Romeo and Juliette and our parents at one point had a surge of emotions that made them want to be with one another. Since love is in the air as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, let's dig into the science of these emotions and ask the big question: WHY do we fall in love? Learn more in this week’s Question Your World Radio report by the Science Museum of Virginia.
There’s a lot of science involved in romance. Turns out that there are a lot of chemicals and hormones involved in the act of being smitten for someone. Psychologists have even said that it takes about 90 seconds to four minutes for us to decide if we dig someone or not. A lot of these first impression decisions are not always based on the things someone is saying to you, but in the basic motions and sounds of the other person. Nearly 55% of our crushes develop based on body language and about 38% on the tone and speed of their voice. In fact, some studies even show that it's only about 7% what they’re saying and the rest is all external and physical reasons.
Regardless, once your body and brain starts doing its thing, that’s when we usher in the three stages of love:
Stage 1: Lust
The feeling of lust is produced by the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen, in both men and women.
Stage 2: Attraction
You know those moments when you just can’t stop thinking about someone? A trip to the grocery store turns into getting food and scouting little nik naks for your new sweetie? Yeah, those feelings are produced by adrenaline and dopamine. Then factor in the serotonin levels your brain is producing and you’re on your way to a gooshy-one-track-mind.
Stage 3: Attachment
There’s one more hormone that gets involved after...umm...intimate moments together, oxytocin. Scientists have seen that this hormone is responsible for the idea of attachment to a partner. This hormone is also what cements the bond between mothers and their young. Similar tests have been run on rats in which subjects deprived of oxytocin reject their own young while those given a dose of oxytocin fawn over the young (theirs or others).
This process of love- or picking a partner or whatever you want to call it- has been at work for a long time now. Our species relies on mating for long term survival. These hormones have been guiding us for nearly 200,000 years and continue to do so today.
New York psychologist Arthur Arun has looked into this information and put it to the test. He gathered some individuals (complete strangers to one another) and asked them to try the following steps:
- Introduce one another
- Talk for a half hour and reveal intimate and personal details
- Stare into each other's eyes for four minutes without chatting
Guess what? This 34-minute experiment yielded some interesting results. Many of his ‘couples’ felt deeply attracted to one another, and long after this, two of his experiment subjects even got married.
So, with all this in mind, have a happy Valentine’s Day!
Want to know more about the Chemistry of Love? Check out the article titled “Love Explained” on Chemistry.com
Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia