Love Island can actually teach young people a lot about commitment

The reality show is a perfect illustration of the ‘relationship investment model’, explaining whether people will ‘stick or twist’

It’s summer in the UK, which means millions of TV viewers cram onto their sofas every night to watch how the group of ‘hot youngsters’ get along from across the UK (and of Ireland) – or who they are. get along with…

It’s easy to dismiss Love Island as another frivolous reality show featuring horny, conventionally attractive young adults seeking fame and fun along the way. But beneath the fake tans and squeaky banter, Love Island can actually help us understand the forces that pull people together and help sustain commitment in long-term (off-camera) relationships.

In fact, Love Island is a perfect illustration of the relationship investment model. This model helps explain whether people will “stick or buckle” in their relationship (i.e., stay engaged or move on to greener pastures).

According to the relationship investment model, our commitment and desire to persist in our relationships is influenced by three distinct pieces of information:

  1. Our quality of alternatives (i.e. if someone’s head is spinning)

  2. Our investments in the relationship (i.e. how many eggs you put in a basket)

  3. Our satisfaction with the relationship (i.e. if you are happy to crack)

According to this model, we are more likely to commit to our current partner when our investment and satisfaction are high and the quality of our alternatives is low.

The show’s daily twists and surprises allow us to see in real time how each of these three predictors of engagement can fluctuate and interact with each other to decide who mates, recouples, and ultimately, who gets drop. of the island. This is the experiment that no psychologist will ever be allowed to do. So, let’s break it down with some courtly examples from the 2022 Islanders.

Your head is spinning?

A lack of quality alternatives is sometimes referred to as “having no choice but to maintain the relationship”.

Quality alternatives are anything that can help us meet our needs outside of our relationship with our partner. This can include spending time with supportive family and friends, hobbies that make us feel fulfilled and happy, and romantic alternatives.

As quality alternatives increase, engagement begins to decrease. It’s the last type of alternative – alternative romantic partners – that most people in a monogamous relationship (or who want to be in a monogamous relationship) worry about the most and take center stage on Love Island. From new “bombshells” to strange challenges, Love Island is constantly trying to increase the availability of alternatives, often to shake things up and undermine any attachments people might form.

In this series, the love triangle between Ekin-Su, Davide, and Jay is a prime example of how appealing alternatives can shake things up. Prior to Jay’s arrival at the villa, Ekin-Su and Davide seemed to have a very intense connection. As soon as Jay enters the villa, however, Ekin-Su’s head begins to spin, resulting in her connection to Davide being completely severed. She quickly gives in to temptation.

We might encounter alternatives in unsuspecting places in our real lives: at work, at the gym, at school, in the pub. And these people are as much of a threat to our relationships in real life as they are on Love Island.

But fortunately, engagement isn’t determined solely by quality alternatives.

Put your eggs in one basket

The size of the investments we make in our relationships is often referred to as the “need for the relationship to persist” because of what is lost when that relationship ends. These investments include mutual friends, blended families, pets, shared living spaces, and even just the time spent on that person.

The more we invest in a relationship, the more losses we suffer from breaking up with that partner. This may help explain both why people may be reluctant to spend too much time and energy on a potential partner to avoid investing resources that could be wasted.

For example, Davide claims that he didn’t want to devote too much time and energy to Ekin-Su right away because he was afraid of getting hurt. On the other hand, investments may help explain why some people might stay despite the absence of fireworks. Another contender, Indyah, recently saved Ikenna from Remi. Indyah had invested time and energy in getting to know Ikenna. In contrast, she invested very little time and energy in her relationship with Remi, and sending him home was unlikely to upset the mutual friends she shared with Ikenna.

So even when the quality of our alternatives is high, our invested resources can help us understand why we might choose to stay even though we might not be getting as much out of the relationship as we could.

Glad to crack and see where it goes

Satisfaction is one of the best predictors of engagement and reflects how happy we are in our relationship. We are satisfied with a partner when we experience more positive than negative interactions with them and our relationship meets or exceeds our expectations.

Satisfaction is important because it can also help us reduce or minimize the availability of quality alternatives. For example, Luca recently demonstrated this protective power when he told Gemma that he doesn’t like talking to Danica as much as he likes talking to her, and that he has no desire to see where that relationship might go. go though Danica is interested enough in Luca to break a coupling.

Again, even when the quality of alternatives is high or our investments are low (like a two-week-old relationship), our satisfaction with our current partner can help us stay focused on them and see the positives rather than the attraction of others.

Veronica Lamarche, lecturer in psychology, University of Essex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lynn A. Saleh