Recently a song from Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki verbalised the universally felt confusion of why we tend to behave differently when we’re in love. Why is it that suddenly, all we can think about is that one person? A group of researchers from Australia might have the answer to all the questions posed by SRK in ‘Lutt Putt Gaya’ and countless other songs that talk about unconditional love.
The world’s first study investigating the link between the human brain’s behavioural activation system (BAS) and romantic love was recently published in the journal Behavioural Sciences.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we know little about the evolution of romantic love, so a team of researchers from the Australian National University, the University of South Australia and the University of Canberra decided to investigate how our brains behave when we’re in love and shed some light on the mechanism that causes romantic love.
According to their findings, falling in love (or experiencing romantic love) can not only affect our emotions but our cognition and behaviour too. Essentially it means that falling in love changes your brain function and makes you behave in a way you wouldn’t normally, for instance changing your routine to accommodate the person you love or basing your decision on their opinions.
The researchers surveyed 1,556 young adults who claimed to be in love and asked them questions that “focused on the emotional reaction to their partner, their behaviour around them and the focus they placed on their loved one, above all else”.
It’s known that in positive new relationships the brain’s BAS releases hormones including oxytocin (the love hormone) and dopamine (the pleasure hormone). The study discovered that there’s a link between the BAS firing and the way we not only feel, but think and behave when we’re in love.
“We know the role that oxytocin plays in romantic love because we get waves of it circulating throughout our nervous system and bloodstream when we interact with loved ones,” writes Dr Phil Kavanagh, co-author and University of Canberra academic and UniSA Adjunct Associate Professor.
The study truly validates the saying “Love made me do it” because love can, in fact, make you do things you wouldn’t otherwise!
This is just the beginning, however, for the research team. They plan to study the differences between men and women in their approach to love and conduct a worldwide survey identifying four different types of romantic lovers.