The Science of Love
By Laura Gervais
Science & Environment Editor
Seeing as Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, it felt appropriate to delve into the science of love. Many of us, stuck at home on Zoom for most of the day -- every single day -- don’t have time to have much of a social life. At least we have Tinder, and hey, you can even use Omnivox to send a MIO to that attractive person from your English class whose video feed you pin to your screen just to get through the boring lecture.
Love is hard to define, seeing as it is a pretty subjective topic. There’s platonic love, parent-child love, sibling love. And then there’s the kind of love that so many Netflix original movies strive (and so often fail) to portray -- romantic love.
As Queen so eloquently put it in their 1979 smash hit, “It swings, it jives, it shakes all over like a jellyfish, I kinda like it… crazy little thing called love.” We can all agree that love makes us do crazy things, whether it’s babbling on and stumbling over your words or flying across the world to be with your significant other.
It’s disheartening to think that love and the way it makes us feel is simply a chemical reaction, but hormones do play a massive role in lust, attraction, and attachment -- what scientists call the three stages of love.
The first one, lust, is primarily motivated by testosterone and estrogen, the sex hormones. In all sexes, testosterone tends to increase libido. This could very well be a sexual evolutionary adaptation -- a species must reproduce in order to survive, after all, and it certainly helps if you want to (wink wink). In the attraction state, hormones like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine dominate. In her article “Love, Actually: The science behind lust, attraction, and companionship,” Katherine Wu claims that these “chemicals make us giddy, energetic, and euphoric, even leading to a decreased appetite and insomnia.” She goes on to explain that being in love can make us forget to eat because we’re so consumed by a crush. Who needs to eat anyway when, as Lizzo says, they’re the whole damn meal? *Insert heart eye emoji here.*
Another interesting comment Wu makes is that “attraction is much like an addiction to another human being.” That’s the honeymoon phase, in which the object of your affection is the centre of your world.
Then finally comes the attachment phase - the comfortable part of a relationship once the honeymoon phase ends. Oxytocin, aka the cuddle hormone, and vasopressin are the major players in this game. While oxytocin makes you feel closer to your partner, vasopressin seems to inspire monogamy.
All that said, there are scientific reasons for the emotions we experience during a love affair, but next time that Cupid’s bow strikes you, don’t get too discouraged by thinking it’s not real. Love is real and it’s what makes us human!
Happy Valentine’s Day to all the hopeless romantics out there.