As Valentine’s Day approaches in the Americas, Europe, Australia and much of Asia, people take time to cherish loved ones or seek new connections. And if you’re also pondering the mysteries of relationships on this occasion, then listen up: it’s possible that romantic success can be explained and quantified by science—to an extent.
Numerous scientists have studied the personality traits that make relationships more successful. In a 1999 study from the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, researcher Stephanie Nemechek found that couples with similar degrees of conscientiousness were better adjusted in marriage.
Conscientiousness is one of the “Five Factors” of personality. By this social psychology model, human personality traits can be broken down into: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Conscientiousness refers to our exercising carefulness, thoroughness, and self-discipline.
Our openness to new experiences is another personality trait that may lead to relationship success. Each partner’s degree of openness has been found to be connected to satisfaction in dating and married couples, and it has been posited that more open individuals are better at communicating and working out conflicts.
And openness may be trainable, according to new research from the University of Illinois published in Psychology and Aging. Out of 183 older adults, those who underwent cognitive training increased their openness to new experiences. After the training, which featured pattern-recognition and problem solving, these same participants also improved inductive reasoning skills.
The study is particularly surprising because Five Factor personality traits such as openness were long thought to be stable throughout much of the lifespan. Although much research remains to be completed regarding the links between openness and relationship success, the Illinois study raises a fascinating possibility—that integral life traits such as openness can be altered through cognitive training, even later in life.
If you’re interested in trying out some reasoning tasks on Lumosity, why not try By the Rules or Word Sort now? Much work remains to be done before we can say whether cognitive training can make you a better partner, but you can definitely take steps towards becoming a smarter one.