When love is in the air, can biology be at work?
Researchers say there is a science behind attraction where there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to matters of the heart.
On Valentine’s Day, it just may be the appropriate time to tackle the psychology behind love, sex and lust and perhaps even debunk a few myths in the process.
Fact or myth number one:
Do men think about sex more than women?
In this age of technology, social media and women achievers climbing the corporate latter to join their male counterparts in the career arena, coupled with Sex and the City re-runs, women have been shown to put forth a healthy appetite for sex without strings attached, a character trait usually set aside for alpha males.
Recent research by scientists at Ohio University found that on average, young men think about sex every 40 minutes while young women, on the other hand, were discovered to have had desirable thoughts nearly an hour longer, lasting 90 minutes.
Is there a science behind smell?
It’s widely-known that pheromones are chemicals secreted by the body that may trigger a social response in members of the opposite sex. There are even certain perfumes and colognes on the market one can buy that are specifically scented to luring a mate.
According to Swedish folklore, in order to attract love, one is to carry an apple under their armpit for a day, then give it to their intended.
In an interview with Britain's Telegraph, Dr. Peter Brennan, an expert in olfactory processing at Bristol University in England said, “We humans have very smelly armpit regions capable of producing molecules that it is difficult to see the function of, other than sexual signaling.”
In addition, a 1998 study from the University of New Mexico found that during fertile times, women preferred the smell of a well-proportioned, symmetrical man.
Is love truly in the eye of the beholder?
In 1991, Swedish zoologists discovered a relationship between the attractiveness of male barn owls to females and the symmetry of their feathers.
The zoologists found that symmetry became a marker for genetic fitness after experiencing asymmetric appearances in animals were commonly associated with a higher level of mutation.
A study by biologist Randy Thornhill suggested that women even have more orgasms when their partner’s features are symmetrical, or well-proportioned.
Do gentlemen prefer blondes?
In the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe was considered the quintessential "blonde bombshell". In the past half century, things have changed.
Just last month, English researchers from the University of Westminster sent the same woman to three different nightclubs. One night she was a brunette, the next night she was a blonde and on the third night, she dyed her hair red. Each night, researchers recorded how many men approached her and how they rated photographs of her.
The study found that although as a blonde, she received more offers to dance, as a brunette, she was rated higher for perceived attractiveness and intelligence. The researchers believe the evidence showed that men’s preference was swayed more by style than biology.
Do women prefer tall men?
Studies have shown that most women do prefer men who are taller than average.
However, petite women are often more attractive to some men. Certain studies have indicated that a prominent brow, a strong jaw and a square chin are perceived as highly desirable by women, whereas a more feminine, look is preferred by those seeking a long-term partner rather than a fling.
Do opposites attract?
Well, not always.
How many times have you heard your grandmother say, “There’s a lid for every pot?”
The suggestion that love often strikes those who least expect it from opposite ends of the spectrum who may not always fit together, may not always work, according to researchers at Cornell University who surveyed a thousand volunteers.
The research found the volunteers looked for potential mates who are what they described as “in their league”, and of equal intelligence, looks and status.
“We are attracted to people who like us,” says Dr. Robin Gilmour, a social psychologist at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. "And that usually means people who are like us.”
When it comes to love, is really just hormones?
Scientists say love comes in three stages: the initial flurry of lust and desire, followed by a deeper bond of attraction, and then finally the warmth of attachment and contentment.
All three stages, say researchers are closely determined by our hormones, testosterone and estrogen. The deepening bond of attraction is commonly linked to rising levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all of which make us feel calm and reduce anxiety.
Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the "love hormone" or “cuddle hormone”, and another called vasopressin, appear to have the effect of increasing trust and bonding.
Are men turned off by successful women?
The rise of the alpha female is one of the most striking anomalies in modern society. In the 1950s, intelligent and capable women were frustrated by laws, societal pressures and conventions that kept them out of certain professions, and were not even seen as desirable mates.
Now, such women are succeeding sexually as well as professionally. This is seen in the information technology and engineering fields, which are strongly male-dominated. In areas such as California's Silicon Valley, the increasing number of women working in IT has often led to modern, technologically-advanced families.
Are women just picky when it comes to choosing their mate?
Match.com boasts more successful marriages from online dating and one in five matches resulting in wedded bliss. Years ago, speed dating was unheard of, now it is another avenue to meet potential mates.
A 2004 study found that both sexes make a decision within three seconds of seeing a potential partner, based almost entirely on looks.
The study found that women look for tall, fit men who can make them laugh and project success while men look for ideal hip-to-waist ratios, wide eyes, feminine features, and healthy skin.
The difference is that most women hold back during initial meetings whereas men throw out their wish list and make offers, according to the study on average, between five and 10 times as many per speed-dating session.
Does familiarity breed contempt?
In 2009, researchers at Rutgers University found the brain activity of people in long-term relationships was identical to those who had just fallen in love.
Specifically, researchers found the same group of neurons to be almost identical where activity associated with obsession and anxiety was generally replaced by feelings of calm.
Is it really good to talk things out?
Well, not all the time. It's sometimes best to pick and choose your arguments, according to one psychologist.
In 2004, John Gottman, a clinical psychologist at the University of Washington, created some controversy when he unveiled a mathematical formula said to predict with 94 percent accuracy whether a couple would be together four years later.
According to Gottman, an important factor is how you have arguments. If strongly worded, negative comments, combined with sarcasm and contempt emerged more, the relationship, Gottman said is almost doomed to fail.
Do women prefer a mysterious, serious man?
Believe it or not, Canadian scientists say women prefer men with a scowl on their face rather those who sported a cheerful smile.
They showed about 1,000 men and women hundreds of pictures of both sexes in various states of glee, and asked them to rate them in terms of their “gut feelings” of lust and desire.
“Men who smile,” says Professor Jessica Tracy, “were considered fairly unattractive by women.”
Psychologists believe what attracts women is not so much gloom and doom but pride, a puffed-out chest, a jutting chin, and a look of steely determination. The men, however, according to the study, preferred women who looked happy, and were least attracted to those who appeared proud and confident.