What is it exactly about receiving a bouquet of flowers that's so heartwarming? For practical purposes, the already decaying plants will wither into an eyesore within a week of reception. Yet, research shows gifting flowers—moreso than things like candles or fruit baskets—to be a surefire way to improve someone's mood. So, which came first: the flowers or the mood-altering trance they hold on us?
Anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love by Understanding Your Personality Type, says that understanding your personality type can help you navigate the dating waters. Using genetics and neurochemistry Fisher identified four types: about Explorer, Builder, Negotiator and Director. Which are you?
Female sexuality isn't well understood, even by scientists: examining the biology of arousal. Meredith Chivers uses evolutionary biology to explain why women's bodies and minds are turned on by different things. Lisa Diamond believes that women's sexuality is much more flexible than is generally understood, and that women are more turned on by emotional intimacy. Marta Meana works on the theory that female lust hinges on narcissism—that is, being desired. Are any of them right? No one knows.
When my shrink told me I seek out men like my father, I thought she just meant men who are psychologically similar! But it turns out scientists have discovered both men and women are physically attracted to partners who resemble their opposite-sex parent. The "sexual imprinting" study performed by the University of Pecs in Hungary examined 52 families of married couples and notes similar facial characteristics among wives and mothers-in-law, as well as husbands and fathers-in-law; the men had similar noses and eyes, whereas the women had similar lips and jaws. Score one for the Oedipus complex theory.
As much as we poke, prod and dissect them, relationships are not, nor ever will be, an exact science. Yet a group of YouTube-happy, lovelorn men have joined forces online in order to promote their own scientific theory on love, which they call "True Forced Loneliness." TFL is a condition affecting innocent souls longing for love who have been socially rejected and thereby prevented from ever finding a wife, boyfriend, what have you.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the science behind successful long-term relationships. Using brain scans and MRIs, researchers are investigating those who are just as giddy about their significant others 20 years into the relationship as they were at 2 months. When showed images of their spouses, participants’ scans showed a strong reaction in the ventral pallidum, an area suspected to have links with long-term bonds. The subjects apparently enjoyed old love just as much as new. The studies could dissect lifelong passion and even one day “lead to a restorative.” As in, bringing back that lovin’ feeling. Divorce lawyers—instead of silver anniversaries—might eventually be on the endangered list!
Time put out a stellar issue on the science of romance, full of all sorts of good stuff. Here, the Cliffs Notes version of their "Why We Love" article: Men prefer large breasts and a low waist-to-hip ration, which indicate fertility. Push that baby out! Women look for men with muscular shoulders, broad chests, and a full beard, which are signs of strength and virility (and better providers for off-spring). Kissing could be a literal taste test for potential mates: Saliva has a compound that influences tissue rejection. Translation: You body can detect whether your kissing partner’s genetic makeup is too similar to yours, thus turning you off.