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Science In Love:What Is Happening To The Lovers?

Many students might have tried psychological tests based on love or marriage, and be curious about what type of person would fit them well. There are many hypotheses on the principles of love that both physical and mental factors exert influence on. The fact that love is also a biological and scientific phenomenon, however, is not relatively familiar to the public. For the extension of various perspectives on love, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) investigates scientific principles of love and now introduces new studies and promising treatments based on those principles.

Scientific Principles Of Love

The primary factor as to why people love can be based on the hormones that are found in the brain. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in the United States (US), suggested that love follows three steps: lust, attraction, and attachment, all of which can be defined by changes in hormones.

Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are brain hormones found at the step of attraction / tellmegame.co.kr

♥The First and Second Steps

Testosterone and estrogen, the sex hormones of men and women, are released at the first state of lust. At the second step of attraction, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, the main brain hormones that represent aspects of love, are released. Dopamine is related to pleasure, excitement, concentration, motivation, and goaldirected behaviors. Brains with high rates of dopamine are similar to those of people addicted to drugs and gambling. Norepinephrine is a hormone which can explain vigorousness, sensitiveness, a rapid heartbeat, and being short of breath. Finally, serotonin is called the “happy hormone” as it relieves stress and keeps the mind calm. Serotonin controls impulse decreases in brains of lovers, while dopamine increases rapidly. Decline in the rate of serotonin is a reason why people in love do not recognize the shortcomings of their lovers and can be obsessed with attention and love.

♥The Third Step

Oxytocin is a brain hormone which can be found at the third step of love, attachment, which refers to the love and trust of human relationships. Oxytocin is related to social interaction and intimacy, and is also closely connected to maternal affection since it is released in a pituitary gland during the uterine contraction, and breast feeding. One example that shows the role of oxytocin is that of prairie voles and field mice. Prairie voles are devoted only one partner for their whole lives and care for their babies dotingly. On the other hand, male field mice mate with several female field mice and do not raise their babies. These two species are 99% genetically similar and the only difference is the existence of a receptor for oxytocin. Because there is no receptor for oxytocin in the brain of field mice, the hormone does not work even if it is injected into them. The role of the brain hormones when in love proves that there is some correlation between love and biological factors. Furthermore, these scientific principles of love can also lead to interesting studies as will be introduced below.

New Studies Based on Scientific Principles of Love

Scientific factors of love can be used in experiments, studies, and some businesses. Scientific clues are apparent not only in the love between men and women, but also in that of humanity in general.

The Love of Men and Women

♥Experiments on the Available Period of Love

A research team at the State University of New York at Stony Brook went on an experiment in the 2010s and concluded that the available period of love is over 21 years. This result reversed the existing hypotheses from the 2000s which insisted that love was valid for less than three years. Previous experiments interviewed couples, observed their hormone actions, and compared endocrine secretion in blood. The new experiment, however, used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) for more sophisticated research. The research team selected a sample group of couples, and compared the brain imagery of those who had only been in love for a year and those who had been together for more than 21 years. According to fMRI results, the brain hormones that function as “love hormones” were still working in the brain of the older couples. It was the opposite of what former research had revealed in that love hormones are not secreted due to the antibody of cerebrum after a period of 18 to 30 months. This study shows that the development of brain science made diverse observations and hypotheses a lot more possible.

♥Arranging Marriage

Scanning the brain and measuring hormone rates has opened up an era of being able to find an ‘ideal type’ through personality tests. The culture of arranging marriages uses a differentiation strategy that finds specific ‘types,’ not ‘qualifications.’ Matchmaking companies these days especially focus on China and India where matchmaking culture is prevalent. In China, unmarried people under 35 make up almost 50% and more than 20,000 matchmaking companies exist already. In the case of India, the number of singles under 35 is estimated at about 100 million and arranged marriage makes up for 90% of the total marriages.

Matchmaking companies measure hormones to find the ideal type for unmarried people / Dating News

The most popular matchmaking companies are the US based companies ‘Match.com’ and ‘eHarmony’. Match.com scouted Helen Fisher and invented ‘Chemistry.com’ to make surveys that measure hormone secretion. It developed 146 questions, and anyone who visits the homepage is given 56 questions that seem like common psychological based questions, but are actually related to hormones. Participants are then divided into four different types based on their answers, and the company finds the appropriate type of person to arrange the meeting. For instance, it explains that straightforward people are attracted to generous people, and adventurous or conservative people fit similar types. Similarly, eHarmony also uses questionnaires to figure out personality types. It developed 258 questions and 29 different personality types. It emphasizes the matchmaking of mutual supplementary types, and the success rate of the program has increased from 2% to 43% recently.

♥Predicting Divorce

The scientific factors involved in love can also be used in predicting divorce. American psychologist John Gottman developed a system to diagnose marital relations using scientific and mathematical methods. He observed the conversations of wives and husbands for an hour and analyzed the problems or predicted whether they would divorce or not at an accuracy rate of 95%. The observation was done by attaching electrodes and sensors to couples’ fingers and ears and putting a ‘jiggleo-meter’ under their chairs. They measured heart beats, body temperature rises, and how people moved their bodies. Video cameras also recorded every word and action of the couples. After investigating over 3,000 couples, Gottman analyzed the video camera every second and divided the emotions into categories like hatred, contempt, anger, defense, evasion, happiness, and excitement. Then he made a complex equation with the code comprised of specific numbers for each emotion. Based on the equation that expresses the state of marital relations, Gottman found out the common characteristics of happily and unhappily married couples. Couples turned out to have their own unique conversational and emotional patterns. For example, the proportion of positive feelings of happy couples was at least five times more than negative feelings, while unhappy couples frequently showed the patterns of defense, evasion, and sarcastic smiles. The proportion of negative feelings toward each person was more than 40% and the considerable number of them actually divorced within 15 years. This scientific experiment on love shows that marital relations depend largely on the attitude of the lovers more than the content of conversation itself.

The Love for Humanity

♥Trust Game

Swiss scholars and Paul Zak, a US neuroscientist at Claremont Graduate University, announced that the increase of oxytocin secretion makes people trust others more easily. They conducted a game to reveal whether the brain hormones really had the power to enhance the reliability on mankind. The experiment was a stock investing game and participants were given $10 each. A pair was made with two people, A and B. If A gave B money as a sign of trust, B would get three times more money from the manger. Therefore, the more money A gave to B, then the more profit B would get. The main point here was how B would share its money with A. A would invest more if he or she trusted B, and this game was set to find out how much A would trust the other depending on the amount of oxytocin produced.

The trust game shows that the increase of oxytocin secretion can make people trust others easily / wikibooks

♥Donation Game

Brain hormones of love can also contribute to donation. The psychiatry clinic research team of the University Hospital of Bonn in Germany held an experiment with oxytocin and found that oxytocin is related to helping people who find it difficult to make a living. The research team gave €10 to 172 participants and asked if they could donate money. If they were willing to donate, they were asked again to choose between a charity to help people in Uganda or to help reestablish a rain forest in Uganda. According to the comparison with the numerical values of oxytocin through urinalysis, people with a higher rate of oxytocin were more favorable to contribution and surprisingly, oxytocin was related only to living support charities not environmental protection charities. It shows that the love hormone influences social interaction among humans.

Application of Love Hormones


The main functions of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone,’ are to control the mind, keep composure, make people happy, and strengthen studying ability by improving concentration and memory. A new program, ‘Serotonin Kids,’ was invented recently utilizing these functions. It is a program based on brain science theories which aims to practice healthy habits. Its educational programs emphasize the improvement of life habits which would activate the release of serotonin naturally. It was developed in relation to ‘Healience Seonmaeul,’ a Korean travel destination for healing. Healience is a word comprised of ‘healing’ and ‘science,’ pursuing well-aging by helping people learn good manners and maintain healthy life cycles. ‘Serotonin Kids,’ especially launched for kids, teaches rhythmic eating, exercise, and life habits to solve malnutrition, lack of affection, and natural-deficit disorders.


Oxytocin, the hormone of trust and love, contributes to positive human relationships and emotional stability. It can also be applied to cure mental illnesses like autism. Autistic patients have difficulties in distinguishing between people who are favorable or hostile to them due to the lack of being able to understand sociality. They often have trouble looking into others’ eyes straight. Oxytocin, however, can lessen these problems. In the experiment of playing balls with a virtual partner on a computer, autistic patients could make eye contact with the partner after breathing in oxytocin. On February 2017, a new method to make the brain release oxytocin on its own was developed for the treatment of schizophrenia. This method used a chemical substance called melanocortin which stimulates brain hormones. It was different from existing treatments that injected oxytocin directly into the brain, which had limits in that the brainblood barrier separating cerebrospinal fluid and blood hindered oxytocin from reaching close enough to the brain. Therefore, this newly invented method is promising in both safety and effectiveness in treating mental illnesses like autism and schizophrenia.

Since there exists numerous opinions and theories about love, there is no specific answer on who is right and who is wrong. It is also true that views toward love are becoming diversified, partly due to the development of brain science. Readers would now be able to feel that love is more than a simple or onedimensional phenomenon and think more about the hidden factors of love which are beyond what we can see by understanding how brains work while people are in love.

이진샘  jeansam0319@naver.com

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