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AndyMittelman's picture

a few thoughts on "The Science of Romance"

I was particularly interested by the Time article we read, “The Science of Romance: Why We Love.” Kluger makes a variety of interesting points. Most notably, he discusses the purpose of romance. Initially, I had a difficult time accepting that romance is somewhat a means to an end. While perhaps a cynical viewpoint, this perspective aligns closely with some bio reading I did last semester. If any of you have read “Genome” by Matt Ridley or “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins, these books present a similar approach to that suggested by Kluger. Specifically, if you think of our bodies as transport mechanisms for our genes, it would be only logical that “losing our faculties” would be worth the tradeoff of potential death.

     But is this still applicable? It seems that a tradeoff is necessary for an evolutionarily “correct” choice of mate. If humans could just mate without the potential danger, there is a risk that scrutiny might be reduced. As Kluger points out, discernment was (and is?) necessary for the most successful mate selection. So for a minute assume that the chemical releases generated by love could be attained without risking life of limb. That sounds a lot like current day. Romantic encounters take place in a variety of places, very few of them now involving predators (or at least “predators” in the conventional use of the word). Serious concerns people now have might include: I don’t want to get pregnant, I don’t want to get an STD, or I don’t want people to find out about this. I don’t know many people who have actively risked dying for the sake of love. I wonder how this reduced risk has affected our sexual choices. What if intimate contact was only permitted in situations of potential danger? If the only time you could be with your partner was in the middle of a busy street, how would that affect our choices? I imagine that people would be more selective of their partners; if you had to risk danger (as Kluger suggests that humans did originally when they risked distraction), certainly you would ensure that you are making the right choice of partner.

     I particularly enjoyed Kluger’s discussion of romantic feelings induced during an “altered” state. He cites examples such as drunken romance or the emergence of couples from emergency settings. For anyone interested by last year’s US Airways crash in the Hudson, Kluger’s comment is directly applicable to the latest high-profile couple to emerge from the drama. Passengers Laura Zych and Ben Bostic met in the crash and fell in love. (check out http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/01/15/love.hudson.couple/index.html?iref=allsearch). As Arthur Aron (SUNY Stony Brook) explains in the Kluger article, “people who meet during a crisis—an emergency landing of their airplane, say—may be much more inclined to believe they’ve found the person meant for them.” However, we may be “tricked” by our perception of the situation and we might be making a choice we might not normally make. Kluger also discusses the influence of drugs or alcohol. The happiness we perceive may be subconsciously associated to the person we encountered during the altered mental state. This seems to suggest that we should be mindful of drunken escapades or at least on-guard for an increased risk of falling falsely in love while in an altered mental state. A college friend of mine frequently cited his Sunday morning “moral hangovers” as a potential example of such altered mental state-induced romance. To reduce this risk, perhaps we should only look for love in a sober and stimulus-free state? Many common dating rituals (going out for drinks, doing something exciting together, etc.) may be confounding the selection process. But is a formal sit-down interview really a better option?

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