News By Feb. 14, 2015 10:29 am
Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work | News |

Whether it’s a cologne laced with alleged sex pheromones, or cynical attempts to Game the opposite sex, there’s very little trendier than the ongoing (quasi)scientific quest to find and exploit bugs in human romantic psychology. An essay on one such novel idea about love recently went super-viral, recounting an attempt to force love into existence with nothing more than the right sequence of actions and biochemical signals. The idea is simple: with fine enough control over the brain, anybody can be made to fall in love with anybody.

Rather than resorting to Clockwork Orange-style mind control, however, the idea here is to induce the body to release its natural psychoactive chemicals through simple, low-impact behaviors like staring into a partner’s eyes for several minutes, or asking and answering long lists of probing, personal questions. Is there any evidence that this will hijack your emotions and turn a sour date steamy? Or course not. But the essay’s own author comes to the more reasonable conclusion herself, that while you might not be able to fabricate love for just anyone, there can still be very real benefits to tricking the romantic brain.

Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work | News |

A selection of love-promoting questions.

In general terms, your body’s biochemical processes control your thoughts, and your thoughts control the function of your biochemical processes, which in turn modify the very thoughts that induced that release in the first place. It’s a dizzying logical knot, one that psychologists and brain scientists are always working hard to unravel. For instance, it’s long been known that while happiness of course leads to smiling, the act of smiling also leads to happiness through a short term release of psycho-active chemicals. Even when people are directed to tense different muscles in their face one by one, slowly assembling a smile out of uncomfortable grimaces, the effect remains to some extent. There is no doubt at all: your actions can affect and even dictate your thoughts.

Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work | News |

Happy — on the outside.

On the other hand, there’s little evidence to suggest that such brain-trickery carries over to more long-lasting emotional states. When the fake smile disappears, so too does the happiness — this is a big part of the reason why so many suicidal celebrities can seem so convincingly happy in public, since while laughing and waving they probably do feel some short-lived burst of happiness. Similarly there is little reason to believe that trickery-induced intimacy, powerful though it may feel at the time, will last if it is not set atop a preexisting foundation of real physical and emotional attraction.

That’s really the crux of this issue: What if you really are happy when you smile, or really do have some romantic feelings when you open up? Well, in that case, smiling to augment (not create) happiness or being vulnerable to cement (not force) intimacy may be a very solid strategy indeed. It can help to wash away the mental barriers we throw up against such vulnerable states, both the intellectual worries that arise and the biologically depressing chemicals those worries release.

Pessimism can be just as biologically self-fulfilling as optimism, so intimacy exercises like long-term eye contact may simply be an effective counter to the bad-time chemicals associated with your natural human doubts and insecurities. After all, staying in a relationship is an ongoing action, while leaving one requires only a moment of worry; when it comes to biochemical romance, negative emotions have a big practical advantage over positive ones. In a very real way, these love-promoting actions are a way of forcing yourself to go through positive, outward countermeasures to the negative, inward thought processes that unfortunately plague so many people.

There is also the fact that grilling a potential partner in this way is a highly efficient way of gathering information about a them, and these romance tricks offer an easy excuse to spend an evening running through an unromantic list of loaded questions. More to the point, if you’ve found someone with whom you’re comfortable enough to broach an idea like this, and who is interested and/or open-minded enough to go along with it, you’ve already selected for willing and compatible participants. In a very real way, refusing to take part in these intimacy exercises could be seen as nothing more than proof that the exercises would never have worked anyway.

Under that way of looking at it, we could potentially internalize many of the real-world advantages of intimacy exercises, simply by being more confident, less prone to second-guessing, and more willing to ask a partner for the information we care about most. Operating on the assumption that human nature will not change as dramatically as that, however, this idea of forced intimacy is actually one of the more worthwhile fads in some time. Just be aware of its limitations, and the extent to which its successes are really just your own.

Why tricking someone into loving you may actually work | News |


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