Effects of Empathy and Conflict Resolution Strategies on Psychophysiological Arousal and Satisfaction in Romantic Relationships

The present research builds upon the extant literature as it assesses psychophysiological factors in relation to empathy, conflict resolution, and romantic relationship satisfaction. In this study, we examined physiological reactivity of individuals in the context of emotionally laden interactions with their romantic partners. Participants (N = 31) completed self-report measures and attended in-person data collection sessions with their romantic partners. Participants were guided through discussions of problems and strengths of their relationships in vivo with their partners while we measured participants’ skin conductance level (SCL) and interbeat interval (IBI) of the heart. We hypothesized that participants’ level of empathy towards their partners would be reflected by physiological arousal (as measured by SCL and IBI) and relationship satisfaction, such that higher levels of empathy would be linked to changes in physiological arousal and higher relationship satisfaction. Further, we hypothesized that differences would be found in physiological arousal (as measured by SCL and IBI) based on the type of conflict resolution strategy used by participants. Finally, we hypothesized that differences would be found in empathy towards partner and relationship satisfaction based on the type of conflict resolution strategies used by participants. Results partially supported hypotheses and were discussed in light of existing knowledge based on empirical and theoretical sources.