So this semester I had to give not one, but two, lectures on love. Like all good procrastinators, I avoided it as long as I could and then was left with no option but to sink my teeth into it. And it was actually pretty cool once I got into it.
Turns out…..we don’t know that much about love. Given the massive body of literature on relationships, you’d think we’d have tackled this and laid it to bed long ago.
So because I’ve got a serious hankering for anything evolutionary psych these days, obviously I totally dig Helen Fisher’s theory of love. She breaks it down like so. There are 3 brain systems that evolved for mating/love. If you have 18 minutes, watch this
1. Sex drive – this brain system provides the motivation to actually get out there and find a partner, typically motivated by sexual gratification
2. Romantic love – this brain system allows you to focus your attention on one person, typically feelings of elation (obsession develop shortly thereafter), which lead to feeling of commitment – important because…
3. Attachment – commitment needs to be engaged if you are going to settle down and have any chance in hell of raising children successfully
But what’s super cool about love from an evolutionary perspective is that it’s an “honest signal” – meaning, it’s pretty hard to legitimately fake being in love. Now the thinking here is that men should fall in love quicker to show women that they are in it for the long haul (or at least not just in it to hit it an’ quit it). And love is costly! I’m not talking about buying your lover a fancy dinner. I’m talking about essentially announcing to the world that you have committed to someone else (going Facebook official, anyone?) – this is reproductively costly shit, yo.
So these researchers set out to see how love is experienced by men and women. I shared the following study with my class cuz a) it’s evolutionary and b) had some cool findings re gender.
The researchers surveyed 375 community participants (159 women, 119 men) about their number of loves, if they had ever fallen in “love at first sight,” who fell in love with who (for their most recent love), and whether or not they had every loved someone who didn’t love them back.
So generally no difference in who is more likely to fall in love with the other person first – men 27%, women 32%. And men and women report having been in love an equal number of times – men 4.44, women 4.57.
But men were more likely to report having fallen in love at first sight (.67 times) vs women (.40). This was a significant difference until the researchers controlled for sex drive (do you think about sex a lot, do you masturbate frequently, etc) and then there was no gender difference in love at first sight.
Here’s the sad panda news – men are less likely to date their loves (69%) compared to women (80%).
So….we need to do some more work on love. Obviously.
In the meantime, if you have 20ish minutes, watch Helen Fisher’s talk on love.