CSU Reads: “The Social Psychology of Attraction & Romantic Relationships”

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From her years of teaching at ECSU, Dr. Madeleine Fugère knows that anecdotes help students learn, a principle she applied to her new book “The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships”(Palgrave MacMillan, 2014). The book was co-written with her ECSU colleagues Dr. Jennifer Leszczynski and Dr. Alita Cousins. “Students say those anecdotes are important for remembering and understanding the material. So [my co-authors and I] thought we should write the book like we talk about the concepts in class. Even though it is unusual to use the first person when writing a textbook, we went for it,” said Dr. Fugère.

The book is designed to supplement students’ understanding of social psychology. Social psychology is the study of how people’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are influenced by the presence of others. It focuses on any and all interpersonal processes – from love to aggression.

“The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships” discusses important concepts in social psychology through the lens of romantic relationships. “The greatest challenge was taking all of the literature and boiling it down…We tried to include the classic literature, but also give an update on whether or not more recent studies have similar findings.” said Dr. Leszczynski. Unlike other books, the psychological concepts were selected first and then applied to real world topics. The authors read a mountain of academic literature looking for how best to link concepts to romantic relationships. “I hope that [students] first of all learn how fun the research and the process of research can be, it’s not always boring like they think it is…We highlighted a lot of really cool studies. I hope they connect the things we say in class to actual research,” said Dr. Cousins.

Dr. Fugère started writing the book while on sabbatical. When she returned, she was inspired to make the project collaborative at a department meeting. “I thought, here I am talking to an expert in gender and an expert in evolutionary theory. So I said ‘we should write a book together and you can write these chapters and I’ll write this one.’ It was very natural,” she said. Dr. Leszczynski was excited to join the project. “I was interested in working with my colleagues because we have a great department. I love that Madeleine came up with this idea and I was thrilled to be asked on board because it matches up with what I’ve done in the past…I’ve always seen myself as a social development and gender researcher and that fits in perfectly with what she wanted to accomplish,” said Dr. Leszczynski. Since all three authors’ offices are in the same hallway, they were able to collaborate more thoroughly than many co-authors. “We work really well together. We would send each other drafts. We walk down the hall and bounce ideas off of each other, “ said Dr. Cousins.

Dr. Jennifer Leszczynski hopes the book underscores the importance of reading empirical literature for students. Often, common beliefs about gender & romance are not supported by evidence. “For example, that women are more romantic. We look at the literature and we see men are romantic they just show it in a different way. [Students] need to look at the empirical literature and not just at what people think is happening,” she said. The book also tries to take a broader, more inclusive point of view than what is usually seen. “Literature is almost always focused on college students and on individuals in industrialized countries, so we made an effort to include cross-cultural research as well so students would know this is how it is in the US, but there are differences across cultures,” she said.

Dr. Fugère selected topics that would be relatable and interesting to the traditional undergraduate student. For example, the book also deals with first impressions. “First impressions are surprisingly accurate,” said Dr. Fugère, “and they take place within milliseconds.” In that tiny amount of time, humans evaluate physical attributes like height, body shape, size, voice, and scent. “You can glean something about personality before you actually meet someone, drawing from non-verbal behavior or how he or she interacts with someone else,” said Dr. Fugère.

Dr. Fugère came up with the idea for the book after asking herself what she would really love to be exploring. “I had written a lab manual before and it was a horrendous process and I hated it and I said I would never write another book! But this is how I would really love to spend my time and I loved every part of writing it, except the index. I don’t want to do that again,” said Dr. Fugère. Dr. Cousins remarked “the day we were finishing the index, I said ‘oh I have an idea for another book’ and [Dr. Fugère] said ‘are you kidding me?’”

Despite her dislike of indexes, Dr. Fugère is passionate about the subject would like to write another book on the subject as well. “The biggest challenge in writing this book is convincing the publisher to let me publish another one,” she joked.

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3 Responses to “CSU Reads: “The Social Psychology of Attraction & Romantic Relationships””

  1. Teri Richardson, Retired ECSU, Psychology Dept. Secretary

    Congratulations to the three of you. AWESOME collaboration!

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