Professors in UConn’s COMM Department are constantly conducting innovative studies, but Professor Amanda Denes’ research proves that there’s a lot more to research than goggles and test tubes. Professor Denes joined the UConn community as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2012. During her time here, she’s been focusing on interpersonal communication, gender in communication and sexuality studies in both her classes and research.
Professor Denes’ latest research is focused on self-disclosure in relationships—more specifically post-sex pillow talk. In her Pillow Talk Studies she observed the level of relational satisfaction in coorelation to pillow talk. Her interest in hormones and their role in communication inspired the study. Denes recalled stories from her friends of disclosing things post-sex that they did not truly feel, such as telling someone they loved them. She questioned the relationship between the amount of hormones released during sex and over-disclosure to partners after sex.
The findings of the study were very interesting, Denes found that disclosure of positive feelings after sex is linked to more satisfied relationships. The studies also had a connection to orgasms, where Denes found that orgasm was a large predictor in relationships because they release a significant amount of oxytocin which is a hormone that makes people feel happy. They also found that the more alcohol people consume, the less they disclose. Though many might think that alcohol would increase the likeliness of disclosure, it is believed that that the depressants in the alcohol counteracts the oxytocin, thus resulting in less disclosure and relational satisfaction.
Professor Denes feels that this study is important because people rarely think about what happens after sex. Communication doesn’t end after sex, the time afterwards matters, and in certain aspects she feels that it can be more important than sex itself.
Although it took a while for her to become comfortable with speaking to people about such an intimate topic, she has learned to view it as a scientific process in which she feels “immune” to it. The more comfortable she is discussing it, the more comfortable her subjects will feel about disclosing information. “It’s good for people’s sex lives to talk about it,” says Denes, “People want to tell you stories”.
In the future Professor Denes hopes to research social support in communication, and more specifically how social support can buffer difficult situations. In instances such as presence of hate speech, she wants to see if providing supportive communication can help people deal with stressful events.
In the 2017 spring semester, Professor Denes will be teaching a new hybrid version of COMM 3200 Interpersonal Communication, as well as finishing up her research.