Can a simple test predict which couples will split up?

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The Implicit Association Test (covered by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink) apparently can predict break-ups:

The 222 volunteers in their study were all involved in a romantic relationship. Each volunteer supplied the partner’s first name and two other words that related to the partner, like a pet name or a distinctive characteristic. Then they watched a monitor as three types of words were presented one at a time — good words (like peace, vacation, or sharing), bad words (such as death, tragedy, and criticizing), and partner-related words (names or traits). There were two different kinds of tests: one where the volunteer was supposed to press the space bar whenever they saw either good words or partner-related words, and one where the combination was bad words and partner words. The idea is to get at people’s automatic reactions to the words — if they have generally good associations with their partners, they should be able to do the first task more easily than the second.

The researchers found that volunteers who found it easy to associate their partner with bad things and difficult to associate the partner with good things were more likely to separate over the next year. The researchers also asked volunteers to report on the strength of their relationships at the start of the study — and found that the new test did a much better job of predicting breakup.

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