Scientists have devised a new “love test” that they believe is a better guide to the success of a relationship than the good intentions of newly-weds.
The research suggests that a subconscious response to an image of a partner could be a useful predictor of marriage outcomes.
Those who had a negative gut reaction were more likely be unhappy several years later.
The study is published in the Journal Science.
The lead author, Prof James McNulty from Florida State University, says that the new test gauges the true feelings of newly-weds towards each other, rather than what they say to other people or even admit to themselves.
“These immediate gut level responses seem to be pretty powerful in predicting whether people stay happy,” he told BBC News.
His team interviewed 135 newly-wed couples just after their nuptials.
The researchers asked them to evaluate their marriage related to positive and negative adjectives such as “good”, “bad”, “satisfying” and “dissatisfying”.
They then measured their gut reaction to each other using their intriguing “love test”.
This involved showing one partner a photograph of the other for a fleeting third of a second. They then had to answer as quickly as possible, whether certain words such as “great”, “awesome”, “horrible” and “scary” were positive or negative words.
The speed with which they answered was an indication of their true feelings, say the researchers.
The test is based on the psychological principle of association. The theory is that after fleetingly seeing a picture of their partner, the newlywed is in a positive or negative state of mind.