Cuffing in the Cold- Part II

Cuffing Season

As mentioned in my previous post, “cuffing season” is a time during the fall and winter months in which people “…who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves… desiring to be ‘cuffed’ or tied down by a serious relationship” (Urban Dictionary, 2011).  Basically, as the weather gets colder, people would rather spend their time indoors, and as such, the chance of meeting potential mates is greatly diminished.

Gender Differences in the Desire for a Partner

In addition to looking at temperature and romantic desires, it is important to examine potential gender differences which may arise in relation to romance. A commonly held misconception is that women are more romantic than men. However, in reality, males tend to have a more romantic outlook on relationships, compared to their female counterparts.

Research on the Romantic Beliefs Scale, which consists of statements such as, “There will only be one real love for me,” has shown that men tend to score higher than women (Sprecher & Metts, 1989). In addition, men are much more likely to believe in love at first sight (Hatfield & Sprecher, 2013).

A longitudinal study between 1972 and 1974, which examined the relationships of 231 college couples in the Boston area revealed gender differences when it came to relationships. These differences were specifically noted when it came to entering and leaving relationships (Rubin, Peplau, & Hill, 1981). For example, women were more cautious when beginning relationships and were more likely to compare their relationships to alternatives. Women were also more likely to end relationships and were better at coping with rejection than men. 

Specifically, when it came to feelings about love, it was shown that men had higher scores on measures of romanticism, and men were also more likely to rate the “desire to fall in love” as the reason for entering into a relationship than did women. Based on these findings, Rubin et al. (1981) generalized that “…men tend to fall in love more readily than women, and women tend to fall out of love more readily than men…” (p. 830).

As a result of these studies focusing on gender and romantic beliefs, it is important to examine any potential differences between males and females in terms of their desire to “cuff” during the winter.

Rationale

As mentioned in my previous article, despite the prevalence of the term “cuffing season,” the academic research in this area is lacking. In addition, when examining romantic constructs, it is important to determine whether or not gender differences may arise. Taken together, there is a need to study the existence, or lack thereof, of a cuffing season.

A study conducted in my lab met this need by determining if individuals residing in the United States experiencing winter weather were more interested in forming intimate relationships than those who were not. It was hypothesized that those experiencing cold temperatures would be likely to seek out relationships and focus on the intimate aspects of their lives, compared to those in warmer temperatures. In addition, contrary to popular belief, it was hypothesized that men, more than women, would be more likely to “cuff.”

An Exploratory Study

A total of 101 single participants, residing in the United States were recruited to take an online survey in January 2017. The majority of participants were Caucasian (78.2%), heterosexual (69.3%), and between the ages of 18 to 24 (62.4%). All participants completed both a demographic questionnaire and five subscales of the Multidimensional Relationship Questionnaire (MRQ; Snell, Schicke, & Arbeiter, 1996). This measure focuses on intimate relationships. The Preoccupation, Relationship Consciousness, Relationship Motivation, Relationship Assertiveness, and Internal Relationship Control subscales were included in this study. The participants were later divided into those currently experiencing winter weather and those who were not.

Results did not demonstrate a significant difference on any of the five subscales between those experiencing winter weather and those participants who were not, failing to support the idea of a cuffing season. While one may interpret this as a lack of evidence for its existence, it is also important to note that this January was unseasonably warm. In fact, climate data from major northeast cities demonstrated that during the month of January 2017, the weather was both warmer on average, and there was less precipitation than is typical (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2016). Therefore, people may not have had the same desire as they typically would have to “cuff.”

Regarding gender, there was a difference between males and females when it came to the Relationship Motivation and Relationship Preoccupation subscales, with men scoring significantly higher than women on both. Though this appears to be counterintuitive to the preconceived notions regarding romantic desire and gender that many hold, research does show that men score higher when it comes to romantic beliefs (Sprecher & Metts, 1989).

There were limitations to this study, such as the sample itself. Being that the participants were mostly Caucasian, heterosexual, and between the ages of 18 to 24, the generalizability of the results is limited. In addition, a longitudinal follow-up would be helpful, and is currently being undertaken. Perhaps the differences in our desires to cuff may not be between those experiencing cold and warm weather at one point in time, but between our desires during the summer and winter seasons. Such a result would only become apparent if participants’ perceptions are tracked over time.

Despite the limitations, this was a first attempt to examine a phenomenon that is constantly described, but not empirically tested. In relating it back to embodied cognition (which was mentioned in part 1 of the cuffing post), while physically interacting with a cold or hot item can influence our perceptions of ambiguous stimuli (Hong & Sun, 2012), perhaps our experience of the weather cannot entirely alter our desires in a way in which they would change our romantic behaviors (i.e. make us more likely to seek out a mate).

It is the hope of the researcher that this study will spark continued research into our desire for romance.

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