Vol 15 February 15, 2010 The Science of Love

– Ed Howe

In honor of Valentine’s Day this post is dedicated to the science of love. To be scientific means to measure things. Spurred by a recent newspaper article on http://www.scientificmatch.com, an online dating service that matches DNA samples, I fired up the ” ole Google machine”. Here is a summary with comments on my findings about “measuring love”.

An analysis of the speed dating process demonstrated that during a three-minute encounter a person’s BMI (Body Mass Index) and facial symmetry were the most important elements of “attractiveness”. (1)

  • “It is all symmetry” says Prof. Randy (I did not make this name up) Thornhill of Univ. of New Mexico, who must be convinced since he has spent 15 years studying it.

Percentage of impact on “attractiveness” during the first 90 seconds to 4 minutes of an encounter: 55% body language, 38%  speed and tone of voice, 7% speech content. (2)

Waist to hips ratio (WHR) of women considered most attractive by men:  0.67 to 1.18 (3)
WHR of Playboy models: 0.7 or LESS
WHR in men that women find attractive: 0.8 to 1.0 (though “broad shoulders” can trump the WHR)

Amount of money a 5 foot man has to make to equal the success of a 6 foot man in online dating: $325,000 ( a study of 20,000 online dates) (4)

Per cent of male drivers that stop to pick up a female hitchhiker with blonde, brunette, or black hair respectively: 18% / 14% / 13% (5)
Female drivers show no measurable preference for the hair color of the hitchhiker.
Male drivers also picked up more female hitchhiker with C cup bras then with A cups.
No preference shown by female drivers.

“Men fall in love faster than women. Most of it is visual. Hence, the porn industry is built around men.” (2)

  • Who are making all those 1-900 phone calls then?

Number of biological chemicals that are the basis of our attraction and love: 7

  • Adrenaline, testosterone, and estrogen = LUST
    Men who had just crossed a swinging wooden bridge over a deep ravine were more apt to later call the phone number immediately given to them by a pretty woman then men who had not had that dangerous experience. (6)
  • Serotonin and dopamine = ATTRACTION
    Men self-described as “madly in love” for 6 months had serotonin levels equivalent to levels of some people with OCD. (7) Functional MRIs in 32 people showed activity in “dopamine-rich” areas of the brain when asked to think about their love of another. This area also shows a positive response with cocaine.  (2)     Hence, proof of the adage, “addicted to love.”
  • Oxytocin and vasopressin = ATTACHMENT
    Oxytocin’s  nickname is “the cuddle hormone”. The evidence for vasopressin is a little thinner since it is based on giving vasopressin-blocking drugs to male prairie voles.

Chance that a woman will be attracted to a man who makes her laugh: 100%
Chance that a man will be attracted to a woman who laughs at his jokes: 100% (8)

  • Two very different definitions of  “a sense of humor”.

Chance that a woman will find a man who has a dissimilar genetic code for histocompatibility more attractive than one that has a similar genetic code for the immune response:   increased

  • This (and the online matching service http://www.scientificmatch.com founded in 2007) is based on DNA analyses confirming a now-famous “2 sweaty T-shirts” experiment where women preferred the smell of men’s T-shirts that did NOT remind them of the smell of their brothers and fathers. (9)
    An unintended consequence of this finding might be a woman’s volunteering to do a man’s laundry WAY earlier than considered appropriate in the dating timeline.

Number of genes for olfactory sense (smell) and number of genes for eye photoreceptors (vision) respectively:  1,000 / 300   (10)

Number of pounds LIGHTER a woman wearing a spicy floral fragrance will appear to a man: 12 (8)

Number of odors shown to increase penile blood flow: 7 (11)

  • Pumpkin pie, licorice, doughnuts, cinnamon, lavender, oriental spice, and cola,
    but, be aware men, lavender reduces mathematical abilities. You run the risk of losing track of number of hours, which we know is important according to those ads.

Evidence that pheromones (odorless chemicals of attraction in plants, insect, and some vertebrates) causing “changes in non-conscious behavior” actually exist in humans: scant

  • The presence of the pheromone-sensing organ (tiny nostril pits in non-humans) have NOT been conclusively demonstrated in humans. (12)

BUT, amount of money made per hour by ovulating lap dancers compared to menstruating lap dancers respectively:  $70 / $35   (13)
Lap dancers on BCPs showed no variation in peak earnings.

  • Based on a study of 296 work shifts of 5,300 lap dancers initiated by the researcher who had noticed cycles of “daily takes” as a college student working in a strip joint.

What might happen if a six-foot, wide shouldered, licorice sucking man wearing a lavender sweater over a 2-day old T-shirt driving a Mercedes through busy city traffic picks up a hitchhiking, ovulating blonde with a very symmetrical face eating a doughnut above her C cup bra and carrying a bouquet of spicy flowers ?
…sounds like a movie…wait…they already made it….but, Julia Roberts was taller than Richard Gere!

  • If we did film such a scene I suspect we might need a sizable financial reserve for the legal defense against probable charges of public fornication.

1. R. Kurzban, Prof of Psychology, Univ. of Pennsylvania
2. “Why Him? Why Her?”, Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist, Rutgers Univ.
and “Why We Love, The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love”, and consultant to http://www.chemistry.com, an online matching service based on the predominant chemistries at work in the applicant revealed by a questionnaire.
3. D. Singh, Univ. of Texas
4. A.Hortacus, Univ. of Chicago and D. Arley, MIT
5. N. Gueguen, French psychologist, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2009,109,3,1-8
6. Arthur Aron, Psychologist
7. Donotella Marazzi, Italian Psychologist
8. “Decoding Love”, Andrew Tress, PhD
9. Claus Wedekind, Univ. of Bern, R. Thornhill, Erich Holzle, and others.
10. http://www.livescience.com/health
11. The Smell Report, http://www.sirc.org
12. Douglas Fields, NIH
13. Gregory Miller, NY Times.com, 2007/12/09 Magazine

2 Responses to Vol 15 February 15, 2010 The Science of Love

  1. dieterhansi says:

    I mean, dude, what about health care reform? good post.

  2. […] of strangers that lasted for months in 35% of the pairings. Using some of the suggested “attraction” elements for the development of love, we can imagine a movie scene of a six-foot, wide-shouldered, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: