Love is a beautiful thing, and when we are in love we never want it to stop. When we have just had our hearts broken, however, we often say to ourselves that we will never subject ourselves to that torture again.
There are some things you must know about love, and they may leave you completely speechless.
3 Facts About Love That WIll Leave You Speechless:
Love Makes You Dumb
Love, especially passionate love, can be an all-consuming experience. In fact, some researchers have compared passionate love to an addiction (e.g. Reynaud et al., 2010). Our obsessive thoughts and single-minded attention to our lovers can impair the more mundane aspects of our daily lives such as studying or working (van Steenbergen et al., 2014).
Research reveals that individuals who consider themselves to be passionately in love with their significant others exhibit less cognitive control–the ability to focus on one piece of information while ignoring other distracting material (van Steenbergen et al.).
Even puppy love may make us temporarily less capable. As we discussed in our previous post, men’s performance on working memory and attention tasks declines after interacting with a beautiful woman (Karremans et al., 2009).
Researchers postulate that feelings of love, which activate the areas of the brain associated with reward, may also de-activate the areas of the brain associated with other cognitive functions (see Wlodarski & Dunbar, 2014). However, the news is not all bad in this area. Although love may impair some cognitive functions such as working memory and attention, the experience of love may improve some cognitive functions such as identifying emotional states (Wlodarski & Dunbar).
The Coexistence of Love and Hate
A former colleague of mine was happily married for twenty years when his wife suddenly passed away. While going through her personal items, he found a diary she had written a few years before her death. My friend was comforted to read the expressions of love he found in her diary but he was crestfallen to see that his loving wife had also written about negative feelings she had for him.
Love is a strong positive emotion which can evoke feelings of euphoria, but sometimes the people we love may cause us to feel negative emotions such as fear and even hate (Zayas & Shoda, 2015). Furthermore, these feelings may be unconscious; we may automatically experience strong positive or negative feelings for our significant others even if we don’t consciously recognize that we feel those emotions.
In order to test our unconscious feelings for our significant others, researchers Zayas and Shoda asked individuals to think of a “significant person” in their lives whom they liked the most or the least. Respondents usually chose parents, romantic partners, ex-partners, and friends in both the categories of most and least liked. The researchers also asked the participants to do this same task with objects. (Objects liked the most included things like sunsets while those liked the least included spiders and liver.) The researchers then assessed these respondents’ automatic or implicit attitudes toward those significant individuals and objects. They found that liked objects were strongly and quickly associated with positive words (e.g. lucky) while disliked objects were strongly and quickly associated with negative words (e.g. cancer).
However, when it came to people, significant others who were liked the most were strongly and quickly associated with both positive and negative words. Interestingly, significant others who were liked the least were also strongly and quickly associated with both positive and negative words.
The authors suggest that our relationships with our friends, partners, and family members are complex and that it is common for significant others to activate both positive and negative emotions simultaneously, even though we may be unaware of the experience of these emotions.
These spontaneous mixed feelings may explain why we so quickly exchange positive for negative feelings toward a romantic partner when we break up or how we can both strongly love and be exceedingly frustrated by our family members.
The “Love Hormone” May Increase Intimate Partner Violence
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide which facilitates pair bonding and is associated with the experience of both romantic love and familial love (Schneiderman et al., 2012). Romantic couples (in the early stages of their relationship) with higher levels of oxytocin are more likely to stay together than their counterparts with lower levels of oxytocin (Schneiderman et al.). Oxytocin has also been associated with other positive feelings such as trust and empathy (see DeWall et al., 2014).
DeWall et al. found that administering oxytocin nasally increased aggressive tendencies toward romantic partners, but only among those participants who already tended to be more aggressive. These authors suggest that a boost in oxytocin levels may stimulate the feeling that we need to keep our partners close to us, which may enhance the aggressive tactics used by some individuals to keep their partners faithful.
Although love is certainly a positive experience for most people it is also important to learn about the potential downsides to being in love.
About The Author: Madeleine A Fugère Ph.D.
Portions of this post were taken from The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships.
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DeWall, C. N., Gillath, O., Pressman, S. D., Black, L. L., Bartz, J. A., Moskovitz, J., & Stetler, D. A. (2014). When the love hormone leads to violence: Oxytocin increases intimate partner violence inclinations among high trait aggressive people. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5(6), 691-697. doi:10.1177/1948550613516876
Karremans, J. C., Verwijmeren, T., Pronk, T. M., & Reitsma, M. (2009). Interacting with women can impair men’s cognitive functioning. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(4), 1041-1044. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.05.004
Reynaud, M., Karila, L., Blecha, L., & Benyamina, A. (2010). Is love passion an addictive disorder? The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 36(5), 261-267. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.495183
Schneiderman, I., Zagoory-Sharon, O., Leckman, J. F., & Feldman, R. (2012). Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: Relations to couples’ interactive reciprocity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(8), 1277–1285. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.12.021
van Steenbergen, H., Langeslag, S. E., Band, G. H., & Hommel, B. (2014). Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers. Motivation and Emotion, 38(3), 444-450. doi:10.1007/s11031-013-9380-3
Wlodarski, R., & Dunbar, R. M. (2014). The effects of romantic love on mentalizing abilities. Review of General Psychology, 18(4), 313-321. doi:10.1037/gpr0000020
Zayas, V., & Shoda, Y. (2015). Love you? Hate you? Maybe it’s both: Evidence that significant others trigger bivalent-priming. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(1), 56-64. doi:10.1177/1948550614541297