Columbia Couples Lab

Columbia Couples Lab


At the Columbia Couples Lab, we study dyadic adjustment processes, especially those where dyad members are facing stressful experiences. We use intensive repeated-measures designs to study dyad members and their interactions. Our methods include daily diary studies, behavioral studies of interaction, and psychophysiology studies of stress and support. We are also interested in new statistical methods that can capture the dynamics of adjustment in individuals and dyads.

For more information, please see the Couples Lab web site.

A Current Research Project

In our most recent research, we make use of both lab-based experimental studies and naturalistic, longitudinal studies of daily experiences. In a current study looking at stress and social support processes in couples, we use a sample of romantic partners who have been living together for at least six months. Each member of the couple fills out an online diary every morning and evening for one month, giving us a portrait of daily events, dyadic interactions and moods from each partner’s perspective.

After completing the one-month diary phase, the couple comes into the lab for two experimental sessions where we collect physiological data (heart rate and galvanic skin response). During these sessions, the female partner completes a stress-inducing artithmetic task, one time with her partner present, and one time by herself. We plan to examine how stress reactivity is influenced by the presence of the partner by looking at both task performance and physiological data. Because we have a month of daily diary data already on each couple that completes the task, we will know how they tend to interact and support each other at home, and we can see whether that will predict how they react to their partner’s presence during a stressful task.

In the second component of the lab portion of the study, we have members of each couple discuss challenging issues in their daily lives. We videotape these discussions, and then separate the couple so that each partner can watch and continuously rate these discussions for support receipt and provision. From these ratings, we can gauge the extent to which partners agree with each other on whether and when a supportive action has taken place. With this measure, we will examine the relative effectiveness of “visible” versus “invisible” support – with visibility of support operationalized by the correlation of the partners’ support ratings while watching the video of their discussion.


  • Director: Niall Bolger
  • Postdoctoral Fellow: Dr. Gertraud Stadler
  • Lab Manager: Christine Paprocki
  • Major Collaborator: Prof. Patrick Shrout, Psychology, New York University