Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Healthy romanticizingIn a 1996 experiment, psychologists at the State University of New York at Buffalo followed a group of 121 dating couples. Every few months, the couples answered questionnaires designed to determine how much they idealized their partner, and how well the pair was doing. The researchers found that the couples who were closest one year later were those who idealized each other the most. The idealizing seemed to help carry these couples through the inevitable rough spots. "Intimates who idealized one another," concluded the researchers in the paper, "appeared more prescient than blind, actually creating the relationships they wished for as romances progressed."
Short-term studies of courtship mean little for the issue that most people confront: What are the ingredients of a long-term, loving relationship? Psychologists at the University of Texas in Austin have been looking at the subject for more than a decade, following 168 couples who were married in 1981. What they're finding is that idealization of a kind can keep people happily married. "Usually, this is a matter of one person putting good spin on the partner, seeing the partner as more responsive than he or she really is," said Ted Huston, the study's lead investigator. "People who do that tend to stay in relationships longer than those who can't or don't."
But the findings are mixed. Huston's research also has identified three paths through early courtship: fast and passionate, slow and rocky, and in-between. The fast-track group, about 25% of the total, usually were interdependent within weeks, tended to ignore or forget their initial problems and were committed to marriage within several months. By contrast, the slow-motion group took an average of two years to reach a commitment, spending up to six painstaking months in each stage.
Yet when it came to success at the 13-year mark, the tortoises won out. "The more boring and deliberate the courtship, the better the prospects for a long marriage, I'm afraid," he said. "People who had very intense, Hollywood-type romances at the beginning were likely to have a big drop-off later on, and this often changed their view of the other's character."
That's the rub. If passionate romance is like a drug, as the MRI images suggest, then it's bound to lose its kick. Studies of dating and engaged couples find that feelings of passionate love and infatuation tend to fade quickly in the first year, and a year or two later often are all but gone, said Regan. What's more, simply having a strong romantic drive says nothing about how wisely you'll use it -- or on whom. "The drive is there simply to focus your energy on one person," said Fisher. "People make wrong choices all the time."
The emotional fallout from that kind of decision is no less awful for its being wrong, of course. But seeing romance as a biologically based, drug-like state can at least provide some balm for a broken heart. "Like a drug addict would tell you," said Regan, "the highs don't last, but neither does the withdrawal. With time the craving and pain go away and the brain returns to normal."
Friday, 15 April 2011
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness,compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels. Love may also be described as actions towards others (or oneself) based on compassion. Or as actions towards others based on affection.
In English, the word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure ("I loved that meal") to intenseinterpersonal attraction ("I love my partner"). "Love" can also refer specifically to the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love, to the sexual love of eros (cf. Greek words for love), to the emotional closeness of familial love, or to the platonic love that defines friendship, to the profound oneness or devotion of religious love.  This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.
Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.
In Harlow's classic experiment, two groups of baby rhesus monkeys were removed from their mothers. In the first group, a terrycloth mother provided no food, while a wire mother did, in the form of an attached baby bottle containing milk. In the second group, a terrycloth mother provided food; the wire mother did not. It was found that the young monkeys clung to the terrycloth mother whether or not it provided them with food, and that the young monkeys chose the wire surrogate only when it provided food.
Whenever a frightening stimulus was brought into the cage, the monkeys ran to the cloth mother for protection and comfort, no matter which mother provided them with food. This response decreased as the monkeys grew older.
When the monkeys were placed in an unfamiliar room with their cloth surrogate, they clung to it until they felt secure enough to explore. Once they began to explore, they occasionally returned to the cloth mother for comfort. Monkeys placed in an unfamiliar room without their cloth mothers acted very differently. They froze in fear and cried, crouched down, or sucked their thumbs. Some even ran from object to object, apparently searching for the cloth mother, as they cried and screamed. Monkeys placed in this situation with their wire mothers exhibited the same behavior as the monkeys with no mother.
Once the monkeys reached an age where they could eat solid foods, they were separated from their cloth mothers for three days. When they were reunited with their mothers, they clung to them and did not venture off to explore as they had in previous situations. Harlow concluded from this that the need for contact comfort was stronger than the need to explore.
The study found that monkeys who were raised with either a wire mother or a cloth mother gained weight at the same rate. However, the monkeys that had only a wire mother had trouble digesting the milk and suffered from diarrhea more frequently. Harlow's interpretation of this behavior, which is still widely accepted, was that a lack of contact comfort is psychologically stressful to the monkeys.
The importance of these findings is that they contradicted both the then common pedagogic advice of limiting or avoiding bodily contact in an attempt to avoid spoiling children and the insistence of the then dominant behaviorist school of psychology that emotions were negligible. Feeding was thought to be the most important factor in the formation of a mother-child bond. Harlow concluded, however, that nursing strengthened the mother-child bond because of the intimate body contact that it provided. He described his experiments as a study of love. He also believed that contact comfort could be provided by either mother or father. Though widely accepted now, this idea was revolutionary at the time