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Research / Discovery

In time for Valentine's Day: Your questions about love, sex, relationships answered by scientists

February 13, 2012

There's a science to sex, love and relationships, according to a new book published by a CSU psychology professor and her colleagues.


Relationship books are dime a dozen, but very few are written from the perspective of researchers using science to answer pressing questions, says Jennifer Harman, an assistant professor of applied social psychology at Colorado State.

Harman was one of 15 university researchers nationwide who wrote chapters of The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage and Family, which is available on Amazon.

Based on science

The Science of Relationships is based on science unlike most relationship and self-help books, which are opinion-based and written by clinicians, Harman said. In this recently released book, scientists address 40 of the most common questions on such topics as attraction and relationship initiation, love, intimacy and attachment, long-term relationship processes, the dark side of relationships, sex and parenting.

The team - and other researchers with master’s and doctoral degrees - continues to answer commonly asked questions, including topics such as:

  • Do men really think about sex every seven seconds?
  • The birds and the bees as early as age 3?
  • What are the high costs of parenthood?

“This is a fun book that is written in one collective voice but is grounded in research,” said Harman, who specializes in the study of how individuals think about and influence others. “We all wanted to make psychology more accessible. Plus, it helps my students learn more about what I do as a psychologist.”

Researchers are experts on topic

The book is written in a format that most people can understand – simple, scientific answers to basic questions about family, marriage and relationships.

“The key difference between our book and the other books on relationships out there is that all of our contributors are relationship scientists and teachers at colleges/universities who are true experts on relationships,” the authors say on “We take that expertise, add in a little research, and present things in an easy to read format.”

Other authors included researchers from Haverford College, Monmouth University and University of Texas at Austin. Questions were determined through online polls and submissions from students. Harman wrote chapters on such topics as sex before marriage and sex in relationship to love.

Getting students involved

At Colorado State, Harman has also written a workbook designed to get more of her undergraduate students involved in research. The result is a laboratory manual she co-wrote with Justin Lehmiller, a former CSU colleague now at Harvard.

“A Social Psychology Research Experience” is a skills workbook designed to push students to develop hypotheses, design experiments, analyze data, experience the institutional review process and disseminate their work, Harman said.

“This is meant to be a full, intense research experience,” said Harman, who designed the class after undergraduates complained they weren’t prepared for graduate school. “We have to train our students to be competitive.”


Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336