There is no hard and fast timeline for how long each phase lasts, as it can vary widely due to gender, age, and other environmental factors, Fisher writes. Because we can't figure it out. Additionally, while oxytocin has long gotten the credit for being the love hormone, Prause says that scientists are now "kind of over oxytocin," because it has broader functions than simply bonding. Is it just a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones conspiring to rush you toward reproduction?
The Arons' numerous studies on this subject have found connection boils down to something quite simple: Aron and his wife Elaine , who is also a psychologist, are known for studying what makes relationships begin—and last. Lust, Fisher asserts in a seminal paper [ PDF ], is nothing more than the existence of a sex drive, or "the craving for sexual gratification," she writes. Now, more than three years later, they live together in a condo they bought. In each stage, your body chemistry behaves differently. As she answered the questions and listened to Mark's answers, "I felt totally absorbed by the conversation in a way that was unlike any of the other first dates I was having at the time with people I met online," Catron tells Mental Floss. It's probably a combination of all three, plus ineffable qualities that even matchmaking services can't perfectly nail down. Catron decided to test these methods out with a casual acquaintance, Mark, over beers at a local bar one night. The questions were originally designed to "generate intimacy, a sense of feeling similar, and the sense that the other person likes you," Aron explains. It's a sensation driven by estrogens and androgens, the female and male sex hormones, based in the biological drive to reproduce. Using fMRI brain imaging, Aron's studies have shown that "if you're thinking about a person you're intensely in love with, your brain activates the dopamine reward system, which is the same system that responds to cocaine," he tells Mental Floss. Additionally, while oxytocin has long gotten the credit for being the love hormone, Prause says that scientists are now "kind of over oxytocin," because it has broader functions than simply bonding. Romantic love wasn't the goal. In a study in Frontiers in Psychology, the researchers proposed that "romantic love is a natural and often positive addiction that evolved from mammalian antecedents by 4 million years ago as a survival mechanism to encourage hominin pair-bonding and reproduction, seen cross-culturally today. Or is it bonding over specific experiences that create intimacy? Some students were paired with someone of the same sex, while others were matched with someone of the opposite sex. Fisher has collaborated multiple times on the science of attraction with social psychologist Arthur Aron , a research professor at Stony Brook University in New York. There is no hard and fast timeline for how long each phase lasts, as it can vary widely due to gender, age, and other environmental factors, Fisher writes. In the lust and attraction phases, your body is directing the show, as people can feel desire without knowing anything personal about the object of that desire. If you must have a definitive answer to the puzzle of interpersonal chemistry, Prause says to keep this in mind: Now they're focusing on a charmingly named hormone known as kisspeptin no, really. She is the founder of Liberos, a Los Angeles-based independent research center that works in collaboration with the University of Georgia and the University of Pittsburgh to study human sexual behavior and develop sexuality-related biotechnology. Scientists who study attraction take into consideration everything from genetics, psychology, and family history to traumas, which have been shown to impact a person's ability to bond or feel desire. It also plays a role in the contraction of the uterus to stimulate birth, instigating lactation, and sexual arousal; low levels have been linked to autism spectrum disorders. The Arons' questions offer "accelerated intimacy," she says, in a time of increasingly online-driven dating experiences. Attraction may be influenced less than lust by physiological factors—the appeal of someone's features, or the way they make you laugh—but your body is still calling the shots at this stage, pumping you full of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine, effecting your brain in a way that's not unlike the way illicit substances do.
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