The Science of Love

Feb 13, 2015

This Valentine's Day weekend, along with chocolate and flowers, you can add one more tool to your arsenal: science.

Gary Lewandoski is the co-founder of the blog Science of Relationships. He says there's a lot of scientific research that can help you find a mate: from pick-up lines to facial hair.

“Women prefer heavy stubble. But men actually thought the opposite. Men thought that women were going prefer clean shaven or a beard. But they were wrong. Men can be wrong when it comes to relationships and they’re wrong about this.”

And it gets more nuanced from there.

“Women are particularly anti-full beard if they’re interested in a short term relationship, something that’s not going to stand the test of time. They found clean shaven the least attractive for long term relationships. So this valentine’s day people should put down the razor.”

So losing a relationship is [...] a little bit like going cold turkey off of coffee, and your body is going hurt afterwards.

But science doesn't just help us understand the beginnings of relationships. Grace Larson, a graduate student of social psychology at Northwestern University, says one study had participants examine a photo of their ex-love while undergoing MRI imagery. The regions of the brain that show physical pain lit up. Larson says this makes sense; research shows lots of bodily processes are disrupted when someone goes through a break-up.

"So losing a relationship is, I think, a little bit like going cold turkey off of coffee, and your body is going hurt afterwards.  Your brain is going to signal to you that something is deeply, deeply wrong, and it uses some of the same areas to signal something is deeply wrong that are signaled when your hand is on a hot stove."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with Lewandowski and Larson about what psychology tells us about love. Keith Welker, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado-Boulder, also joins the conversation.