We’ve Got Chemistry : The Science Behind Love in All Its Forms

Lauren Lafrades, Editor-In-Chief

It’s often said that the small things in life bring the most joy. Little moments or tokens are arguably some of the best examples of happiness in its purest. Petting a dog, eating a favorite food, or watching a good movie strike a resonant chord within people that warms hearts. But why exactly do we love these simplistic things? And what differentiates this type of love from the romantic kind?

On the most basic level, all forms of lust, love, and infatuation stem from chemical releases in the brain. Certain events, people, or things trigger a hormonal release that catalyzes the pleasant feelings associated with these emotions.

Many people form intense bonds with their pets. There’s a familial feeling toward childhood pets, a sense that this animal is related to you on a deeper level. This is likely because oxytocin is released when you stare into the eyes of your precious pet.

This chemical release is identical to the one that occurs when a mother looks into the eyes of her baby. This peak of hormones creates the attachment and therefore love for your pet; in the same way a mother and child bond in early childhood.

Love for certain foods stems from culture, environment, and experience. On a biological level dopamine is released in the brain while eating a sort of reward system to encourage caloric intake for basic survival.

Favorite foods can often be tied to pleasant memories or experiences. This multi-sensory experience can create an association between the smell, taste, and emotion making us more likely to gravitate towards certain foods.

Specific foods like junk food are engineered to be craved. There are certain qualities in food that have been proven to make them more addictive. Dynamic contrast is when food has textural differences that are more rewarding for the brain. The salivary response causes the flavor to cover your taste buds more fully creating a heightened sensory experience. Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density describe the sensation of a food melting away quickly. The brain is tricked into thinking that it is receiving calories but simultaneously thinking it is still full: making it hard to stop eating. Our love of foods stems biologically

When we have a love for friends and family the chemical releases happen with oxytocin. Attachment and trust occur between people and relationships. Romantic love happens when three different chemicals flood the brain. Lust is triggered by testosterone and estrogen, and are the most innate indicators of sexual attraction. The attraction is a result of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These feel-good chemicals train the brain in the same reward system that food simulates. And finally, attachment is caused by oxytocin.

Hormones and chemicals that our body naturally produces are responsible for some of the most important aspects to human nature. Our biological makeup encourages building relationships and fostering love for things as small as a bowl of Mac and Cheese to finding a soulmate. The ranges of love are complex and infinite but it’s important to soak up as much of that love as possible while we can.