Your chance to help Durham boffins discover the science of love

Vox pop on the science of love - Karen Atkinson and Dave Hall.
Vox pop on the science of love - Karen Atkinson and Dave Hall.
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BUTTERFLIES in our stomachs and that strange feeling of elation. But what is love?

Researchers from Durham University are concentrating their efforts on trying to pinpoint the science of love.

Vox pop re the science of love. Maureen and Harry Alcock.

Vox pop re the science of love. Maureen and Harry Alcock.

The Durham psychologists and anthropologists are calling on adults young and old to fill out an online survey and help them get a better understanding of the emotional “fuzziness” of love.

The researchers believe love can be divided into three components: lust, romance and attachment with each element having its own distinct function.

However, questions still remain. For example, can we experience romantic love without sexual desire and can attachments come before romance?

Professor Anne Campbell of Durham University’s psychology department, said: “We are calling on people to share their experiences, anonymously, of their relationships and desires to get a better understanding of the interaction between lust, romance and attachment.

Vox pop re the science of love.Jon and Marie Stratton with their two year - old daughter Olivia.

Vox pop re the science of love.Jon and Marie Stratton with their two year - old daughter Olivia.

“Take romance for example. It seems inexplicable to most people but it is found in every culture around the world, albeit normally with a limited shelf life.”

Results from the study will help researchers to understand whether humans are a naturally pair-bonded species and, if this is the case, whether we pair bond for life or, as some have suggested, just for as long as it takes to raise a child past toddlerhood.

The reseachers also hope to get some clues about the “glue” that holds couples together and whether this is composed differently for men and women.

Professor Campbell added: “Although it may seem a mystifying phenomenon, psychologists believe its function is to focus the sex drive on to one preferred partner.

“Two brain neurochemicals seem to be involved: dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, and oxytocin, linked to bonding.

“The levels of these chemicals increase during sexual activity in monogamous species and the resulting cocktail feels like romantic love.

“Likewise, there are evolutionary explanations for lust and attachment too.

“Our aim now is to understand the interaction between these seemingly distinct functions of love.”

To take part in the research go to click here.

The study is open to anyone aged 18 or over, the responses are anonymous and the survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.

WHAT IS LOVE? YOUR VERDICT

MAUREEN Alcock, 70, and Harry, 72, from South Hylton, will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

Mrs Alcock said: “When I first met him he was tiny and I towered over him. I thought he was cute straight away. I was very attracted to him.

“I think it was love at first sight. I didn’t know it at the time but when I look back now I know that’s what it was.”

Karen Atkinson, 43, a shop assistant from Herrington, first met her partner, 59-year-old Dave Hall, at a bus stop.

She said: “We just got chatting and he was always such a gentleman. I think something just clicked between us straight away and it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted to be with him.

“You know when you’re in love when you get butterflies in your tummy. It must be something if you get that feeling.”

Jon and Marie Stratton, both 28, first met in 2001 but didn’t get together until 2008. The couple, from Castletown, have a two-year-old daughter, Olivia.

Jon said: “We lost touch for a bit and nothing happened between us until a few years on, but as soon as we started going out we knew we wanted to be together forever, we got engaged the same year.”

Marie added: “I think we didn’t get together at first because he didn’t know I liked him and even though I knew he liked me I was too shy to say anything.”

“I don’t know what it was that made us realise we were in love but we just knew straight away.”