Chemistry

Published on February 24th, 2015 | by Inez Imray

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The Science of Love

Hot on the heels of Valentine’s Day, here’s Inez Imray with an investigation into those fuzzy feelings called love.

A week after February the 14th and this editor is still dwelling in post-valentine’s day blues, and dragging everyone into it by pondering if there is really a scientific basis behind love. It may sound silly, but shall we investigate cupid’s magic arrow a little further?

From first meeting someone to being completely attached to them, there are technically three stages of ‘love’. Lust is the first stage, followed by attraction and then finally attachment. All three stages are completely related to which hormones are circulating around our body in high levels. The initial ‘can’t get our hands off each other’ stage of passion is fuelled, fairly humorously, entirely by our sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen.

Dopamine_Norepinephrine_Serotonin When this stage passes and we enter the stage of attraction filled with loving daydreams, talking about the person constantly, and drifting around in our own ‘cloud nine’, we can blame the significant amount of monoamines travelling our bloodstream. Serotonin is the major chemical to blame here (which is quite worryingly also associated with insanity), as well as dopamine and adrenaline. Those sweat-fuelled, heart-racing rushes of love and attraction can be put down to all the adrenaline being released at the time!

The attachment stage is the target of a successful relationship. When oxytocin and vasopressin levels start to rocket, we know that we’ve made it! Attachment is more of a special bond; this is what leads to marriage and children and all the really serious stuff.

But how do we choose who we are attracted to? When it comes to physical attraction, we are more attracted to people who have symmetrical faces because unsymmetrical faces are associated with a problem in the person’s genes. Everything we look for in a potential partner is actually our subconscious looking for positive aspects in their genes.

Most people love an ‘hour glass’ figure but there is actually a deeper reason for this, with an ‘hour glass’ figure translating to having good reproductive health; older women who are not as fertile as the young have less pronounced waists because we start to store more fat around our stomach with age. Of course, the other half has no idea this is what they are actually calculating, they just accept that certain body shapes seem attractive to them. Another strange pattern that seems to have emerged is that we are attracted to people who look more like us, which appears quite a conceited trait. Some research has shown similarities between couples in areas like the size of their ears!

So, can you tell if a relationship will last? This seems a little extreme, but studies have shown that by looking at patterns in families you can tell if divorce if likely or not. Studies looking at identical twins showed that they showed very similar patterns in marriage. If one twin gets divorced, the other is likely too. And if one twin has multiple marriages the other is likely to as well!

There are endless studies regarding the science behind love, although I think I should stop investigating this is such detail before the over-analysis of everything begins!

Featured image by Purple Sherbet Photography (CC BY 2.0) at Flickr.


About the Author

is a 3rd year Biomedical Sciences undergraduate, specialising in Physiology.



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