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Evolution saw fit to give us love to ensure we would continue to form and maintain the cooperative relationships that are our route to personal and, most crucially, genetic survival. It can be the source of euphoric happiness, calm contentment and much-needed security, but this is not its point. Love is merely the sweet treat handed to you by your babysitter to make sure the goal is achieved. Combine the ultimate evolutionary aim of love with our visceral need for it and the quick intelligence of our brains, and you have the recipe for a darker side to emerge. Some of this darker side is adaptive but, for those who experience it, it rarely ends well. At the very least there is pain – physical, psychological, financial – and, at the most, there is death, and the grief of those we leave behind.
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Maybe it is time to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves about love because the danger on the horizon is not the dragon that needs to be slain by the knight to save the beautiful princess but the presence of some who mean to use its powers for their gain and our considerable loss.
This suite of chemicals makes us feel euphoric and calm, they draw us towards those we love, and reward us for investing in our relationships, even when the going gets tough. Love feels wonderful but ultimately it is a form of biological bribery, a cunning evolutionary trick to make sure ...
Both of these sound like promising candidates but there are still issues to iron out and ethical discussions to have. How effective they are is highly context dependent. Based on their genetics, some people do exactly what is predicted of them. Boundaries are lo...
The reason for this difference sits with the different resources that men and women bring to the mating game. Broadly, men bring their resources and protection; women bring their womb. If a woman is sexually unfaithful and becomes pregnant with another man’s child, she has withdr...
The addictive nature of these chemicals, and our visceral need for them, means that love also has a dark side. It can be used as a tool of exploitation, manipulation and abuse. Indeed, in part what may separate human love from the love experienced by other animals is that we can ...
Interestingly, however, these individuals did not employ this tactic all the time. There was nuance in their behaviour. Costly behaviours were peppered with rare incidences of gift giving or caretaking, so-called beneficial mate-retention behaviours. Why? Because the unpredictability of t...
Emotional intelligence sits at the core of healthy relationships. To truly deliver the benefits of the relationship to our partner, we must understand and meet their emotional needs as they must understand and meet ours. But, as with love, this skill has a darker side because to under...
Research has shown that having a Dark Triad personality, whether you were a man or a woman, significantly increased the likelihood that ‘“cost-inflicting mate-retention behaviours” were your go-to mechanism when trying to retain your partner. These are behaviours that level an emotional, ...
The other possibility is MDMA or ecstasy, which mimics the neurochemical of long-term love, beta-endorphin. Recreational users of ecstasy report that it makes them feel boundless love for their fellow clubbers and increases their empathy. Researchers in the US have reported encouraging re...
MDMA has other issues. For some people, it simply does not work. But the bigger problem is that the effects endure only while usage continues; anecdotal evidence suggests that, if you stop, the feelings of love and empathy disappear. This raises questions of pra...
Anna Machin, evolutionary anthropologist, and author of Why We Love: The New Science Behind our Closest Relationships asks her subjects to consider whether love can ever be negative. The vast majority say no for, if love has a darker side, it is not love, and this is an interest...
The ethical conversation around love drugs is complex. On one side are those who argue that taking a love drug is no more controversial than an antidepressant. Both alter your brain chemistry and, given the strong relationship between love and good mental and physical health, surely it is importa...
Today we know enough about the chemistry of love for the elixir to be within our grasp. And we don’t have to look very far for our first candidate: synthetic oxytocin, used right now as an induction drug in labour. We know from extensive research in social neuroscience that artificial oxy...
It is hard to imagine that, having experienced such a litany of abuse, anyone could believe that love remained within their relationship. But here the power of the lived experience, of allowing everyone to have their ideas about love becomes clearer. Because, while we have many scientific...
In one study, in which subjects were asked to read different scenarios detailing incidences of sexual and emotional infidelity, 83% of women found the emotional scenario the most jealousy-inducing, whereas only 40% of men found this to be of concern. In contrast, 60% of m...
When we feel jealousy, it is generally urging us to do one of three things: to cut off the rival, to prevent our partner’s defection by redoubling our efforts, or to cut our losses and leave the relationship. All have evolved to make sure we balance the costs and benefits of the relat...
Jealousy is an emotion and, as with all emotions, it evolved to protect us, to alert us to a potential benefit or threat. It works its magic at three levels: the emotional, the cognitive and the behavioural. Physiology also throws its hat into the ring making you feel nauseous, f...
It’s about using chemical bribery to make sure we stick around, cooperate and invest in each other, and particularly in the survival-critical relationships we have with our lovers, children and close friends. This is an evolutionary control of which we are hardly aware, ...
We can all agree that, on balance, and taking everything into account, love is a wonderful thing. For many, it is the point of life. It infiltrates every fibre of our being and every aspect of our daily lives. It is the most important factor in our mental and physical health, our...
For these people, characterised by exploitative, manipulative and callous personalities, emotional intelligence is the route to a set of mate-retention behaviours that certainly meet their goals but are less than beneficial to those whom they profess to love. Indeed, research has shown th...
The most adept proponents of this skill are those who possess the Dark Triad of personality traits: Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism. The first relies on using emotional intelligence to manipulate others, the second to toy with other’s feelings, and the third...
Love is the focus of so much science, philosophy and literary rumination because we struggle to define it, to predict its next move. Thanks to our biology and the reproductive mandate of evolution, love has long controlled us. But what if we could control love? What if a magic potion exi...
The answer very much depends on our gender.
Men and women experience jealousy with the same intensity. However, there is a stark difference when it comes to what causes each to be jealous. One of the pioneers of human mat...
In contrast, women are more concerned about emotional infidelity because this suggests that, if their partner does make a rival pregnant and becomes emotionally involved with her, his partner risks having to share his protection and resources with another, meaning that her children receive less o...
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
Love is both a wonderful thing and a cunning evolutionary trick to control us. A dangerous cocktail in the wrong hands.
MORE LIKE THIS
From an evolutionary point of view, altruism doesn’t seem to make any sense - human beings are basically selfish.
From a genetic point of view, it would make some sense to help the people close to us (relatives) to help our genes survive. But there is no real explanation for helping animals or...
Human hand preference is predictably a biological and genetic (hereditary) phenomenon, but we see that 85 percent of people are right-handed.
Researchers have identified the specific gene (D Gene) that occurs more commonly among the population which responsible for promoting right-hand pre...
Sometimes our closest and most important relationships are also the most difficult. Our relationships are both cooperative and competitive. We work together with the ones we love but also have a bit of rivalry going on at times. That is why friends and loved ones can have such a ...
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