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How Science Hurts Love

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: science, technology, online dating, love, research, Telegraph, Guardian, BBC News, New Scientist,

Love on the ComputerSociety may be moving toward a more liberated view of love, but people increasingly are shackling themselves with rigid rules and systems when finding partners, Jean Hannah Edelstein writes in the Guardian. Online daters apply “scientific” formulas to their profiles in an effort to home in on the partner of their dreams, often neglecting more frustrating, unscientific, but endlessly fascinating pursuits like “pointless flirting.” 

This methodological approach to love is reinforced, according to Edelstein, by the steady stream of studies designed to illuminate a scientific order to human relationships. After dating a man who looked eerily like her father, Edelstein writes that she was “absolved from responsibility for it” by a recent study suggesting that women are often attracted to men who look like their fathers. Freud may have written about that very idea years ago, but the new findings, reported by the Guardian, are being cited as further evidence of “sexual imprinting,” where sexual attraction in humans is determined early in childhood.

New studies are also pointing to a kind of genetic pre-determinism on love. The New Scientist reports that gene coding could “help to determine whether men are serial commitment-phobes or devoted husbands.” The researchers found that the more copies of a section of the gene RS3 334 that a man has, the less likely he is to remain monogamous. Having pinpointed the genetics of relationships, the team is now trying to test for gene coding in altruism and jealousy.

And even beyond the pages of Cosmo, new studies about how to attract potential mates are released nearly every slow news day. The British newspaper Telegraph has determined that a rollercoaster is the best place for a first date, since the excitement will cause people to release the hormone phenyl ethyl-amine, which is also released when a person first sees someone he or she is attracted to. And the BBC News reports that the simple act of saying “I love you” has the ability to make people more attractive.

The question for Edelstein is: What effect do studies like these have on our relationships? The findings could make dating more efficient, Edelstein writes, saving people time so they could “redirect it towards less sexy, but important undertakings, like recycling and exercise.” People could even sign on to Genepartner.com, a website designed to pair people off based on their genes. But what do people lose? By eliminating potential mates who are blonde, brunette, short, tall, strong, or weak, people cut themselves off from a huge portion of the dating pool, one of whom may be able to surprise them. That’s not a theory. That’s simple statistics.

Image by Steven Orr, licensed under Creative Commons