Ask happy couples what the secret to a long-term relationship is and they'll probably say communication, space or sex.
New research suggests it might just be bunny photos.
In a study published online last month in the journal "Psychological Science," researchers at Florida State University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Minnesota found that people who viewed pictures of their spouse interspersed with photos of baby animals, beaches or sunsets, saw a significant boost in their relationship satisfaction.
Social psychologists call this evaluative conditioning.
It's what happens when our mind learns to associate an object or person with a feeling-good or bad-that we had when we were previously around that object or person.
Have you ever gotten sick after eating something and forever hated that food?
Do you have a song that reminds you of your first love? You've experienced it.
The new research on evaluative conditioning was funded by the US Department of Defence as part of the Military Suicide Research Consortium, an effort to stem the suicide rate of active military members and veterans.
The goal is to find ways to strengthen soldiers' marriages and, therefore, their support systems.
The researchers brought into their lab 120 couples married for three to four years and assessed their implicit, or gut-level, feelings toward their partner-the ones they may not want to acknowledge or even know they have.
They did this by showing participants pictures of their partner followed by negative and positive words, timing how quickly they could identify the words.
They also asked participants how they felt about their spouse.
They then showed the participants a slideshow once every three days for six weeks.
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