Researchers at UCLA and the popular online relationship service eHarmony have discovered that The Beatles were right; "All You Need is Love."
Love blunts the appeal of potential rivals, their study found.
"Feeling love for your romantic partner appears to make everybody else less attractive, and the emotion appears to work in very specific ways by enabling you to push thoughts of that tempting 'other' out of your mind," said Gian Gonzaga, assistant adjunct professor of psychology and lead author of the study.
In an experiment with college students in long-term relationships, researchers found that asking them to reflect on the love they felt for their boyfriend or girlfriend blunted the appeal of especially attractive members of the opposite sex.
Researchers invited 120 heterosexual undergraduates in committed relationships to pore over photographs of attractive members of the opposite sex, taken from the dating site "Hot or Not."
Participants identified the member of the opposite sex they felt the most physical attraction to before being asked to compose an essay on one of three topics: the time they felt the most love for their current partner, the time they felt most sexual desire for their current partner, or a topic of their choice.
Reliving an intense moment
"Basically, these students were reliving a moment an intense moment of love or an intense moment of sexual desire for their partner," said Gonzaga, who oversees an observational laboratory at eHarmony's Pasadena headquarters that conducts research in interpersonal chemistry and long term relationship building.
Undergraduates were instructed to put the attractive person out of mind while writing, but if they happened to think of the individual, they were asked to put a check in the margin of their essays.
On average, undergraduates in the "love group" who wrote about the love they felt for their boyfriend or girlfriend thought of the hottie once every two pages; this compared to more than twice a page for the "desire group," who wrote about sexual desire for their girlfriend or boyfriend; and compared to almost four times a page for the control group who wrote essays on other subjects.
"It's almost like love puts blinders on people," added co- author Martie Haselton, an associate professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA. "People in the love group found it easy to push an attractive other out of their mind."
Getting those gushy feelings
"One of the biggest threats to a relationship is an attractive alternative to your loved one — or that attractive woman at work or the hot guy you meet in the bar," Gonzaga said. "In subtle ways that you might not even notice, the gushy feelings you get when you think of your partner help you fend off these threats."
Undergraduates in the love group not only thought less about the attractive others, but they also had a much tougher time recalling their appeal. Gonzaga said, "These people could remember the color of a shirt … but they didn't remember anything tempting about the person."
Gonzaga and Haselton believe they have found the biological function of the emotion, inspiring countless clichs, songs and poems.
"Popular culture may mix romantic love up with sexual desire, but from an evolutionary perspective, romantic love fulfills a different function," said Gonzaga. "Love is a commitment device, which has evolved to make us identify and stick with a long-term mate long enough to raise a child."
— Amy Chen contributed to this story.
My Seeing Eye dog senses we are bent
on a long journey, long enough to keep us for a full day
chained to one seat on one plane.
She goes out of her mind with zeal,
like a child in the act of opening
the long-awaited present,
dream being realized,
and before I know it,
before we set out,
she has thrown all temperance to the dogs
and emptied to the drains
a bowl of water bubbling to the brim:
as though trafficking with powers
far above and beyond my ken;
and that’s the full extent of her innocence
and that’s the full limit of her association.
Then in despair I tear my hair,
or what is left of it,
less over what has passed
than over what is to come:
my guide through the world’s pitfalls and snares
the only guardian to whose care
I would commit my whole being,
she who empowers me to make myself at home
in the mightiest of cities
she who enables me to relish
the Big Apple to the fullest,
frees me of fear when at its beaches,
its parks, its avenues, and squares,
at its stations grand, small, and modest,
in office, store, restaurant, and classroom,
she who fills me with fearlessness
when down deep in its big belly,
among the terrible snakes of B.M.T.s and I.R.T.s lying still or running,
not far from the treacherous serpent
disguised as the Third Rail.
She knows all,
and yet this angel,
this guardian angel,
can see no farther after all
than those who designed the feathered arrow
and took time off to rest,
and watched a dream the fall of albatross,
or than those who engender,
just to gaze spellbound,
that device, wondrous and beastly,
which travels far and fast
to bust the kidneys and bladders of continence.
Both she and they are cause-conscious,
in their calculations and traffickings
except when the shrewd inventors
are in the custody of cup or bottle:
Then in all fairness they do hold an edge,
a decisive edge over her,
for they can tell, she can’t I think,
the compelling if serpentine link
between first blush and crucial kiss,
between, pardon the impropriety, guzzle and piss—
the kind of chain least on a Seeing Eye’s mind.
Reja-e Busailah was born in Jerusalem and now lives in Indiana, U.S. He has been totally blind since infancy, from before the end of his first year. He has published poems in a variety of little magazines on different subjects. This poem is from a collection of poems, Poems Out of Sight, which he hopes to publish in the near future. Reja-e also in the process of having a memoir about his childhood published within the next few months.
Tags: blind, guide dog, Poetry, travel