The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession | Big Think

The science of sex, love, attraction, and obsession | Big Think

SUBTITLE'S INFO:

Language: English

Type: Human

Number of phrases: 137

Number of words: 2504

Number of symbols: 11071

DOWNLOAD SUBTITLES:

DOWNLOAD AUDIO AND VIDEO:

SUBTITLES:

Subtitles prepared by human
00:00
During romantic or passionate love, you're gonna  feel the sense of being addicted to your partner. People who are madly in love can   fall madly in love with somebody who's married,  who lives on the other side of the planet,   who comes from a different religion.  And somehow, they'll say to themselves,   we'll work it out, we can work this out. Because  of all that energy of intense romantic love. Over time, as this whole neurotransmitter  thing settles out, what's left? TED FISCHER: We define romantic love  as an intense desire for another,   with the expectation that it's gonna persist into  the future. And that distinguishes it from lust,   which is generally fleeting, and also for more  companionship love, which doesn't have that   intensity of desire, that you want  to possess the other in some way. GAIL SALTZ: Studies have looked at activity in the  brain when recalling passionate or romantic love,  
01:06
versus say maternal love, and finds that  different centers definitely are more   active. And they would, say, put people into the  functional MRI, and they said, think about your   partner, or think about your lover. And certain  areas lit up, or they said, think about your mom,   and different areas lit up. Which is important,  because different areas are responsible for the   release of different neurotransmitters. Which  then come to affect your future feeling states and   future behaviors. During romantic or passionate  love, what happens from a neurotransmitter   standpoint, those chemicals that are released  when you have that particular experience?   Dopamine goes up. Dopamine is essentially  the neurotransmitter of reward.   So it is a neurotransmitter that's released when  you have new or novel experience, but particularly   experiences that are reinforcing. Like gambling.  Or something that is really addictive. In fact,  
02:08
literally addictive. It's the neurotransmitter if  you snorted cocaine that is most responsible for,   wow, that was great, and I totally wanna do  it again. So that is a neurotransmitter that   definitely goes up when you are in the throes of  romantic or passionate love. And what does that   mean for you? It means that you're gonna feel  the sense of being addicted to your partner.   And in fact, it's also the neurotransmitter that  goes up for people who have obsessive compulsive   disorder. Does that mean you're gonna develop OCD?  No. But what it does mean is you're probably going   to obsess over your partner. In comes another  neurotransmitter, that's called serotonin. It is   definitely a neurotransmitter that is  active for obsessive compulsive disorder.   And for depression. Do you become depressed?  No, you really don't. But what you do   do is a feature of depression called rumination.  So you think about your partner over and over and  
03:14
over again in this really obsessive manner.  And, if your partner is separated from you,   you're going to have this longing, where you're  wanting to be with them, kind of like you'd   want to be with a drug if it was taken away  from you and you were already addicted to it. There are changes in other neurotransmitters as  well. So if you're physically with your partner,   the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is kind  of known as the cuddle neurotransmitter,   and that makes you feel warm, and snuggly,  and intensely bonded to this person.   It is particularly released following orgasm. So,  you know, if you're having sex with your partner,   and things go well, you're gonna  feel very attached to them,   exceedingly intimate with them. Partially  because of that neurotransmitter.   There are other neurotransmitters that actually  also change. Vasopressin, which has to do with   stress level. There's this whole release  of neurotransmitters that make you feel   very obsessed, very addicted, thinking constantly  about them, very intimately, cuddly, attached, and  
04:30
stressed. Actually, it is a stressful condition,  to some degree, to be really into your partner. HELEN FISHER: One of the problems with early stage  intense feelings of romantic love is that it's   part of the oldest parts of the brain that become  activated. Brain regions linked with drive, with   craving, with obsession, with motivation. And in  fact, some cognitive regions up in the prefrontal   cortex that have evolved much more recently  begin to shut down. Brain regions linked with   decision-making, planning ahead. As people who are  madly in love can fall madly in love with somebody   who's married, who lives on the other side of  the planet, who comes from a different religion.   And somehow they'll say to themselves, we'll  work it out, we can work this out. Because of   all that energy of intense romantic love. And  also the shutting down of various brain systems   linked with decision-making. So one of the things  that I say to people is before you decide to marry   somebody, spend a good deal of time with them.  So some of that early stage intense feelings  
05:34
of romantic love can begin to subside. And  you can begin to really see what you've got. As a matter of fact, I'm very optimistic  about the future of relationships,   because we're spending so much time now getting  to know somebody before we wed. You know, a great   many people are having these one night stands,  and friends with benefits, and living together   before they marry. And there was a recent study,  which they asked a lot of single people who were   living together with somebody why have they not  yet married? And 67% were terrified of divorce,   terrified of not only the legal and the financial  and the economic, but the personal and social   fallout of divorce. And so I began to realize,  maybe all of this hooking up, and friends with   benefits, and living together is not recklessness.  Maybe it's caution. Maybe singles are trying to   learn every single thing they can about a  potential partner before they tie the knot.  
06:38
And in short, marriage used to be the beginning  of a relationship, now it's the finale. And I   think that that is very positive. As a matter  of fact, I work with match.com, I'm their chief   scientific advisor. And we did a study of married  people. Not on the site match.com, of course.   Of 1100 married people. And I had reasoned,  well, if there's this long pre-commitment   stage of getting to know somebody, maybe  by the time you walked down the aisle,   you know what you've got, you're happy with  what you've got, and you're gonna build a long,   stable really happy marriage. Maybe we're  going towards a time of happier marriages,   because relationships can end before you tie the  knot. So within this study, I asked these 1100   married people a lot of questions, but one of  the questions was, would you remarry the person   you're currently married to? And 81% said yes. And  I think that with what I call fast sex, slow love,  
07:40
with this slow love process of getting to know  somebody very carefully, over a long period of   time, it's gonna help the brain readjust some  of these brain regions for decision-making.   You're gonna get to know how this person handles  your parents at Christmas, or whatever holiday.   You know, how they handle your friends, how they  handle their money, how they handle an argument,   how they handle getting exercise, and their own  health and your health, et cetera. You learn a   lot about the person. I'm very optimistic about  the future, because of this concept of slow love. SALTZ: In terms of the science to support what  is a good partner choice, for the long haul,   it does seem that having very similar values, and  to some degree, having a lot of similarities in   general, often leads to a longer term ability to  maintain the relationship. And why is that? And   I'm not talking now about sexual compatibility.  I'm not talking about that wonderful,  
08:43
passionate feeling. But I'm really talking  about just maintaining any relationship.   It is easier when you have fewer bridges to cross.  So over time, as this whole neurotransmitter thing   settles out, what's left to be able to maintain  your relationship going forward? If you're   arguing over everything, because basically,  you fundamentally don't agree on most things,   that is a challenge. Not saying it's  a challenge that can't be managed.   And I certainly wouldn't say, for example, that  opposites can't attract, because they often do.   But the question is, what do you do with that  down the road? If you're a different religion,   if you believe differently in how money should be  managed, if you have different goals in terms of   family rearing, career aspirations,  long-term how you want to live your life.   These are bridges that have to be crossed with  a lot of communication, and a lot of compromise.   To some degree, studies support the less  compromise you have to make, the easier. And  
09:50
that's not surprising, right? That's easy  to understand. So choosing someone with   some similarities will make for  less compromise down the road. And then the question becomes, how good are you  and your partner individually at communication,   at compromise, at being able to   make choices that really aren't your first  choice, for the service of some greater good? FISHER: We all wanna sustain a long-term  happy partnership. And psychologists will   give you a long list of smart ways to sustain  it. But I'd like to say what the brain can add.   I studied the brain. And the first thing that  you wanna do is sustain the three basic brain   systems for mating and reproduction. Sex drive.  Have sex with the partner. Have sex regularly   with the partner. If you don't have time,  schedule the time to have sex with the partner.   Because when you have sex with the partner,  you're driving up the testosterone system,   so you're gonna want to have more sex, but you  also have all the cuddling, which is gonna drive  
10:56
up the oxytocin system, and give you feelings  of attachment. And having sex with the person,   any kind of stimulation of the genitals drives  up the dopamine system and can sustain feelings   of romantic love. And of course, there can be  good jokes about it, and relaxation about it,   that is good for the body and the mind. So have  sex with the person and sustain that brain system   of the sex drive. To sustain feelings of intense  romantic love, do novel things together. Novelty   drives up the dopamine system and can sustain  feelings of romantic love. And this isn't just in   the bedroom. Just go to a different restaurant on  Friday night. Take your bicycle instead of a car.   Read to each other in bed. Sit together on the  couch, and have a discussion about something new.   Read new books together. Novelty, novelty, novelty  sustains feelings of intense romantic love. You also wanna sustain feelings of  deep attachment. And to do that,   you have to just stay in touch. Learn to sleep  in the person's arm. At least start that way.   Cuddle after dinner. Walk arm-in-arm arm down the  street. Hold hands together. Put your foot on top  
12:06
of his foot or her foot while you're having  dinner. Gently, of course. But stay in touch.   That drives up the oxytocin system, and can give  you feelings of deep attachment to the partner.   So, you wanna sustain all three of those brain  systems, sex drive, feelings of romantic love,   and feelings of deep attachment. But we've  also found out what's going on in the brain   in long-term happy partners. We did a study, a  brain scanning study, of people who were married   an average of 21 years. And those people  who were married an average of 21 years,   who were still madly in love with their partner  showed activity in three brain regions. A brain   region linked with empathy, a brain region  linked with controlling your own emotions,   and a brain region linked with what we call  positive illusions, the simple ability,   but sometimes hard, to overlook what you don't  like about somebody, and then focus on what you   do. So last but not least, we've now known that  if you say several nice things to your partner  
13:13
every day, I would suggest five, but if you  can only pull off two or three, whatever.   Say nice things to your partner. That actually  reduces their cholesterol, reduces their cortisol,   which is the stress hormone, and boosts their  immune system. But it also boosts yours. So what the brain says about a happy long-term  partnership is overlook what you don't like and   focus on what you do, express empathy for the  partner, control your own emotions, have sex   with the partner, do novel things together, stay  in touch, and say several nice things every day.   And your brain will help you sustain a  long-term deep attachment. We're built to love.

DOWNLOAD SUBTITLES: