WALLY’S WORLD: Valentine’s Day stirs thoughts toward love

For more than 100 years, scientists have been trying to measure and quantify love; that is, they’ve been trying to define love and accurately measure its strength and duration.

  • Monday, February 8, 2010 4:20pm
  • Opinion

By Wally DuChateau

For more than 100 years, scientists have been trying to measure and quantify love; that is, they’ve been trying to define love and accurately measure its strength and duration.

As you can imagine, this hasn’t been an easy task. Early on, they recognized that physical attraction and love were two different phenomena. Physical attraction can be a very powerful force. It can knock your socks off – and the rest of your clothing as well – but this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any real affection behind it.

So, scientists looked for love outside the sexual sphere, where it could be more easily observed without “contamination.” The obvious choice was the affection between a parent and a child. Or the love between adults of the same sex, excluding gay couples. They also explored the love between us and our animal pets.

As you would suspect, the research seemed to indicate there were many different kinds of love and that was the prevailing theory in scientific circles for many years.

Wrong.

With the coming of computerized tomography, scientists are, at last, closing in on a concise definition of love and a precise measure of it. You’re probably aware of the colorful maps researchers have developed that indicate where certain thoughts and activities are located within the brain. When a person is given a mathematical problem to solve, a specific area of the brain is activated. When listening to music, another region is stimulated. In fact, measurements are getting so refined, they can detect differences in a brain’s reaction to Mozart as opposed to heavy-metal.

And what exactly does the research suggest about love and sex? Well, quite a lot.

The area of the brain where sex and physical attraction dwell is located at the back of our gray matter, low near the spinal column in a region scientists feel is very primitive in an evolutionary sense. On the other hand, the love generated for a child or your pet cat or another adult is centered more toward our frontal lobes, home base for our rational facilities and abstract concepts, including our imaginations.

In other words, all love, whether directed at a girlfriend or a dog, comes from the same place. It’s simply a matter of degree; that is, we generate more intense love for the lady than for the dog. (Granted, in some cases you have to wonder about this.)

But more important, the love sparked between two people can be distinctly separated from any sexual desire.

Of course, there’s no reason one person can’t stimulate both areas of your brain. And so, as we approach Feb. 14, here’s hoping you find someone who’ll awaken both your sexual desires and your love and, in the midst of such a maelstrom, I also hope you retain the wisdom to separate the two.

Cheers and happy Valentine’s Day!

More in Opinion

U.S., Russia agree on Middle East situation

Since Russia helped Syria’s Bashar al-Assad stay in power and helped to defeat ISIS, are Russia and the U.S. at odds in the Middle East? Is Russia threatening American dominance in the region? The answer to both is no.

Page-turners: Best books of 2017

Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more than 15 years, the King County Library System has chosen its Best Books of 2017.

Anthem protests about equality, not disrespect

For all who write negative comments about the football players who took a knee and posted that “this is not the America we grew up in,” let me share a few of the personal events from my life growing up in Tacoma Washington as a white woman.

Trump supporters’ attitude still the same

“Support Trump? Sure,” she said. “I like him.” These words by Pam Shilling from Trump Country western Pennsylvania reflect what many Trump supporters are thinking a year after the 2016 election victory, according to an article excerpted from “Politico.com” by “The Week” (Dec. 1, 2017).

Readers note: Change in comments section

The Courier-Herald has switched to a different online reader-comments platform.

Former fan finished with disrespectful NFL players

I lived off the grid for 15 years and the one thing I missed the most was watching pro football.

Carrying firearms about to change at the state Capitol

If you come to the state Capitol and want to see lawmakers in action, there are a few rules to follow while sitting in the galleries overlooking the Senate and the House floors.

America’s monster

I’m not sure when it happened, but I recently realized I’ve stopped asking myself, “What are we going to do about mass shootings and gun violence in this country?” Instead, I now ask, “When is the carnage going to come to Enumclaw?”

Avoiding loss means more than gaining something else

Some studies have shown that losses are twice as psychologically powerful as gains. American history and our current political situation help reveal a great deal about the American/human psyche.

Congratulations, Jan Molinaro

In every election, one person must win and the other will lose. Now more than ever, it is important to show our children how to be gracious in victory and humble in defeat.

Don’t give into the pressure of driving drowsy

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that still challenge me today.

Opening our minds can be a beautiful thing

As a leader of my church’s Sunday Adult Forum, I had a goal: to put a human face on Islam for the members of the congregation and community.