Love is something some people spend their whole lives looking for and once it’s been found it can feel indescribable and at times even magical, but it is surprisingly scientific. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University says that love can be broken down into three stages, lust, attraction, and attachment.
Lust & Attraction
Love at first sight isn’t just a myth. Psychology studies have shown that it only takes a person 90 seconds to four minutes to decide whether or not they are attracted to someone. The decision of whether someone is “dateable” or not can be made by the brain in as little as five minutes. Initial attraction has actually been proven to be determined by more than 50 percent of a person’s body language, followed by their tone of voice, but actually has very little to do with what they actually say.
Ever wondered why when you see that special someone your palms get sweaty, your heart feels like it’s going to beat out of your chest and you feel butterflies in your stomach? That’s because the chemical Norepinephrine is being released in your brain.
As a person spends more and more time with their sweetheart the brain begins to associate them with pleasure and reward as the chemical Dopamine is released when they are around. Dopamine is the same chemical that is released when someone does cocaine. Increased levels of Dopamine can lead to increased energy along with a lessened need for sleep and food.
“Your brain is saying this is good. The same kind of thing happens when you eat ice cream or do something pleasurable,” said Professor Bradley Sturz.
There are actual chemicals in the brain that create long-term commitment. Such as Vasopressin which scientists discovered when studying the prairie vole, an animal that mates for life and actually prefers to spend time with its mate than other moles.
Experimental psychologist Steven Pinker believes that the brain actually causes people to become delusional about the person they love, focusing only on their positive traits.
“One of his more fascinating ideas is that you sort of become delusion about this person and how wonderful they are and how amazing they are and they do the same to you which essentially means they won’t leave you,” said Sturz.
Pinker also suggests that this delusion is what helps keep humans in long-term relationships.
“If I’m engaged in a relationship with you because of purely objective reasons…and someone comes along that’s better with you, then the decision is very easy. It’s like this individual is offering more than this individual. But if there’s a part of me that becomes delusional about this particular individual then it’s unlikely I will immediately terminate the relationship if I find something better,” said Sturz.
When Love Goes Wrong
As much as our brain does its best to keep us with our significant other, we all know it doesn’t always work out. For men it is most common for them to end a relationship because their partner has sex outside the relationship. This stems from an evolutionary need for paternal certainty. Sex has also been found to release Oxytocin which leads to satisfaction and attachment. For women it is men investing sources elsewhere, this comes from women’s evolutionary drive to find a man who is a good provider for potential offspring.
Whether you simply have a crush on someone, you’re madly in love, or getting through a break-up, science and the chemicals in your brain are playing just as big a part as your heart in the whole thing.