Aidan Smyth

Name: Aidan Smyth

Area of Study: Health/Personality/Social

In what program are you currently enrolled? MA

What year of the program are you currently in? Second year

Citation in APA format:

Smyth, A. P., Peetz, J., & Capaldi, A. A. (2020). Ex-appraisal bias: Negative illusions in appraising relationship quality retrospectively. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships37(5), 1673-1680.

Plain language abstract:

Cognitive biases are prevalent within the context of romantic relationships. The present research investigated biases about relationships after they have ended. Using a longitudinal design, individuals reported relationship quality at two time points, four months apart; they also rated relationship quality retrospectively at the second time point. Results supported an ex-appraisal bias: individuals rated their past relationship quality more negatively in retrospect, at Time 2, than they had actually reported while they were still in their relationships at Time 1. This bias was present across participants who stayed together and those who broke up but was three times larger for those whose relationships had ended. This bias may reflect a motivated cognition that helps individuals let go of their ex-partners after a breakup.

How did the idea for this research come about?

For better or worse, we aren’t always as accurate as we might like to believe when it comes to the way that we think about our romantic relationships. When people are in a relationship, their view of their partner is often biased by their hopes and goals. Assuming that you want your relationship to work out, you may tend to view your partner in an idealized manner or through rose-coloured glasses. These overly flattering appraisals of our partners can also extend to our relationships in general. For example, people tend to view their own romantic relationships as better than their friends’ relationships and less likely to result in a breakup.

For this particular study, we were interested in what happens after a breakup, when people may no longer be motivated to see their relationships with their ex-partners in the best possible light.  In fact, after a breakup, people may even be motivated to believe that their former relationships were never really that great all along. My colleagues, Dr. Johanna Peetz and Adrienne Capaldi, and I were interested in whether people recalled their past relationships as worse, after a breakup, than they said they were when they were still in them.

How did you collect the data for this project?

Data for this project was collected by Adrienne Capaldi and Dr. Peetz. They aimed to recruit participants until at least 45 participants reported having experienced a breakup at the Time 2 assessment. Students were recruited through SONA in the late Fall term of 2017; additional participants were recruited using Mturk. After Time 2 assessments had been collected for both samples, it was evident that the break up group did not yet reach the minimum number so additional participants were recruited in the Fall term of 2018. After Time 2 assessments had been collected for the third sample, the break-up group surpassed the minimum necessary for analysis so no more participants were recruited.

Student participants were compensated with partial course credit for each assessment. MTurk participants were compensated with $0.75 USD for Time 1 and an additional $1.50 USD for Time 2.

Was the journal you published in the first journal you submitted this paper to?


Why did you choose this journal?

We chose this to submit to the Journal for Social and Personal Relationships because this journal publishes extensively on research related to romantic relationships. This journal is also affiliated with the International Association for Relationship Research.

How many other journals did you submit this paper to before it landed in the journal that eventually published your work?


What was your revision experience?

The revision experience was quite helpful. The reviewers appeared to be enthusiastic about the research and provided thoughtful and encouraging feedback, which helped to strengthen our final product. Originally we had considered including some additional studies that were related to this work but the reviewers felt that this particularly study may function better as a standalone study in a brief report format.

How many rounds of revision did you experience?


Did you need to collect new data to satisfy a reviewer?


How long did it take from first submission to acceptance?

3 months

Was this paper conducted as part of your MA thesis?


How did this project come about?

This project came about from some work that I completed for an independent study with Dr. Peetz and some work that Adrienne Capaldi completed for her MA with Dr. Peetz. I expressed my interest in engaging with relationship research to Dr. Peetz at the International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) mini conference at Carleton University in the summer of 2019 and Dr. Peetz was gracious enough to offer me an opportunity to be a part of this work.

Was this research conducted with your supervisor?


Was this research conducted with fellow graduate students in our program? 

Yes, with Adrienne Capaldi

Was this research conducted with researchers external to Carleton?


Is your paper open access or available in an open access repository?


You can access the article here.