Wobbly Chairs: Secret Relationship Killer?
Am I drinking on the job, or is there something to this weird title? (Or both?!)
Wait, hear me out before you back away slowly. Researchers have actually been studying the relationship between the objects we use and our emotions for a while—for example, did you know that if you’re carrying around a cold drink at a party, you’re likely to think the other people at the party are cold and off-putting? Carry a warm drink (because who doesn’t like to make their way through a cocktail party with a nice mug of hot cocoa?) and you’ll tend to perceive the other guests as warm and welcoming.
Recently, Scientific American‘s 60-Second Mind podcast reported on wobbly chairs… and it turns out, there’s more to them than just being super-annoying. In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, participants sat in either wobbly or stable chairs while being grilled about the stability of a bunch of celebrity relationships. Fun!
It turns out that the study participants in wobbly chairs judged the celeb couples as more likely to be heading towards a breakup. Those who sat in stable chairs judged the celeb unions to be more… yep, stable.
Researchers found a similar effect when participants were asked to prioritize what traits they admired in a romantic partner—being trustworthy, being reliable, being adventurous, and appreciating photos of kittens posted to their Facebook wall every day. (I made up the last one, but it really wouldn’t hurt, you know?) And the wobbly chairs came into play once again—participants sitting on them valued stable traits, like reliability, the highest. Those sitting in sturdy chairs already felt plenty stable, and didn’t rate those traits as highly.
So what does this mean in real-life relationships? Well, for the love of god, if you’re on a date and your table is wobbly, stick a napkin under it, don’t just sit there with your martini sloshing sadly all over the place. And don’t furnish your apartment with chairs from the garbage. Or with the chair in this post’s photo—definitely do not buy a chair that comes with a demonic shadow for your wall, no matter how good the sale is at Ikea. Or, if you’re setting up two friends on the blind date, just tag along and silently sit next to them all night, holding the backs of their chairs steady, just in case. This is fun for everyone.