take it away, man, that would be really cool.