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Have Conflicts Mediated for Best Results

Mediated Couple

davis kokanis/

Active mediation by a third party provides better outcomes for couples’ arguments by heightening activity in the “reward” part of the brain that generates romantic love. That’s the conclusion of researchers from the University of Geneva in a study in the journal Cortex that included 36 heterosexual couples that had been married for one year. After receiving brain scans with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and filling out a questionnaire, the couples argued for an hour about a key conflict such as intimacy, finances or in-laws. Half the couples received guidance from a professional mediator; the other couples did not.

Afterward, couples with the active mediator reported feeling more satisfied with the content and progress of the discussion and had fewer residual issues. When individuals were shown photos of their spouse and another unknown person during a second fMRI, the couples that had mediation were more likely to experience heightened activation in the nucleus accumbens, a key region in the reward circuit of the brain linked to pleasure, motivation and feelings like love. The more satisfied a person was with the mediation, the greater the neural activation. “Our results suggest for the first time that third-party mediation has a significant and positive impact on the way couples argue, both behaviourally and neurally,” concludes Olga Klimecki, a study author and researcher at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences.
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