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Improving Relationships by Elevating Positive Illusion and the Underlying Psychological and Neural Mechanisms

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      Abstract

      Romantic relationships are difficult to maintain novel and exciting for long periods of time, and individuals in love are known to engage in a variety of efforts to protect and maintain their romantic relationship. How to protect and maintain these relationships more effectively has, however, plagued people, psychologists, and therapists. Intimate partners typically perceive their relationship and their partners in a positive light or bias, a phenomenon called positive illusion. Interestingly, higher levels of positive illusion between partners have been associated with a decreased risk for relationship dissolution, as well as higher satisfaction, and less conflict or doubt in relationships. These findings indicate that elevating positive illusion amongst romantic partners may be of benefit and improve romantic relationships. In the present article, we discuss solving the paradox of positive illusion. As positive illusion may have relationship-enhancing attributes, we discuss the psychological and neural mechanisms that may underlie positive illusion. By elucidating the mechanisms underlying positive illusion, we shine a spotlight on potential future directions for research that aims to improve positive illusion and thus enhance the satisfaction and longevity of romantic relationships.

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      Most cited references 53

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      The case for motivated reasoning.

       Z Kunda (1990)
      It is proposed that motivation may affect reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes--that is, strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs. The motivation to be accurate enhances use of those beliefs and strategies that are considered most appropriate, whereas the motivation to arrive at particular conclusions enhances use of those that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion. There is considerable evidence that people are more likely to arrive at conclusions that they want to arrive at, but their ability to do so is constrained by their ability to construct seemingly reasonable justifications for these conclusions. These ideas can account for a wide variety of research concerned with motivated reasoning.
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        Conflict monitoring and anterior cingulate cortex: an update.

        One hypothesis concerning the human dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is that it functions, in part, to signal the occurrence of conflicts in information processing, thereby triggering compensatory adjustments in cognitive control. Since this idea was first proposed, a great deal of relevant empirical evidence has accrued. This evidence has largely corroborated the conflict-monitoring hypothesis, and some very recent work has provided striking new support for the theory. At the same time, other findings have posed specific challenges, especially concerning the way the theory addresses the processing of errors. Recent research has also begun to shed light on the larger function of the ACC, suggesting some new possibilities concerning how conflict monitoring might fit into the cingulate's overall role in cognition and action.
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          Emotional processing in anterior cingulate and medial prefrontal cortex.

          Negative emotional stimuli activate a broad network of brain regions, including the medial prefrontal (mPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) cortices. An early influential view dichotomized these regions into dorsal-caudal cognitive and ventral-rostral affective subdivisions. In this review, we examine a wealth of recent research on negative emotions in animals and humans, using the example of fear or anxiety, and conclude that, contrary to the traditional dichotomy, both subdivisions make key contributions to emotional processing. Specifically, dorsal-caudal regions of the ACC and mPFC are involved in appraisal and expression of negative emotion, whereas ventral-rostral portions of the ACC and mPFC have a regulatory role with respect to limbic regions involved in generating emotional responses. Moreover, this new framework is broadly consistent with emerging data on other negative and positive emotions. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Science and Technology of China , Hefei, China
            2School of Foreign Languages, Anhui Jianzhu University , Hefei, China
            3Center for Biomedical Engineering, School of Information Science and Technology, University of Science and Technology of China , Hefei, China
            4Hefei Medical Research Center on Alcohol Addiction, Anhui Mental Health Center , Hefei, China
            5Institute of Health Science Research, School of Sociology and Population Studies, Renmin University of China , Beijing, China
            6Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School , Boston, MA, United States
            7Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin Normal University , Tianjin, China
            Author notes

            Edited by: Feng Kong, Shaanxi Normal University, China

            Reviewed by: Zhao-xin Wang, East China Normal University, China; Kai Yuan, Xidian University, China

            *Correspondence: Xiaochu Zhang zxcustc@ 123456ustc.edu.cn
            Contributors
            Journal
            Front Hum Neurosci
            Front Hum Neurosci
            Front. Hum. Neurosci.
            Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            1662-5161
            11 January 2019
            2018
            : 12
            6336892 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00526
            Copyright © 2019 Song, Zhang, Zuo, Chen, Cao, d’Oleire Uquillas and Zhang.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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            Figures: 2, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 55, Pages: 7, Words: 5151
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            Neuroscience
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