The Science of Love (for Valentine’s Day)

What do laboratory notebooks and the facial features of your next date have in common? They might hold the key to true love for you. In fact, even though the time may have passed when you would ask for parental consent before asking someone on a date, your own parents have more influence on your love life than you might imagine.

Science of Love

Parental Influence

It’s no secret that parents matter when it comes to love. Your upbringing and personal beliefs have a lot to do with what you find tolerable in another person and can impact who you fall in love with, but that isn’t the science behind parental influence. The fact is that most people subconsciously fall for those who share facial features and scents with their parents. If you just cringed at that idea, it’s okay. There’s more science to it than that.

Steps to Long Lasting Love

One researcher has filled her lab notebook with all of the details of the steps required to develop long-lasting love. Helen Fisher from Rutgers University identified the chemicals involved in love, based on her own notes and the evidence discovered while investigating the mating habits of prairie vole.

Step One: Primal Lust

Lust is all about the hormones. Testosterone and estrogen play a large part in this phase. In fact, they are the things that make people go out “looking” and can even govern when you do and don’t feel like having sex, even if you have an existing partner. Obviously, there are other elements involved or you wouldn’t be picky about who you sought out during this phase.

Step Two: Elements of Attraction

During this phase, specific neurotransmitters are so active that they can lead to temporary insanity. This is the phase during which you may have a hard time sleeping, and you spend most of your time thinking about the person you are attracted to. Below are the neurotransmitters responsible for this phenomenon.

  • Serotonin: A lack of this chemical in the body can lead to depression, so it’s not hard to imagine what an excess can do. When it comes to things like poor decision making based on emotional overload, this is the chemical responsible.
  • Dopamine: Nicotine and cocaine also make this neurotransmitter active. This is the neurotransmitter that gives you increased energy and is sometimes responsible for a lack of ability to sleep.
  • Norepinephrine: Commonly called adrenaline, this neurotransmitter is responsible for the fight or flight response that causes your heart to beat a bit faster and your palms to feel sweaty.
  • Step Three: Get Attached

    Oxytocin and Vasopressin are the two main ingredients for this phase. Oxytocin is the chemical that is released by the mother when she gives birth to a child. It’s also released during orgasm and is thought to be the cement that helps for long-lasting love bonds. Oddly enough, Vasopressin helps control the kidneys, but when it was suppressed in prairie vole, the male no longer fought for the female and wasn’t as devoted to her, suggesting that this is a necessary component for ongoing attachments.

    Consider the science behind your next relationship. You might even use your own laboratory notebook to track phases or help you keep a straight head when the hormones hit.

    Valentine's Day

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