Have you ever stopped for a second to think about the science and psychology of falling in love or why you are falling in love with that special someone? This Valentine’s day, let’s discuss the science of love!
We simply call this mysterious feeling “love” but believe it or not, there is a complexity behind the wheel driving us to cogitate our involvement in this feeling—some sort of devoted and passionate feeling. Science has sought long to detect the basic phenomenon behind amity and has concluded at many stages that love is the most alluring feeling in our life aiding us to thrive. Fidelity compels us to accelerate the process of reproduction. Staying over the rainbow and in love with the world is not a nexus.
An article in Psychopharmacology (2012) concluded when compared to a behavioural addiction, social attachment is similar—individuals become addicted to the other because of the returned reward. There is a chemical chain of reaction triggered in our bodies ultimately instigating the “feeling of love”. Actually, falling in love is getting into a beautiful trap set up by nature, a natural occurrence we cannot fight. According to a science-based study by Arthur Arun, on average, the mind of a person takes between 90 seconds to 4 minutes to determine whether it is struck by love or not.
So, here I have broken down the process of falling in love into three stages. Mind you, this is not my opinion (an 18-year-old Indian) but a compilation of various research telling you exactly how you should feel. Way to “scientific-ize” something as natural as love?
The 3 Stages of Falling in Love
A recent study based on the topic “science behind the love” conducted at Rutgers University (USA) revealed there are 3 stages involved with falling in love—namely lust, attraction, and attachment. Each stage involves different types of chemical reactions within the body, specifically with the brain. Along with that, there are different hormones present in the body aiding in the initiation of these three stages (lust, attraction, and attachment) separately as well as collectively.
Stage 1: Lust
Lust is said to be the initial stage of getting involved with love. The feeling of lust is basically backed up or instigated by the sexual hormones within the body.
Oestrogen and Testosterone are the two basic types of hormones present equally in men and women’s body that excites the feeling of lust within the brain. Limbic processes in the brain in response to lust have health-promoting and stress-reducing potential. In addition, lust, love, and pleasure ensure the endurance of mankind through mating. The mating process is a discrete interrelated process initiating attraction.
Stage 2: Attraction
The second stage of acquiring love is attraction. This phase is said to be one of the beautiful moments of life because it is when a person actually starts to feel love. His or her impatience for attracting somebody leads to excitement, and the individual is left with no other option but to only think about that specific person. Scientifically, it has been concluded in the study, there are three more sub-stages of attraction that portray drastic changes in the individual’s personality. The three sub-stages of attraction are adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin.
Scientists have elaborated that initial symptoms of attraction toward someone involve:
- Stress response
- Increase in adrenalin and cortisol
- Attitude reaction
It has been specified in the study that any person who falls in love will acquire a slight or drastic change in the above stated three factors. Furthermore, an attraction is one of the charming effects of life and slight changes in personality are not only natural but are also positive. For this reason, whenever you bump into your crush, your senses decline, your heart beats like a drum, and your mouth is so dry your tongue feels like sandpaper.
Food releases Dopamine too? (BeHappyClub.com)
To follow the theoretical research, a physical experiment was conducted to prove the veracity of physical evidence. The brains of a new couple struck with love were observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs). It was genuinely shocking to discover that there was a large spike of the neurotransmitter dopamine in their brains. This chemical that stimulates the feeling of pleasure within the body.
After this, the scientists described that both the male and female lovers’ minds were equally ‘high’, as if they had taken cocaine or a similar drug! Dopamine is a natural stimulant, creating effects of ecstasy. The couple furthermore revealed the following facts about themselves from the time they fell in love until the date they were examined:
- Surge of energy
- Observed a significant decrease in feeling hungry
- Found to have slept less compared to before falling in love
- Attention has been more focused than ever before
Overtly attached to your other half? Ne neither!
Last but not the least, serotonin has been found as one of the important chemicals involved in exciting the feeling of love. Serotonin basically diverts your mind and forces you to think about your lover and nothing else. It creates a path for the mind and the intangible path always leads you to your other half. Sandra Langeslag and her colleagues (2012) report serotonin levels are different in men and women when in love. Men in love have lower levels of serotonin, while women reveal the opposite. The participants in love reported losing themselves to thoughts about their beloved 65% of their day.
Stage 3: Attachment
When a couple passes through the first two stages of love successfully, the time of bonding with each other becomes powerful. Attachment is a bond helping the couple to take their relationship to advanced levels. It instigates the feeling of bearing children and falling in love with them wholeheartedly.
While investigating the “attachment factor,” scientists discovered two sub-stages involved. The two sub-stages are hormones in the body that attract an individual to retaining the feeling of love with his or her partner. The two hormones, namely, oxytocin and vasopressin are discussed below.
Oxytocin, also known as “the cuddle hormone,” is one of the most powerful hormones released equally by men and women. Oxytocin (OT) formulates the depth of love and forges the attachment the partner. OT plays a key role in affiliation and attachments in humans. OT improves the interaction between couples by improving this social connection.
Similarly, oxytocin helps builds a strong bond between a mother and an infant during the time of birth. In addition, it is such a sensitive hormone that it automatically signals the breast to release the milk upon the baby’s sound or touch. OT mediates specific female behaviors such as lactation and parturition.
Vasopressin, known as an anti-diuretic, performs its operation along with the kidney, therefore controlling thirst. This hormone is released in major quantity quickly after sex. Although the brains of women and men are structurally different, they both secrete vasopressin from the pituitary gland. This is a vital role in copulation and partner preference (Hiller, 2004).
Vasopressin is termed as an important hormone to promote long-lasting relationships. A study in Biological Psychology (2012) assessed 37 couples by measuring neuropeptide blood levels. Results reveal vasopressin levels were in relation to the following:
- Interpersonal functioning
- Larger social network
- Greater spousal support
- More attachment security
- Relationship maintenance
- Less negative communication
How do you know that you are in love?
A normal response to this would be to delve deeper into your soul and reflect on how you feel about your relationship with your partner. But, nowadays, science has the answer to everything, so you just seek science instead of actually analyzing your feelings and stuff!
About 50 years ago, psychologists Arthur and Elaine Aron at UC Berkeley created 36 questions to fast-track intimacy in a laboratory setting.
Couples ask each other these 36 questions as a way to not only learn more about their partner identify whether they are in love. Let me elucidate the effectiveness of these questions through an example: A married couple of 17 years, Kelly Corrigan and her husband, Edward Lichty, asked each other the 36 increasingly personal questions and were blown away by how much they still don’t know about one another.
“One thing that struck me was that you can be married to someone for 16 or 17 years and still feel incredibly awkward around them … so we were all goofy and weird with each other for a couple of questions,” Corrigan said.
Another surprise is how freely Lichty shared his feelings with Corrigan when unconstrained by the daily logistics of family life, rekindling her admiration for him and a sense of romance.
“One of the most frustrating parts of my marriage is that Edward repeats himself so much … so I couldn’t believe how many of the 36 things I didn’t know, and I thought, ‘Edward, you have so much material that you have not shared,’” Corrigan says.
Of course, they loved each other, but there was still some vital information that they didn’t know about each other! Maybe, after all, the questions do just help you better understand your partner and not really help you decide if you are in love. But, isn’t love about breaking that barrier and indulging in intimacy?
You can check out the entire podcast where Corrigan and Lichty answer all 36 questions here: The Science of Happiness presents ‘How to Fall in Love with Anyone’
Let me know what you think about the 36 questions and falling in love in the comments below!