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Friday, May 24, 2024

Since it's officially spring and love is in the air, I've started researching the "science" behind romance. While this information is worth sharing, it cannot begin to explain a concept more complex than the human eye and more confusing than the movie "Vanilla Sky."

According to researcher Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, there are three stages to falling in love, and each involves a different set of chemicals.

The first and possibly most important stage is lust, driven by the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. This is crucial because without an initial attraction, no relationship would ever progress past the "just friends" stage. To be honest, I'd say this initial stage of love really relies on the most shallow characteristics of humankind.

Many researchers have claimed that there is a correlation between how attracted you are to a person and how much they resemble your parent. To me, this seems slightly creepy but probably true. My brother's ex-girlfriend was a spitting image of my mother. But, it may be a good idea to take a page from his life lesson book and note that just because you are dating your mini-mom does not mean your bond will last through endless family reunions.

The next and most exciting stage is attraction. This is the love-struck stage when people can think of nothing else and daydream about their new lover. Researchers say that people who have recently fallen in love release large amounts of the hormone serotonin, which may cause them to go temporarily insane. "Lovesick" guys and gals start acting in a manner similar to sufferers of depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. That gives a whole new meaning to "psycho girlfriend," does it not?

As you may already know, teenagers tend to experience this attraction phase more strongly than adults. Surely some of you were in high school relationships so extraordinary you were certain they would end in marriage. Back then, you thought to yourself, "I just cannot believe the love of my life goes to my school and lives next to my best friend Marcie. Others experience years of being single and unsuccessful relationships. But, I met the father of my unborn children in homeroom." And then something minor happens and you have an overdramatic breakup, luckily giving you the opportunity to realize there are other fish in the sea.

The final stage that takes over, and usually lasts the longest, is emotional attachment. This is also known as unconditional acceptance, a description I think may be good to keep in mind. A hormone released during this phase of love is oxytocin, the same hormone given off during childbirth and orgasms that helps strengthen and cement feelings. According to Fisher, the more sex you have, the deeper your bond becomes. So this could come as unfortunate news to some, but it just supports what most college students have already figured out: booty calls are not a good idea.

There are also some scientifically proven techniques of flirting. One New York psychologist showed that the simple act of staring into each other's eyes might invoke feelings of deep attraction. When participants shared intimate details of their lives then held eye contact for four minutes, the effect was so strong that two of the participants ended up getting married.

I think the idea that love can be analyzed so extensively as to turn it into a science is kind of disappointing - almost as disappointing as the ending of "Vanilla Sky." But if you want to believe the research of love, here's your science assignment for this weekend: Find a recently showered look-alike of your parent. Have a staring contest until you go insane. And let the hormones do the rest.

Carly Hallam is an advertising senior. Her column appears on Fridays.

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