Decode love through the lens of science

Is love simply emotions from the heart, or is it a systematic process of cooperation and operation of physiological elements?

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Where does the "euphoria" state come from?

In the first stages of romantic attachment, lovers are always "obsessed" with the other. Overwhelming with your thoughts, your actions are the presence of the face, the figure or the voice of the person you love. From there, the excitement makes can't help urging yourself to think about them and sometimes smile in unconsciousness.

Explaining in a thematic talk in 2014, American anthropologist Helen Fisher shared a groundbreaking experiment when Fisher and his colleagues at Stony Brook University in New York investigated 37 cases. She took the people in love into a magnetic resonance imaging device (MRI). Their brainwave results showed that looking at the person you love would stimulate activity in areas of the brain that contain dopamine, a "happy" hormone in the brain that makes people happy and infatuate it.

That exciting (or possibly stressful) feeling raises the level of cortisol hormone - the substance produced in response to the stressful state that causes the fast heartbeat, butterflies in the stomach and sweaty palms. The combination of oxytocin - the substance that enhances intimate feeling, and vasopressin - the substance that is thought to be related to trust, empathy... is the power to increase the cohesion of love and help it maintain long-term vitality.

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Why are we all fools when it comes to love?

Shakespeare once wrote: "Love is merely a madness". Perhaps many people believe that it is only the art of exaggeration to increase the attractiveness of the works. But it is actually the truth. Recently, science has proved that by many experimental methods.

Donatella Marazziti, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pisa, approached this question after a research result indicating that people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have lower average serotonin levels in brain than in blood. Serotonin depletion leads to depression, decreased desire, distraction and irritability. From these facts, she wondered if the same imbalance could be the foundation for unusual acts of love?

To conduct the survey, she recruited two target groups, one with OCD and the other one was 20 people who started a relationship within the last 6 months, had yet to make love as well as spent at least 4 hours a day thinking about their partner. Experimental results demonstrated that both groups had significantly low serotonin levels in the brain. The researcher concluded that the status of being in love literally leads to unnormal behaviors.

An independent study showed that people in love have lower activity in the cortical region - the brain area that is important for reason and judgment - every time they think about the person they love. Scientists have speculated a breakthrough reason for this case, which is called "beer goggles": the effect that makes the other person become more attractive than normal, which often happens when blood alcohol concentration increases.

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Is our mind completely active in love?

Science has shown that the brain and heart are closely related. In the event that our brain is exposed to external hazards or when our crush appears, our heart beats in a panic. However, scientists also have evidence for saying "listen to the heart" when concluding that feedbacks from the heart to the brain also affect our emotions.

A study conducted by professor Sarah Garfinkel at University of Sussex showed that electronic signals from blood vessels around the heart send feedback to the brain region involved in the emotional process, affecting how much we perceive an object or phenomenon.

The body's activity is the reciprocal feedback between the heart and the brain, and so is love. One of the decisive factors for a romantic relationship which was scientifically pointed out is that the heart rate and breathing of loving couples often tend to be in tune.

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Why does love lead to hatred?

Hatred is something crude and destructive. Sometimes it is the only thing stronger than love. It is not uncommon to encounter many cases when the couple breaks up and not only cannot maintain a good relationship at a normal level but also turn to hate each other deeply. Why is that?

Robert Sternberg, a professor of human development at Cornell University and the author of the book "Psychology of Hatred", spent part of his career studying complex emotions. He found out three basic elements forming the theory of hatred triangle: passion, disgust and contempt. The strange combination of the three elements increases the forms of hatred - cold and calculating, dull and disgusting.

When psychologists surveyed nearly 600 people, they found that we mostly hate someone we know often because they betray us in some way. At the beginning of a relationship, people could be interested in different and sometimes contrary personalities of the other. These difference makes them excited and curious, but over time, that difference is too big and persistent that both lose their initial excitement and turn to hate each other.

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How to know if he/she is "the one"?

There are people who simply "know", they perceive intuition as what helps them identify the other. But for those looking for an authentic method, mathematicians have come up with a scientific dating strategy.

The question is how many people do you need to date before knowing that you have met a good once? The magic milestone turned out to be 37%. To have the best chance of choosing the right people, you should date and reject the 37% of the first people in your life.

Then, according to the simplest rule, choose the next person, who is better than anyone you have dated before. To apply this in practice, you will have to decide for yourself which is the maximum number of partners in your life, which factors make that person a partner and not merely a passerby.

For example, if your maximum total is 10 people, science tells you to reject the first 4 people. You know, of course, this approach still contains risk. If fate makes you meet the best one right away,  you will never see a better choice and end up staying alone. Not to mention in real life, you could be the one that are "dump".

So, the scientific way is not always the most standard and effective way to love. Every human life is a different variable. Science studies on the past, however, your life is now and the future. Be skillful in using science in love and you will be able to experience so much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Emma Chavez

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