14 Feb 2013

The Science of Love and Valentine's And Surprising Cheating Statistics

We all feel it. We all know it. But what is love really all about - chemically and physically?

What we call love comes not from the heart, as is most often depicted, but from the brain. In fact, while you're in love your brain functions in a very similar fashion to people on cocaine.

"No, you hang up!"

Surprised? You shouldn't be. You see, love is quite literally a drug. When you're in love, your brain orders increased production of Dopamine and Epinephrine, substances that regulate arousal, craving and desire - which is why early stages of romantic relationships are all about obsessing over the other person and having an increased desire to be with your loved one more and more.

Your brain also releases Oxytocin, a neuromodulator associated with commitment. Conversely, your Serotonin levels drop dramatically - just like people with OCD. And the result is the same: an obsessive infatuated person.

Ah, life's many healthy cycles.

How is love literally a drug? You see, all these substances that influence your mood have very discernible physiological effects. This cocktail makes you feel good a lot easier when you're in love, and suffer from aversion or pain a lot less. Your pleasure centers are more easily set off making you feel better about the world in general. Not only this, but being in love stimulates the pleasure centers of our brain, and given the increased drive for craving and desire we quite literally become addicted to it. Loving pleases our brain and our brain wants more and more.

Chocolate is a staple of Valentine's and such a frequent gift in relationships. Unsurprisingly, chocolate has been found to activate the same neurotransmitters that drive drug addiction or binge eating. Eating chocolate also releases Serotonin which in turn makes us feel happier - just like love.

Here's another fun fact: if you were born in october or november there's a very high chance you were conceived on Valentine's Day.

Speaking of Valentine's Day, here are some interesting statistics: US citizens spend 13.2 billion dollars annually on Valentine's. 180 million V Day cards are exchanged manually each year, with 196 million roses being produced especially for this date. 14% of all women send themselves flowers while 73% of all flowers purchased are bought by men.
53% of all women would end their relationship if they got nothing for Valentine's - there's an interesting one!

Speaking of women and their standards, redditors recently voted on what they consider cheating. Here's the diagram:

What it breaks down to is this: no surprise that sexual intercourse was considered cheating across the board, but interestingly enough, many men regarded activities like sexually explicit conversation and slow dancing to be infidelities.

The study suggests that women are more inclined to believe that dancing with someone or thinking about them okay, whereas men are generally less flexible about cheating, many activities finding themselves included in the male no-no list - probably a trait of territoriality.

And there you have it - a more or less concise look at love and Valentine's day. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

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