Study: Women keep the peace in marriage

Updated 01 July 2013
0

Study: Women keep the peace in marriage

NEW YORK: Picture this scenario: You’re on a road trip with your partner, trying to find your hotel, lost in an unfamiliar area and driving in circles. Your partner gets agitated, body and voice tense, and says in exasperation, “We’re never going to find it!“
How do you react? Does the stress rub off on you, or do you try to calm your partner down?
A recent study says your response may well depend on your gender.
Researchers from the University of Arizona found that, for couples who cooperate well, men tend to mimic their partner’s mood while women try to regulate their partner’s emotions.
“Women try to keep the peace,” speculates relationship researcher and lead study author Ashley Randall.
The study, published last week in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, looked at 44 heterosexual couples in the United States who had been together an average of six years. Most were living together or married.
The scientists shot video of each couple conversing about eating habits, exercise and other aspects of daily life. Then subjects viewed the video while rating how positive or negative they were feeling at the time of the conversation. Researchers also looked for signs of cooperation, such as open communication, sympathy, active listening and compromise.
Among those couples who cooperated well, the partners tended to fall into gender-distinct roles, with men following an emotional lead and women seeking to moderate the man’s emotions.
Men may do this simply to appease women. In an example cited in a podcast on the study hosted by the journal, a wife asks her husband what he thinks of her outfit. He says he likes it, but chances are, her husband’s enthusiasm won’t be enough to fully convince her and she will want to try on a few other options.
Stereotypically but also anecdotally, men avoid relationship conflict, says couples therapist Michael Radkowsky, who was not involved in the study.
Randall, in the podcast, suggested that men might be subconsciously syncing their emotions with their partner’s during cooperation in order to avoid a drawn-out discussion.
If the woman suspects that is the case, Randall said, she might become less positive in an effort to determine his true feelings. Or, if he is excessively negative or agitated, she said, a woman might try to temper her partner’s feelings.
In studies examining parents’ interactions with their infants, similar patterns and gender differences arise. Mothers tend to calm their babies when they get excited, while fathers are quick to encourage and even heighten a child’s animated state.
Randall notes a “huge link” between romantic relationships and mental and physical health. Studies have shown that married people are healthier in many ways than singles, particularly singles who have gone through the difficulty of divorce. And relationship conflict can lead to physical disorders such as high blood pressure.
So what can a couple do when working together doesn’t come naturally?
Couples should try to “listen openly to a partner’s perspective, without judgment or defensiveness, and to negotiate — you have to be willing to give to get,” said clinical psychologist Sarah Holley at San Francisco State University.
Radkowsky agrees, and said people often believe it’s the job of their partner to meet their needs, which he calls “the enemy of cooperation.” He said each person in a couple shouldn’t be afraid to meet their own needs, separately.
“People don’t grasp that part of being a happy couple is also being two strong individuals,” he said. “It’s good to be in charge of your own mood no matter how your partner feels.”


Amazon aims to make Alexa assistant bigger part of users’ lives

An overhauled Echo Dot smart speaker boasts much-improved sound and design while keeping the $50 price tag of the original. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2018
0

Amazon aims to make Alexa assistant bigger part of users’ lives

  • Alexa has gotten smarter, more conversational and even intuitive during the past year as teams at Amazon work hard on getting the digital assistant to better understand people
  • Alexa uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the lives of users, factoring in habits, weather, time of year and more

SEATTLE: From the kitchen to the car, Amazon on Thursday sought to make its Alexa digital assistant and online services a bigger part of people’s lives with an array of new products and partnerships.
Updates to the Internet giant’s Alexa-infused Echo smart speakers will allow them to tend to microwave cooking and even have “hunches” regarding what users may want or have forgotten.
When Alexa is told “corn on the cob,” a digital Echo speaker starts an AmazonBasics microwave oven in a faux home demonstration room, setting the preferred time and voicing what it is doing.
But when asked to add 30 seconds, Alexa paused and then started to play songs by the band “Thirty Seconds to Mars.”
Such misunderstandings are routine enough with smart speakers that they have become fodder for humor, and even cropped up while Amazon devices and services senior vice president David Limp showed off new devices in a nearby building a short time earlier.
Alexa has gotten smarter, more conversational and even intuitive during the past year as teams at Amazon work hard on getting the digital assistant to better understand people, according to Limp.Alexa is even developing a personality, complete with a favorite pet or beer.
It has also learned to understand whispers, responding in equally hushed tones in a feature to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Amazon on Thursday teased a coming feature called Alexa Hunches that is designed to infuse the digital assistant with intuition. For example, when a user bids Alexa a good night, it might respond by mentioning they forgot to lock a door.
Alexa uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the lives of users, factoring in habits, weather, time of year and more. To know what is happening with other smart devices in a home, the Echo speaker needs to be connected to them.
Amazon recently passed the 20,000 mark for smart home devices made by the Seattle-based company or partners.
“We are really at a tipping point for the smart home,” Limp said while unveiling a cornucopia of new devices.
An overhauled Echo Dot smart speaker boasts much-improved sound and design while keeping the $50 price tag of the original.
Amazon added Echo equivalents of stereo components for home sound systems, along with improvements to its online music service, with partners including Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer.
Limp unveiled a “frustration free setup” platform intended to grow into a framework that any smart device maker can use to make getting gadgets to talk to Alexa as easy as plugging them into an outlet.
“That is not going to happen overnight,” Limp said. “As we imagine a future that has thousands of these devices in your home, this is going to become absolutely essential.”
And, of course, there was the $60 microwave, which Limp contended was a strong test because of how much microwaves interfere with wireless connectivity used by devices to communicate.
A freshly announced Alexa Guard service synchronizes with Echo speakers in the home and security cameras from Amazon-owned smart doorbell maker Ring.
When Echo speakers are set to guard mode, they listen for breaking glass or the sound of alarms from smoke or carbon dioxide detectors and send alerts to smartphones or even security companies.
Ring cameras can also be connected to Echo devices with screens, letting people see who has come calling, demonstrations showed.
A new Echo Show device boasted twice the screen display area as its predecessor, and Fire TV Recast that acts as a digital recorder for traditional television broadcasts.
Not satisfied with being built into new cars, Alexa will be able to work in older models with an Echo Auto device that can be affixed to dashboards and reach the Internet through smartphones.
“Amazon launched today what I believe is the industry’s largest assortment of home automation products and added meaningful improvements to its services,” said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy.
“The company once again separated itself again in the smart home space from both Google and Apple by adding new devices and capabilities.”