Department of Psychology

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Principal Investigator: Dr. Alita J. Cousins
Lab Location: Goddard 211

My main area of interest is in evolutionary psychology which explores how evolution has shaped our minds and behavior. Most of my research centers around conflict in romantic relationships. I have a number of research lines:

  • Current Research

    My lab is currently collecting data from dating couples to assess how conflict changes across the menstrual cycle in women who are not on any form of hormonal contraceptive.

  • Mate Retention Tactics

    One area of research assesses women's mating preferences in romantic relationships, but the focus is on mate retention tactics (the things we do to keep our partners interested in us) and mate guarding. I became interested in whether mate retention tactics are related to violence in dating couples. I found that men who perceive their partners to be interested in other men (whether or not this is true), are more likely to act in a proprietary manner toward their partner. Proprietary mate retention tactics by men, such as calling to check up on a partner, predict physical violence in dating relationships. Similar analyses assessing women's mate retention tactics do not show the same pattern. Women's physical violence appears to be used in self-defense, rather than as a way to keep a mate faithful.

    Mate guarding can be thought of as the behaviors people engage in when they are sexually jealous. I found that mate guarding by men is related to prenatal testosterone exposure (as measured through digit ratio). Men with higher prenatal testosterone exposure were more physically aggressive toward their partners, especially when their partners cheated on them. Women resist mate guarding more when their partners have low levels of prenatal testosterone, probably because men with high levels of testosterone are more physically aggressive toward them, so women risk being aggressed against if they resist mate guarding attempts by high testosterone men. Prenatal testosterone exposure does not predict women's use of aggression.

  • Threat Detection in Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding Mothers

    It appears that there are a suite of behaviors and emotions that are different among lactating and non-lactating females. Not only are lactating females more aggressive toward threatening individuals, they also experience reduced fear, anxiety, and stress (Hansen et al., 1985; Toufexis, Rochford, & Walker, 1999).

    Enhanced detection of threats may be another component of maternal behaviors and emotions that increases protection of offspring, especially when those offspring are at their most vulnerable. There is a fairly large literature in psychology on threat detection. What researchers find is that humans are better at detecting threatening stimuli than non-threatening stimuli (Krysko & Rutherford, 2009).

  • Pedagogical Research

    My last line of research is pedagogical in nature. Along with Drs. Fugere and Lanagan-Leitzel, I have assessed what makes our research methods I course so difficult for our students. As part of the assessment of why students are doing so badly in this class, we have developed online tutorials to help students with the more difficult concepts in the class.

    I have also conducted research on how a service learning project in my social psychology classes impacted students life satisfaction, empathy, and closeness with the campus community.

Students who wish to work as a research assistant in my laboratory or conduct an independent study project under my supervision should email me at cousinsa@easternct.edu.

  • My Research
  • Student Research
  • Alumni

* indicates a student co-author

Publications

Fugère, M.A., Daniels, J.R., Cousins, A.J., Leszczynski , J. P., Letterman, M., Escoto, C. (2010). Common Challenges and Best Practices for Teaching Gender and Sexuality Courses. In J. Stanovic and M. Lalic (Eds.), Sexuality education and attitudes. Hauppague, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Cousins, A.J., Fugère, M.A., & Franklin, M. (2009). Digit ratio (2D:4D), mate guarding, and physical aggression in dating couples. Personality and Individual Differences, 46, 709-713.

Fugère, M.A., Escoto, C., Cousins, A.J., Riggs, M.L. (2008). Sexual attitudes and double standards: A literature review focused on participant gender and ethnic background. Sexuality and Culture, 12, 169-182.

Cousins, A.J. & Gangestad, S.W. (2007). Perceived threats of female infidelity, male proprietariness and violence in college dating couples. Violence and Victims, 22 (6), 651-668.

Gangestad, S. W., Garver-Apgar, C. E., Simpson, J. A., & Cousins, A. J. (2007). Changes in women's mate preferences across the ovulatory cycle. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 151-163.

Gangestad, S.W., Simpson, J.A., Cousins, A.J, Garver, C.E., & Christensen, P.N. (2004). Women's preferences for male behavioral displays change across the menstrual cycle. Psychological Science, 15 (3), 203-206.

Gangestad, S.W. & Cousins, A.J. (2001). Adaptive design, female mate preferences, and their shifts across the menstrual cycle. Annual Review of Sex Research, 12, 145-185.

 

Presentations

*Beetham, R. & Cousins, A.J. (2013, January). The Relationship between Body Mass Index and Impulsivity. Poster presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. New Orleans, LA.

*Beetham, R. & Cousins, A.J. (2012, October). Relations Among BMI, Impulsivity, and Locus of Control. Presented at the New England Psychological Association Meeting. Worcester, MA.

Lanagan-Leitzel, L.K., Fugère, M.A., Cousins, A.J. (2012, October). Using Online Tutorials to Assist Students in a Research Methods Course. Poster presented at the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Psychology. Worcester, MA.

Lanagan-Leitzel, L.K, Fugère, M.A., Cousins, A.J. (2011, October). How Much Do Students Think They Struggle with Research Methods? Poster presented at the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Psychology. Fairfield, CT.

Cousins, A.J. (2010, Ocbtober). Service Learning, Happiness, Empathy, and Closeness to the Community. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting, Burlington, VT.

Cousins, A.J. & Franklin, M. (2007, May). Are highly masculine brains doomed to behave out of sync with their partner's behavior? Poster presented at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference, William and Mary College, VA.

Fugère, M., Escoto, C., Cousins, A.J., Riggs, M.L., Haerich, P. (2006, October). Gender, Ethnicity, and the Persistence of the Sexual Double Standard. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting, New Haven, CT.

Cousins, A.J. (2005, October). Women’s reactions to mate guarding: An evolutionary analysis. Poster presented at the Connecticut State University Faculty Research Conference, Central Connecticut State University, Connecticut.

Cousins, A.J. (2003, June). Women's resistance to mate guarding. Paper presented at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference, Lincoln, NE.

Cousins, A.J. & Gangestad, S.W. (2000, June). Threats of female infidelity, male proprietariness and violence in dating couples. Paper presented at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference, Amherst, MA.

Cousins, A.J., Gangestad, S.W., Simpson, J.A. & Christensen, P.N. (1998, July). Fluctuating asymmetry, sociosexuality, and women’s context-dependent mate preferences. Paper presented at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference, Davis, CA.

Frugale, C., Sawyer, B.A., & Cousins, A.J. (2012, October). Everything You Yan Do I Can Do Better : Women's Mate Guarding is Related to Their Partner's Mate Guarding. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting. Worcester, MA.

Sawyer, B.A., Bibee, R., & Cousins, A.J. (2012, April). Perceived Physical Attractiveness Influences Relationship Investment and Mate Guarding Behaviors. Poster presented at the Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Association meeting, Plymouth, NH.

Arel, A. & Cousins, A.J. (2011, October). Dating History, Sociosexual Behaviors, and Jealousy. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting. Fairfield, CT.

Bibee, R. & Cousins, A.J. (2011, October). Sociosexual Orientation on Relationship Dynamics. Poster Presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting. Fairfield, CT.

Petrella, S. & Cousins, A.J. (2011, October). Partner Preferences in Current vs. Ideal Relationship in Heterosexual Couples. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting. Fairfield, CT.

Sawyer, B.A., & Cousins, A.J. (2011, October). The Role of Financial Resources and Age on Mate Guarding. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting. Fairfield, CT.

Pugliese, B. & Cousins, A.J. (2010, October). Female Desire for Independence: Correlations with Discipline, Abuse, and Physical Contact. Poster presented at the New England Psychological Association meeting, New Haven, CT.

Allison Arel (Fall 2010-Spring 2011)

Rachel Bibee (Spring 2011-Fall 2011)

Megan Clough (Fall 2012-Spring 2013)

Christina Frugale (Spring 2012)

Victoria Klimas (Fall 2012-Spring 2013)

Alexa Palasky (Fall 2012-Spring 2013)

Samantha Petrella (Spring 2011)

Blair Pugliese (Fall 2009-Spring 2010)

Broderick Sawyer (Summer 2011-Spring 2012)

83 Windham Street, Willimantic, Connecticut 06226 USA
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