Monday, January 5, 2009

The science of love

Sometimes I come across a science news story that turns out to be more interesting than I could have expected. In this case, the news story said that MRI scans have shown that people in long-term relationships (married over twenty years) still show the same brain patterns in reaction to photographs of their partners as those of people recently in love. This did not surprise me, as my own experience has not made me cynical about love the way so many people seem to be, assuming that it must fade over time.

This is how I discovered Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies various aspects of love. Her work on love has found that there are three types: lust, romantic love and long-term attachment. This classification may not seem new, but these types have now been shown to be reflected differently in our brains. She also believes it is, unfortunately, possible to experience these different types of love simultaneously for different people. Obviously, this causes much of the world's unhappiness.

Here is an interesting lecture she gave, containing insights into love, society and the role of women.

It is good to know that subjects like love are being studied scientifically. I don't think that understanding what love is diminishes the experience in any way. It will always be mysterious for the individuals involved.

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