But here's the tricky part. The name of someone each student identified as very controlling was flashed on the computer screen so briefly that the student could not have recognized it consciously. It was there just long enough to register subliminally.
And just as the researchers had expected, the students who were "subliminally primed" with the name of someone who wanted them to "work hard" performed much more poorly on the test than those who were primed with the name of someone who wanted them to "have fun."
"These results suggest that for individuals who perceive a significant other to be highly controlling, subliminally priming the name of that significant other causes these individuals to automatically do the opposite of that which the significant other wishes," the researchers write.
In other words, nagging backfires.
The researchers admit this isn't the final word on the subject, and other research needs to be done, but they are confident they have demonstrated that even a subconscious vision of a controlling significant other can trigger a reactant attitude and domestic turmoil.
Now that we know that, does harmony prevail in the Chartrand-Fitzsimons household?
Chartrand says she thinks this knowledge should help her husband "suppress his reactant tendencies." In other words, take out the trash, Gavan.
Of course, he sees it differently. He says the research shows that it's a subconscious automatic response to a controlling spouse, so how's he going to fix it if he doesn't even know it's happening?