Why do we Fall in Love?

inlove

Why do we Fall in Love?

Have you ever wondered how much of love is biology and how much is psychology? If you’ve ever wondered if chemistry just happens or can be created, if love at first sight is real and all other things about love, you are living in a wondrous time. Why do we fall in love? Science has some answers. There are three different systems in the brain, that when brought together spell the emotional and biological phenomenon we call love. First is the sex drive created to ensure the perpetuation of our species. The feeling of romantic love helps you focus on one person making sure you don’t waste any time or energy. The last part is the comfort and security you feel when with a long term partner, giving you time to raise children together.

Love feels fantastic because the pleasure centers of the brain are activated when we fall for someone. Dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel euphoric, enthralled, and sleepless mirrors other experiences, such as being high on cocaine. Love at first sight does occur, though more to men than to women. Men are visual creatures. Whereas women fall in love in terms of who a person is, their charm, status or power rather than their physicality. Love at first sight may be an evolutionary advantage, producing offspring in a short amount of time rather than the long, drawn out process we go through today with society as our backdrop.

Timing of course is just as important in falling in love as it is with everything else in life. If you’re too busy with work or focusing on your responsibilities you may not notice the perfect person for you, when they’re just inches away. But with a little free time and the right mindset, a sort of openness, not necessarily looking for it, love can hit you like a lightning bolt. If you want someone to fall in love with you, do exciting things together with them. This releases dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain, mimicking romantic love. There is a difference between love and lust. You can feel love for one person. But lust dissipates after sex. And you can feel attracted to someone without being compatible, or jealous if they are into someone else.

How do you keep the spark alive? By trying new and exciting things together, and doing the things you did when you were first dating. Perhaps someday all of our questions on love will be explained. Will that kill the romance? Or will it give us a finer appreciation of the nuances of love? Only time and intrepid scientists will give us the answers. For more on this topic read, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher.

Sorting out Mixed Signals with Science

mixed

Sorting out Mixed Signals with Science

Mixed signals can be unbearable. But they don’t have to be or at least, not for long. Some people are good at reading others. Then there are those who are completely hopeless. Most of us lie somewhere in-between. But whether you’ve got top rate interpersonal skills, or find the opposite sex is a mystifying enigma, everyone sooner or later runs into someone they can’t read. Is she playing hard to get? Is he interested and not showing it, or just being aloof? Usually we can tell with someone’s proximity. If they enter your personal space, that’s good. If they touch your arm, the back of your hand, your back or shoulder when talking, or when you first meet, this too is a good sign. Eye contact and leaning in when you talk are good signals too. When you are leaving the person you are trying to read, wait a few seconds and look back after departing. Often if they look back too, they’re interested. Even then, perception does play a role, as may our gender. A new study gives us insight into how each sex perceives mixed signals. This one studied straight people only. Generally, men overestimate a woman’s interest. A woman however will underestimate a man’s. Moreover, while men think female friendliness equates to sexual attraction, women believe men’s passes are mere attempts at being friendly.

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science recruited 127 men and 181 women between the ages of 18 and 30 to take part. Each participant answered a questionnaire surrounding misunderstanding in the person’s level of interest when interacting with the opposite sex. Respondents were asked how many times such occurrences happened to them within the last year. Questions included, “Have you ever been friendly to someone of the opposite sex only to discover that he [she] had misperceived your friendliness as a sexual come-on?”, “Have you ever been in a situation with a member of the opposite sex in which you were sexually attracted to him [her] but he [she] assumed you were just trying to be nice?” and “Have you ever been in a situation with a member of the opposite sex in which you were just trying to be nice but he [she] assumed you were sexually attracted to him [her]?” Researchers found that women were sending out “let’s be friends” signals, and receiving “oh-baby” in return, while men were sending out the “lookin’ good sugar” and getting back “let’s be friends.” So what should you do if you are getting mixed signals?

First, act like a memory detective. Think back to all the time you spent together. Consider their behavior, no act is insignificant, no gesture no matter how subtle should be overlooked. Have they shown you any special interest, waited for you or done something just a little above and beyond what normal people do? Then they are interested in you. If it’s someone you have been sort of dating, or made out with that went lukewarm, don’t invest so much time in that relationship. This goes for men and women. They are either having fun playing the field or they just aren’t that into you. Lots of people get caught up in a kind of wishy-washy, do-they don’t-they limbo that’s excruciating. Though there are those who like to gnaw their knuckles pondering the possibilities for hours on end, for who knows why. For most of us, if things are going on for too long it’s best to either state your intentions or fade on out. Don’t be someone’s sometime thing if you are looking for something serious. If you’re not, just enjoy the adventure. Protect yourself and your heart, and let the journey lead you to its end. You’ll know it when you get there, and you’ll know when someone really likes you by how they treat you. For more on the near Vulcan approach to love pick up a copy of, The Science of Relationships: Answers to Your Questions about Dating, Marriage, and Family by Gary Lewandowski and Timothy Loving.

Science Says What Kind of Men Women are Most Attracted to

attraction

Science Says What Kind of Men Women are Most Attracted to

Guys are traditionally the pursuers, and even though we live in an enlightened society most women still prefer it that way. But lots of guys wonder what kind of man women are attracted to, and how to bring the best qualities out in themselves. Women tend to vary greatly in tastes. Lucky for most poor dolts who have hardly a clue, science has stepped in to try and answer the dizzying, age-old question of what kind of guy women want. Here are some of the things science has uncovered. If you’re flying without your wingman, you may find yourself cruising over lonesomeville for quite some time. For one thing, women rate men more attractive in group photos rather than when by themselves, at least according to a study out of the University of San Diego. Therefore, it stands to reason you look better when someone’s there with you. Researchers say this is due to something called the “cheerleader effect.” People look more attractive with their faces together, since incongruities in any one person are sort of evened out by the whole group. Another thing, women like men who know how to work a room. If you are always with an entourage and you’re the life of the party, or at least she thinks you are, you look high status and someone fun to be around.

Are you a single dad? Be sure to take your baby out cruising. Just keep it during daytime hours. Not only will you get father of the year, you might score a few phone numbers. A study in France found that men who cooed, smiled at and talked to infants were 40% more likely to score a woman’s phone number than those who ignored a baby. Researchers say it shows a greater propensity for being a good dad, should the couple have offspring. Some guys shave every day. Others sport a righteous beard. But why not shave every ten days? According to Australian researchers, men who did so were seen as the most attractive. This layer of stubble is thought to project just the right level of masculinity. Here’s some simple advice. Get some nice wheels and you’ll turn heads. If you can’t afford it, borrow some. A British study found that the same dude in a Bentley Continental was found way more attractive than one in a Ford Fiesta, even with the same clothes and facial expressions. Status is the reason, and the projection of resources which he may be willing to share with a certain, special lady.

If you’re an animal lover, taking your dog for a walk may not just be a necessity, but a way to meet someone. A French study found that women were three times more likely to give up their digits to a man walking his dog versus one who approached alone. Dogs break the ice. They also project kindness, sensitivity and thoughtfulness, all qualities women find appealing. Got a little extra time? Why not volunteer? A Cornell study found that women who knew a man volunteered found him a better candidate for dating and a long-term relationship, due to the fact that he was more selfless and compassionate. If you really want to get a woman to fall for you, make her laugh. A University of New Mexico study found that those guys who could make a sharp witted quip and make a woman laugh were more likely to have short-term, uncommitted sex than their straight-laced counterparts. These quick bursts reveal creativity and intellect, two qualities women greatly desire.

Lastly, if you want to get more hits on your dating profile, include the words “creative,” “ambitious,” and “laugh.” Dating sight Zoosk did a survey and found profiles that had these words got 33% more messages. Include words like “read” or “book” or exercise words like jogging, lifting weights and the like also increased message frequency. Be sure to take it slow. Mention “drinks” or “dinner” too quickly and your response rate will plummet 35%. So this advice improves your hit rate. But what about quality control? Read, How To Get A Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating In Six Months Or Your Money Back by Henry Cloud, and you’ll have that covered too.

Can a Set of Questions Make you Fall in Love?

Ilustracion con una pareja de jovenes

Can a Set of Questions Make you Fall in Love?

In a recent piece in the New York Times Style section, professor Mandy Len Catron talked about how she used a set of questions from a lab experiment to see if it could make two people, namely her and a male acquaintance fall in love. This social experiment was based off the work of psychologist Dr. Arthur Aaron. He had two strangers ask each other these questions. Afterward, the participants were to gaze into each other’s eyes for four long minutes. There is a set of 36 questions. It takes about 45 minutes to complete the entire set. At the end of the now famous 1997 experiment, the couple threw a wedding six months later and everyone at the lab was invited. You can find the questions here: nytimes.com. They are separated into three sections. The first section includes questions like “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” Some others, “Would you like to be famous? In what way?”, “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”, and “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.”

But they begin slowly probing after that, uncovering deep inner desires, parental relationships and even how affectionate and loving a person is, as well as the role love plays in their life.  Aaron was a professor at Stony Brook University. Catron is a British Columbia writing professor. You can tell this was someone she had an interest in. After going to a bar together her male companion posited this question, “I suspect, given a few commonalities, you could fall in love with anyone. If so, how do you choose someone?” She explained Aaron’s experiment and that psychologists have been trying to get two people to fall in love for some time. He prodded and they decided to try. Of course, Catron’s experiment took place in a tavern, not a lab. She and her acquaintance spent two hours answering the questions on her iPhone together. Then they stared into one another’s eyes for four minutes over a bridge in a romantic setting and presto, they were in love. Of course, it does sound like this couple was interested in one another from the beginning. Catron calls what she experienced “accelerated intimacy.” She explains how when we are young over summer camp, we get used to talking all night and becoming close to someone quickly. But as we grow older, we are more wary and perhaps take longer to get to know someone.

Catron says the most uncomfortable parts were the questions that made her reveal more about herself. But to create interpersonal closeness the barriers have to be broken down, though the questions do this in a slow, subtle kind of way. In a sense, these interrogatives are designed to include another person in our sense of self, and vice-versa. When we ask what the person likes about us, or we tell what we like about them, what is said establishes a link, an air of mutual appreciation and understanding. Catron says staring into each other’s eyes silently for four minutes was both exhilarating and terrifying. It wasn’t just seeing another, but having another see the real you that made such an impact, she says. One of the problems with love that she points out is that we start to look at it as a given. But really it’s an action. The study brings that part of it to the forefront. You can find Aaron’s study here: psp.sagepub.com. For more on the scientific aspect of love read, Decoding Love: Why It Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince, and Other Revelations from the Science of Attraction by Andrew Trees.

Science Helps with Breakups

heartbreak

Science Helps with Breakups

We’ve all been there: the week in sweat pants, balled up tissues on the couch, a book of bad poetry in our lap, gallons of empty ice cream cartons all around (wine bottles too) and tearful moments wondering how you’ll ever get over the loss. Breakups are one of the most painful moments in life. Certainly wallowing in misery is not one the most healthful thing you can do. Reflection on the other hand can help the healing process along. That’s according to one study published in the in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The difference between helpful reflection and wallowing is the point of your ruminations. How long has it taken place? Are your thoughts severe? If you are reliving moments over and over again, just making yourself sick then it’s time to stop and shake yourself out of this funk. If you are looking at it in a somewhat detached manner, to see where mistakes were made, learning about yourself and vowing to do better in the future, congratulations; you are truly helping to facilitate your own healing, and making sure your future endeavors in the realm of love will not be fraught with misfortune and peril.

Graduate student Grace Larson at Northwestern University conducted the study. She found that a period of asking one’s self questions and deep reflection as she told NPR, “…helped them develop a stronger sense of who they were as single people.” But this isn’t the only science-backed method to employ after a breakup. In fact, there is a rather impressive body of evidence on how to recover. We say we have a physical ache in our hearts and that’s literally true, according to one 2011 study. Participants underwent brain scans while gazing upon a photo of their ex and suffering a breakup. Neurologists found that the same areas where pain is received lit up when the person was longing for their lost love. Another study suggested Tylenol might help relieve such pain. A breakup affects you in other ways physically too, not just being heartsick. When people are in a long-term relationship their biological rhythms synch up. When you break up with someone and are living alone your heart rate, sleep pattern, appetite and even your body temperature is out of sync and must readjust. That means post-breakup, instead of letting yourself go you should go out of your way to take good care of yourself.

Once your body has readjusted, it’s time to take stock of your psychological state. After a breakup your sense of self and identity is in flux. Reestablishing a sense of who you are and what you want out of life is the key to moving on, experts say. Some calm reflection on the relationship is in order. But avoid dwelling upon it. Adaptation is the best route. But adapting to a new environment sans significant other is not easy. A good portion of our lives revolves around our partner. When they are gone a portion of our life goes with them. The good news is we also have a tremendous opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make plans for our future, one better suited for us. One study using brain scans likened breakup pain to cocaine withdrawal. This may be why some of us act a little bit nuts after we and our lover have split. Just ride it out. Most research finds that the first estimate of how long it takes to get over a breakup is far too long. In the aftermath, when the emotions have cleared most people feel they’ve learned something, that the experience helped them grow and made them more goal oriented. That’s according to a 2007 study. People who survive a tough breakup come out stronger in the end, find purpose in life and learn to move on their own power. What may feel like a painful extraction at first turns out to be liberating. For more pick up a copy of, Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott, JD Med.