• Question: why do people fall in love

    Asked by jalwa on 26 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 26 Jun 2019:

      Really tough question – and we certainly don’t have the full picture yet, but from a biological perspective, the emotions we experience when falling in love or forming very strong bonding relationships with partners or family members are driven by changes in a collection of hormones (mainly oxytocin, vasopressin, and cortisol) and other chemical messengers such as the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. In concert, these changes act initially to engage the ‘reward circuit’ in our brains and produce a variety of physical and emotional responses (racing hearts, sweaty palms, flushed cheeks, feelings of passion and anxiety) as well as directing our behaviour. Later on, some of the same messengers and pathways act to transition passionate (but quite stressful) feelings into ones associated with calmness and security that promote long-term bonding. This explains more of the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’ of falling in love. For the latter, I would think of this in the evolutionary sense in that ‘fast physical attractions’ are required to form sexual relationships that encourage reproduction, whilst the ‘slower-acting’ mechanisms are to promote and sustain bonds that support survival – for example, parent-offspring relationships to ensure vulnerable members of the group are cared for.
      This Harvard article gives a nice digestible overview of the topic (hope you fall in love with it!):

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 27 Jun 2019:

      I’m not sure I want science to answer this one, it would be a bit sad if we found it was just a burst of chemicals that permanently remodelled our brain cells.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 27 Jun 2019: last edited 27 Jun 2019 10:45 am

      I’m with David on this one!! but I do like this thought:

      Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. We are all stardust.

      Now consider that of the billions and billions of possible combinations/places/times of this stardust, you just so happen to find another person with the right combination that means you fall in love….

      In essence, I am saying that it is chance and fate all wrapped up into 1

    • Photo: Thiloka Ratnaike

      Thiloka Ratnaike answered on 27 Jun 2019:

      Could it be out of necessity? Right time/ right place/ helps the species continue?? (Talk about killing the romance.)

    • Photo: Deepak Chandrasekharan

      Deepak Chandrasekharan answered on 27 Jun 2019:

      No idea – but I’m very happy that we do. It’s fun when science blends with philosophy and this is certainly one of those areas!

    • Photo: Shobhana Nagraj

      Shobhana Nagraj answered on 27 Jun 2019:

      This is a great question! I had never really thought about this before – but the romantic in me really likes to think of it like Matthew’s answer above!
      I think sometimes falling in love can be confused with a physical attraction. I think real lasting love usually grows over time, and can take many forms. As to why people do fall in love – apparently it has a lot to do with feeling a sense of familiarity with another person, sharing the same interests and values, the other person might reflect back to you qualities you like in yourself, and people might feel a lot of respect and attraction to one another. Alternatively, a person might find that certain needs are fulfilled through the other person, and love them for that reason also.