The science of true love

By | Health & Wellness
The 'love test' could help strengthen relationships: Doug88888 flickr

There may be currently two solutions to debating wherever someone loves someone. The first may be to find a remote field of daisies, pick them freely and pull off the petals one by one in an inevitable decision making process.

The other involves a 30p text to companies which may kindly calculate love matches based on how many of the letters L-O-V-E are in one name and their partner’s name.

Scientists have created a ‘love test’ based on subconscious responses to the image of a partner. The test aims to help form an improved guide to the success of a relationship and might be a useful predictor of marriage outcomes.

Published in the Journal Science the ‘love test’ study worked on a gut reaction from newlyweds, which was then repeated and analysed over four years in conjunction with how happy the couples said they were. Lead author, Prof James McNulty from Florida State University, says that the new test manages to gauge the true feelings of newlyweds, rather than what they say to other people or admit to themselves. He told BBC News: “These immediate gut level responses seem to be pretty powerful in predicting whether people stay happy.”

McNulty’s team interviewed 135 newlywed couples after their nuptials, asking them to evaluate their marriage related to positive and unproductive adjectives such as “good”, “satisfying” and “unsatisfying” before measuring their gut reaction to each other with the “love test”.

The test involved showing one partner a photograph of the other for a fleetingly third of a second. They then answered whether terms such as “great”, “awesome” and contrasting words were productive or unproductive terms as quickly as possible. Researches based the results on how fast responses to the words were.

Using the psychological principle of association, the theory is after a glimpse at the picture of their partner, the newlywed is in a positive or unproductive state of mind. If they are in a positive state of mind they may identify positive words such as “great” or “awesome” quicker than the unproductive and vice versa.

Prof McNulty and his team found the conscious answers of the newlyweds were all positive and they were happy about their relationships, as expected. However the gut reactions from the love test varied considerably. Interviewing the couples every six months for the next four years they found on average, those who did were unable to have positive gut reactions were more likely to say they were at odds as the marriage wore on. Some even separated.

Prof James McNulty concluded: “Everyone wants to believe they are in a good relationship and people may be able to convince themselves they are – these gut-level reactions are more indicative of how people feel immediately about their relationships. I think the best advice would be to attend to your gut level responses about how you think about seeing your partner.”

If the science to true love may be within a gut feeling, perhaps the traditional method of picking petals off daisies may be more efficient.

 How might science support in the understanding of other complex emotions?

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