Reversal Learning and Couple Relationships

Richard Wellauer (). Reversal Learning and Couple Relationships Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Richard Wellauer
Thesis Title Reversal Learning and Couple Relationships
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Bill von Hippel
Kim Halford
Total pages 121
Language eng
Subjects 1701 Psychology
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
170101 Biological Psychology (Neuropsychology, Psychopharmacology, Physiological Psychology)
Abstract/Summary Cognitive flexibility is an executive function that represents the ability to adapt behaviours according to feedback from the environment, and is related to the function of the ventral prefrontal cortex (Clark, Cools, & Robbins, 2004). Previous research shows that cognitive flexibility influences social functioning, but this has not yet been examined in the context of couple relationships (Kringelbach & Rolls, 2003). The aim of the current research project is to examine the role of cognitive flexibility in couple relationships. Participants were 42 couples recruited through online and newspaper advertisements. They completed the Couples Satisfaction Index and a reversal learning task (a measure of cognitive flexibility) over the internet, and participated in a problem-solving discussion task. Couples were then randomly assigned to one of three couple relationship education programs, after which they completed the Couple Satisfaction Index for a second time. Consistent with hypotheses, people with better reversal learning were more likely to have partners that were more satisfied, however, this association was only present for happy couples, not unhappy couples. Unexpectedly, reversal learning performance was not associated with the frequency of positive and negative behaviours and affect during problem-solving discussions, however, exploratory analyses showed that associations were in the expected direction. Due to problems with missing data and attrition, there was insufficient power to test whether reversal learning predicted change in relationship satisfaction after couple relationship education. This study provided preliminary evidence that reversal learning is related to outcomes for couples, and suggests that happy and unhappy couples use their cognitive abilities in different ways. Further research would benefit from increased experimental control and a larger sample size.

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Created: Thu, 15 Nov 2012, 18:15:16 EST by Richard Wellauer on behalf of Faculty of Social & Behavioural Sciences