Brain Pickings

Why Love Needs Space: Applying the Benjamin Franklin Effect to Romantic Relationships


Empirical evidence for the healthy push-and-pull of love.

You may recall the Benjamin Franklin Effect — that odd phenomenon of reverse psychology wherein doing someone a favor makes us like the person more. In this short “science experiment,” complete with a mandatory lab coat, the folks at SoulPancake set out to apply the Founding Father’s insight to the realm of romantic relationships. Though the task itself may appear silly and the quantitative finding hardly earth-shattering, beneath it lies a bigger and rather important qualitative point about the push-and-pull of a healthy relationship, one that resonates with the Chinese notion of wu-wei:

Make sure you allow room in the relationship for the other person to also give it back and invest in you. So maybe don’t insist on paying the bill every time or driving to their place every time. Give them a shot to invest and put just as much into it as you do. Whether you’re trying to get into a relationship or deeper into a long-term one, give your partner a chance to contribute to it.

Pair with a deeper look at the psychology of the Benjamin Franklin Effect, then see the science of how “positivity resonance” shapes love.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.

You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

Share on Tumblr