People have been trying for centuries to understand how and why we fall in love. In the modern world, psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists try to explain feelings with the help of science. We tell about seven curious facts about the nature of love and the peculiarities of human relationships.
Love is like drug addiction
Love can be seen as a true addiction. This conclusion was made in 2017 by researchers from Oxford. A team of scientists studied several works on the neurochemical processes that occur in the brains of people in love. According to modern scientific data, the hormone dopamine is produced in large quantities in lovers. In general, this substance is produced during any processes from which a person enjoys. And it also participates in the process of memorization. That is why we want to repeat those actions in which we were pleased.
Dopamine is involved in the formation of shopaholism, gambling, alcoholism and drug addiction. Dopamine does something similar to the brain of a lover. When a person sees the object of his passion, he is happy, feels a surge of strength and energy. And when he is forced to part with him, he experiences longing – a kind of analogue of “breaking”.
American anthropologist and researcher of human behavior Helen Fisher conducted an MRI scan of the brain of a man in love. In the process of research, a person was shown a picture of a lover. At that moment, it was clear that the same area in his brain was activated as in other people during the use of cocaine.
The approach to love as an addiction raises not only research but also ethical questions for scientists. For example, they wonder if love, especially unrequited love, can be treated with drugs, like other addictions.
Opposites don’t attract
Psychologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign collected relationship data from 174 couples over the course of a year. The researchers found that partners were more satisfied with relationships when their personality characteristics and attachment styles matched. The researchers also relied on evidence from earlier work that shows that similarities promote love. People are more attracted as partners by those who are similar to them in terms of age, religion, political orientation, and intelligence indicators.
However, research on the relationship between partner similarity and relationship satisfaction has a problem. It lies in the fact that there are an infinite number of criteria by which people can differ from each other. Therefore, it is impossible to say exactly what exactly will affect the quality of a romantic relationship in a particular couple.
Romantic relationships cost at least two friends (but this is not accurate)
For most of us, a romantic partner comes at the cost of two close friends. This is the conclusion of a team of scientists from Oxford led by anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar.
According to the results of previous work by Robin Dunbar, the average person has five close and significant people. The kind of people he could turn to in times of emotional or financial trouble. In another study, scientists decided to check how people, having entered into a romantic relationship, allocate time between their loved ones.
A study has shown that when a person has a romantic partner, he takes away time that could be spent communicating with friends or family. As a result, on average, a person ceases to be close to two of their friends. And this applies to both women and men. “I suspect that your attention is so focused on a romantic partner that you do not see other people with whom you had a lot in common before. So some of these friendships start to deteriorate,” Dunbar explains this behavior.
However, other psychologists have criticized this study. For example, the American psychologist Bella DePaulo points out that the sample of respondents was not very representative. The researchers did not take into account the national and cultural characteristics of the participants, did not find out how many romantic partners a person had at the same time, and also did not evaluate how the respondents’ behavioral strategy changed after their relationship ended.
We like familiar faces more
Scientists from the University of Liverpool found that when choosing a romantic partner, his face plays an important role. Or rather, how familiar it seems to a person.
Scientists conducted an experiment and asked 200 participants for the first time to look at several photographs of faces. Then they showed the pictures again. Now among them were new faces, as well as edited photos of those who were shown initially. And among the completely new and changed images, the respondents more often liked the second ones. The researchers concluded that people find familiar faces more attractive.
Perhaps this fact is due to the fact that a familiar object seems clearer and safer. In addition, the existence of the so-called type when choosing a romantic partner could be explained by the peculiarity of the brain to choose the familiar.
Kissing lowers stress and cholesterol levels
Scientists still don’t know exactly when and why people kiss. There are only different theories. However, the fact that kissing has a positive effect on people has already been proven.
Researchers from the University of Arizona in 2009 found that kissing affects the level of stress in the body and lowers cholesterol. They proposed a hypothesis: if people in a relationship kiss more often, then this will help improve their physical and psychological state. They decided to check this with the help of diaries of emotions and analysis of blood lipid levels – when it rises, it signals stress.
The researchers selected 52 adults who were in regular romantic relationships and had no serious medical conditions and took blood samples from them. The people were divided into two groups. The participants of the first lived as before, and the participants of the second had to kiss their partners more often. All were retested after 6 weeks. In the group that kissed more, total serum cholesterol levels returned to normal. The subjects also reported improved emotional state and greater satisfaction with their relationships.
We choose scent partners
In 1995, a team of researchers led by Swiss biologist Klaus Wedikind conducted an experiment known as the “sweaty T-shirt study”.
The scientists selected a group of men and asked each of them to wear one T-shirt for two days. Then these T-shirts were handed over to the girls, asked to smell them and indicate which one smelled better. Each subject had their own favorites, as well as things that smelled disgusting.
The researchers then looked at the T-shirts that particular girls liked. They concluded that the girls liked the smells of men who differed from them on the MHC. The MHC, or major histocompatibility complex, is a region of the human genome that affects the immune system.
It turns out that women were pleased with the smell of men whose genome was different from their own. Fish, birds and mammals also prefer partners with a different MHC genetic code. Animals identify it by smell. The offspring of partners with different MHC will have more stable immunity. Scientists believe that in this way people can choose a partner in order to have a healthier child.
However, in 2017, another study was conducted: now men were forced to sniff things. Scientists have found that men do not necessarily find the smell of a woman who has other immunity features pleasant. The authors concluded that if there is a relationship between MHC and the attractiveness of partners, then it matters more for women.
Even brief experiences of love improve well-being
Scientists from several American universities decided to find out how love affects the level of psychological well-being – the state in which a person realizes his abilities, can work fruitfully and cope with stress. It turned out that it rises if a person experiences “experiences of love” more often in everyday life.
The researchers considered love not only as a feeling between partners. “Everyday sensual love is much more than just a romantic relationship. These are micro-moments in your life when you resonate with someone,” says research project leader Zita Oravec. According to this concept, people experience the positive resonance of life through biobehavioral synchrony – the joint instantaneous experience of positive emotions and mutual care. Therefore, even a friendly conversation with a neighbor or help from a colleague can be considered a manifestation of love. These short but deep experiences create a temporary connection between people. Thanks to her, a person feels loved.
According to the results of the study, the more often people noticed that others were interested in their lives and cared for them, the better they felt. Their self-esteem increased, motivation appeared, they did not experience feelings of loneliness. And the lack of connection with others led to feelings of social isolation, decreased activity, and even trouble sleeping.
Cover, illustrations: Asya Sokolova / Burning hut