The Mysteries of Love
Ten things to know about love and romance, from why we fall hard to why we cheat.
In general, you gravitate toward people like you. Good-looking people tend to go for similarly good-looking types, and those from a particular socio-economic background favor their own. Experts believe this happens because perceived equality contributes to a stable union. Well-known actresses pair up with rock stars, for example, because such men tend to be as rich and famous as they are. But once you get past the bone structure and bank account and into personality attributes, opposites often attract. “We’re apt to fall in love with those who are mysterious and challenging to us,” says Helen Fisher, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and the author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love ($16, amazon.com). “This pull to another biological type could also be adaptive,” says Fisher. “If two very different people pool their DNA, they’ll create more genetic variety, and their young will come to the job of parenting with a wider array of skills.”
How Much Do Looks Count?
Physical features are important to both sexes, but a bit more so to men. “During attraction, the parts of a man’s brain associated with processing visual information are more active,” says Louann Brizendine, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of The Female Brain ($15, amazon.com). “That’s true for women too, but they also show activity in the brain regions that integrate decision making, which suggests they’re thinking about a little bit more than just how he looks.”
Is Love Blind?
Not exactly, but once you’re hooked, your vision gets cloudy. “When you’re in a relationship, you’re aware of the other person’s flaws, but your brain is telling you it’s OK to ignore them,” says Lucy Brown, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City, who specializes in the brain’s response to love. Studies at the Wellcome Department of Neuroimaging at University College in London found that when romantic partners look at each other, the part of the brain associated with social assessment and negative emotion is relatively dormant and critical judgment is dulled. According to Fisher, this mechanism may have evolved to help people stick together through early, sometimes stressful child-rearing stages.
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