Ghosting — or ending a romantic relationship by unexpectedly cutting off all contact — has become a topic of increasing interest in the age of online dating. New research suggests that the practice is influenced by people’s beliefs about destiny.
The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, examined two implicit theories of relationships.
People who endorse destiny beliefs about relationships tend to think that partners are either compatible or they are not, and that relationships that do not start off well inevitably fail. People who endorse growth beliefs, on the other hand, believe that the ideal relationship develops gradually over time and that obstacles in a relationship can make love even stronger.
“If you think that you should find your soulmate, you have stronger destiny beliefs,” said Gili Freedman, a postdoc at Dartmouth college and co-author of the study. “If you think that relationships change over time and should be tended to like a garden, you have stronger growth beliefs.”
An initial survey of 554 participants via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk found that people with stronger destiny beliefs were more likely to indicate that ghosting was a socially acceptable way to end a romantic relationship and were 31.8% more likely to report previously ghosting a romantic partner.
The researchers then conducted another survey of 747 participants via Prolific Academic that replicated the findings and extended them to friendship. In other words, people who endorse destiny beliefs are not just more likely to ghost a romantic partner, they’re more likely to ghost a friend too.
In both surveys, stronger growth beliefs were associated with more negative attitudes toward ghosting.
“Taken together, the present research indicates that implicit theories of relationships are a factor in how individuals view ghosting as a relationship termination method,” the authors of the study said. The findings are “consistent with the possibility that destiny theorists are more likely to act decisively on their relationship once deciding it is not ‘meant to be.'”
The study, “Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting“, was authored by Gili Freedman, Darcey N. Powell, Benjamin Le, and Kipling D. Williams.