Ever wonder what goes on in your brain when you find your Mr./Mrs Right? In this guide, we offer a basic overview of the science of love.
The Science of Love
For decades, scientists from a diverse range of fields have conducted research on the science of love. Psychologists, chemists and biologists have all looked at love from a scientific perspective and have made some incredible findings.
What Are the Stages of Falling in Love According to Scientists?
Biological anthropologist and leading expert on the science of love, Dr Helen Fisher, has posited that love is made up of three distinct phases:
Scientific research has found that the brain releases certain hormones and neurotransmitters during each of these stages.
Stage 1: Lust
Described by the poet WH Auden as “an intolerable neural itch”, the lust stage is characterised by the desire for sexual gratification. It is driven by the hormones – testosterone and oestrogen. Did you know that it can take between 90 seconds and 4 minutes for a person to decide if they attracted to someone? This attraction is based on:
- 55% body language
- 38% tone and speed of our voice
- 7% what we say
Stage 2: Attraction
This stage is characterised by romantic love. The feelings associated with this stage are driven by Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin.
Dopamine is known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it makes us feel giddy, energetic, and euphoric. One experiment analysed 2,500 brain scans of people as they looked at photos of their significant other. It was found that when viewing imagery of this person, the participants’ brains became active in dopamine-rich regions. (Source: Harvard Medical School)
Also known as Adrenalin, the Norepinephrine neurotransmitter makes us sweat and gets the heart racing. It is associated with imprinting (i.e. when infant animals focus their attention on their mothers), some experts posit that during this stage infatuated lovers “imprint” on their beloved.
As we begin to fall in love, serotonin decreases. Low serotonin levels are linked to obsessive behaviour, scientists have speculated that this is why new lovebirds can spend up to 85% of their waking hours thinking about their beloved.
Stage 3: Attachment
Often known as companionate love, the attachment stage is associated with monogamy as well as feelings of calm, security, comfort and understanding. Scientists have associated this stage with Oxytocin and Vasopressin.
Oxytocin is also referred to as “The Cuddle Hormone”. It is thought that it promotes bonding when adults are intimate. It triggers feelings of contentment, calmness, and security.
This is an essential chemical for developing long-term commitment, Vasopressin is associated with behaviour that produces monogamous relationships.
The Link Between Romantic Love & Evolution
“Love evolved to allow us to start the mating process with a certain individual in order to send our DNA into tomorrow.”
From a Darwinian perspective, love and evolution are strongly linked. Love uses feel-good hormones to encourage individuals to continue the human species due to its associations with the brain’s reward systems.