No matter whether single or partnered up, people tend to think their way of romantic life is better for everyone, according to new research published in Psychological Science. With Valentine’s Day upon us, happy couples rejoice in the bliss of their commitment to one another. Amidst that self-satisfaction, however, may lurk another emotion: judgement and pity, directed towards their single friends. But single people may feel sorry for their friends in committed, long-term relationships, who’ve give up their romantic freedom.
Not only are we judgmental about people who make different choices than us, that attitude influences the way we treat others. Rather than just admitting that “being single works for me” or “I like to be in a relationship” and letting it go at that, we tend to become evangelists for our own lifestyles, the researchers explain in a statement.
People who assume their relationship status will not change are especially prone to this behavior, they found. The more stable people consider their relationship status to be, the more they idealize their own way of life. It doesn’t even matter if we’re happy with the choice we’ve made: this finding remained true regardless of how personally happy people were with their status.
The researchers asked participants on Valentine’s Day to imagine festivities for that evening for a hypothetical person of the same gender, either Nicole or Nick. Those participants in committed relationship imagined Nicole or Nick enjoying a happier and more fulfilling V-Day if they spent the evening with their long-term partner.
The researchers took this bias investigation a step further, first testing whether the participants in stable relationships tended to judge hypothetical job candidates in committed relationships more favorably than single ones. They repeated this experiment for hypothetical political candidates. The committed participants, it turned out, were more likely to vote on the committed political candidate. Although they did say more positive things about partnered candidates than single ones, they were not more likely to hire the committed job candidate. Good thing, too, as discriminating against a job candidate because of their marital status is against the law.
More from Smithsonian.com: