How Passionate Love Emerges from Arousal

Here is a psychophysiological secret about why we fall in love with someone at first sight. It happens in special circumstances of autonomic arousal and the exciting context of a situation. In the appropriate conditions, the extrinsic arousal effect transforms any extrinsic arousal into love and sexual attraction. When and how?

How Misattribution of Arousal Makes Us Fall in Love

In his book The Art of Love, Ovid, a first-century Roman poet, suggested that a man seeking to seduce a woman take her to a gladiatorial tournament. It would most likely arouse her sexual passion and increase her desire. Only intense and vivid emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, can trigger passionate love. Why does this phenomenon occur?

Modern research has provided evidence regarding the consequences of misattribution of arousal, which occurs when individuals erroneously attribute the source of their aroused state. When people experience arousal in their autonomic nervous system due to fear, they misattribute those physiological responses to passionate love and sexual arousal.

How Men Fell in Love on the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The well-known studies, which Dutton and Aron did, are often called the Capilano Suspension Bridge Study (Dutton and Aron, 1974). For the experiments, they used a suspension bridge, and for the control conditions, they used a strong bridge. People were scared when they saw the suspension bridge because it was so high off the ground. People would be scared of the suspension bridge, which was hanging over the river and wasn’t stable enough to walk on. On the other hand, the same experiment would not show fear when walking across a strong, stable bridge. Researchers used that condition as a comparison control.

A pretty female interviewer went up to 85 male pedestrians, some of whom were on a scary suspension bridge and some of whom were not. Before the interview, the person asking the questions asked them to fill out questionnaires with pictures from the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and tell stories based on those pictures.

The stories told by the people standing on the scary bridge contained more sexual content. Also, these male participants were more likely to try to get in touch with the female interviewer after the test.

How Strong Arousal Enhances Our Attraction to Attractive Women and Decreases Our Attraction to Unattractive Women

Two additional studies provided further evidence that misattributing arousal can facilitate romantic attraction. During those experiments, specific activities—listening to audiotapes of gruesome murders or comedy routines—or running in place—triggered physiological arousal in the men (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981).

Following that, they viewed a pre-recorded interview featuring a woman who possessed either physical attractiveness or unattractiveness. They then evaluated the woman’s physical attractiveness and sexiness. Additionally, they rated their level of interest in dating her and kissing her.

The findings indicated that, under each of these experimental conditions,

  • First, men had the impression that attractive women were more sexily attractive when they were first physically aroused by the experiments than men who were not aroused.
  • Second, men had the impression that unattractive women were less sexually attractive when they were first sexually aroused by the experiments, compared to men who were not aroused.

Therefore, prior states of arousal amplified both positive reactions to attractive women and negative reactions to unattractive women, contingent upon cognitively appropriate evaluation (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981).

How to Make Someone Fall in Love

I believe that the psychophysiological mechanism of arousal transfer offers a solid explanation for the transition of pleasurable emotions from sexual attraction to romantic attraction (Karandashev, 2017, p. 270).

There have been many variations of these kinds of experiments in the following years, illustrating how the arousal transfer effect makes men and women fall in love. They all replicated the scientific validity of the effects that arousal has on attraction.

So, what personal lesson can we take from this research? Next time, when you want someone to fall in love with you, bring him or her on some adventurous journey or exciting circumstances.

How to Love When You Experience Insecure Attachment?

Developing and maintaining a relationship with a significant other is difficult since many of us are dealing with high personal stress, anxiety, and psychological insecurity. We all want to feel satisfied with our relationship with our partner. But what if your partner feels insecure in the relationship with you despite your attempts to understand him or her and be supportive? How can you deal with insecure attachment, improve communication, and resolve conflicts with your partner?

The attachment theory has become increasingly popular in the study of love. Love is primarily an emotional bond that originates from our early years. Researchers classified individual types of attachment into four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized.

Here, you can have the opportunity to discover your individual attachment style.

Our attachment styles can pose significant challenges for our close relationships, especially because, according to some research, human love attachment can be imprinted in the early years of life.

How Can We Overcome the Feeling of Insecurity in Our Relationship?

It is possible that emotionally focused therapy and human attachment theory can provide a better understanding of how to repair and heal our complicated relationship. We experience insecure attachment when we feel blocked from doing something for our relationship. According to the theory of attachment, it is essential for our intimate relationships to experience the feelings of being seen, valued, respected, and emotionally validated.

Avoidant attachment and anxious attachment are the two types of attachment in an intimate relationship that cause challenges in our lives. People with avoidant attachment tend to pull away or shut down from their partner to keep the relationship from getting tense. Anxious attachment is the opposite. People with this type of attachment tend to move toward their partner to close the emotional gap. That deep-seated worry is still there, but it shows up in a different way.

Julie Menanno, a marriage and family therapist, comments:

 “Both strategies ultimately fail leaving us with a relationship with varying degrees of fighting and emotional disconnection.”

Julie Menanno says

Practice of Secure Love

A marriage and family therapist, Julie Menanno, in her book Secure Love: Create a Relationship That Lasts a Lifetime helps us understand our different attachment styles as well as how they affect our romantic relationships. She talks about the fears underneath insecure attachments. She explains why women tend to be anxiously attached and how couples with different attachment styles can understand each other better. To help couples who are having trouble move toward secure attachment, she gives them a practical guide and scripts for hard conversations to overcome challenges in their relationships.

What does “insecure attachment” implicate for a relationship?

This is what Julie Menanno says about insecure attachment and its implications for a relationship

“If the [anxiously attached] partner is overwhelmed with unmet needs and anxieties—experiencing intense urges to reach out and get their needs met to relieve some of this relationship fear and anxiety—the other person won’t be comfortable, because it’s not healthy communication. If they can’t navigate their partner’s behavior in a healthy way—either showing up to help them with those feelings, responding authentically, or setting boundaries, which we would consider secure attachment—the next best thing is pulling away. Because they’re uncomfortable with too much coming at them.

In contrast, if the avoidant partner handles relationship anxiety and fears of enmeshment, or fears of weakness, by avoiding—they’re sending the message to their anxious partner: I’m not here for you. I’m not here to meet your needs. I’m not here to keep you feeling safe.

If the anxious partner can’t manage that in a healthy way—from leaving the relationship because their emotional needs aren’t met, or communicating in a healthy way to create safety in the relationship, to draw the person closer—they handle it the way they know. More anxiety, more pulling for closeness, more going toward, more desperation, more protest, more blame. That’s how they’re going to show up with problems of anything from how to load the dishwasher to how to find emotional closeness with each other.

Often, avoidant partners are invested in the relationship early on, pursuing the anxious partner. Avoidant partners thrive on the feeling of being seen as a success, being seen in a good light, being appreciated.

Early on, they’re not hiding as much. So the anxious partner feels seen, heard, they’re getting enough of those needs met that some of their relationship fears aren’t showing up. Things are great—but when they start to have conflict, it sends messages to the anxious partner: “Your needs don’t matter. I don’t really want to resolve anything. You’re too much.” Now the anxious partner gets more anxious. They behave in an anxious way that sends the avoidant partner messages: “No matter what you say, you’re failing, you’re getting it wrong.” And then the avoidant partner starts to hide more.

The more the anxious partner behaves anxiously, the more they’re reinforcing the avoidant partner’s avoidance. The more the avoidant partner behaves avoidantly, the more they’re reinforcing the anxious partner’s anxiousness.”

as Julie Menanno explains.

What The Stories Teach Us About Cultural Experiences in Emotions

How do we love him or her? How do we hate them, and why? Over years of research, scientists have discovered an abundance of knowledge and findings that show how certain situations, contexts, and behaviors elicit specific emotions, such as joy, love, anger, and sadness. Scientists have found that cultures substantially shape our emotions and the way we experience and express them (see, for review, Karandashev, 2021; Mesquita, 2022).

The Cultural Study of Emotions in the Hadza People and Americans in North Carolina

In 2016, Katie Hoemann and Batja Mesquita, the researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, started to investigate how the people known as the Hadza, a group of hunter-gatherers living in a remote area in the north central part of Tanzania, experience and express emotions.

Researchers collected the stories the Hadza people shared with them about their feelings. The authors compared how those stories were different from the stories told by Americans from North Carolina.

In a recent article published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, the authors compared the stories they collected from the Hadza people with the stories collected from American university students and community members in North Carolina. They examined the narratives people use to construct their emotional experiences.

Researchers discovered that these two cultural groups have different methods of describing emotions. Furthermore, the differences the authors have observed are surprising for the right comprehension of emotions. The manner in which individuals communicate and perceive their emotions can have a significant impact on their social interactions and relationships. In the absence of the right understanding, we can overlook nuance and diversity in our understanding of emotions. We can miss the intended meaning and what others are trying to say.

In these studies, researchers interviewed the Hadza and American adults, asking them to recall a recent time they felt pleasant or unpleasant, and then answered questions like “Where were you?” “What happened?” and “How did you feel about it?”

What the Hadza people and Americans in North Carolina say about emotions:

The Hadza people emphasize physical experiences and bodily sensations while Americans emphasize mental experiences and subjective feelings

Researchers quickly noticed that the Hadza stories frequently emphasized physical experiences, such as bodily sensations and movements. As an illustration, a woman in her middle age expressed her experience of not receiving payment for a job by referring to her heart, head, and hands:

“My heart is beating very fast until my head is pounding, because I’m using so much power while working hard, because I expected I would get something for it. But I got nothing.… When someone refuses to pay you, it’s like they cut your hands: because even if you go do other jobs, you worry the next guy also won’t pay you.”

Katie Hoemann and Batja Mesquita

Different from these narratives, these stories of Americans about emotion placed more emphasis on mental experience—subjective feelings, conclusions, and explanations—than on physical sensations, as did the Hadza. For instance, a middle-aged American woman highlighted her rage, her sense of “unworthiness,” and the wrongdoer’s malice in another narrative concerning conflict at work:

“I was very angry, but unfortunately I never had any respect for this person anyway. She abused her power, she manipulated people, she … [thought] that all of the decisions that she made were the right ones. But the effect that she had on so many people was, well, so discouraging, and … she really liked to make you feel totally unworthy.”

The Hadza people emphasize shared experiences while Americans on their individual experiences

Researchers also observed that Hadza narratives about emotion focused on shared experiences, i.e., other people’s needs and viewpoints. The young man below said he was happy after a successful hunt because he “knew [his] kids would be satisfied”:

“I waited for the impala to come close to where I was hiding, ready to hunt them. I was hiding by a big branch of the baobab so they could not see me. So, when they are starting to eat, and I started descending slowly and I started to shoot them … I was laughing so much because I had never killed an impala before. My whole life I had been trying to kill impala. This was a very lucky day for me.… I loved it so much because I knew my kids would be satisfied.”

This description is contrasted with a statement made by a young American man in North Carolina, whose story of winning a different kind of major game was far more self-centered. He describes his appearance in the local paper and the accolades he received as a “ego-trip.”

“I played for our varsity basketball team, and we were playing one of our big rivals, and I ended up scoring, I don’t know, like 16 points in the last quarter, which basically won the game for us. I received a lot of praise for that, and then the next day in the newspaper it had a big article write-up about me, and the picture, and so … I felt praised, kind of an ego-trip.… I knew I would get a lot of recognition that night and have a lot of fun.”

What Are the Differences Between Hadza and Americans’ Narratives About Emotions?

The authors summed up their findings by examining patterns in the emotional narratives from Hadza and North Carolina and comparing data from both sets of interviews. Participants’ comments about time, objectives, and the reasons behind their actions varied. Aside from that, the authors concluded that:

  • American participants place the emphasis on their individual experiences, whereas Hadza people place the emphasis on their shared experiences,
  • American participants place the emphasis on mental experiences, whereas the Hadza people place the emphasis on their physical sensations.

These distinctions show how culture shapes stories about emotions, just like it shapes any other narrative practice. There is no single way to discuss feelings. In fact, feelings may not even play an important role in how people make sense of their experiences.

You can see more studies presented in the recent books Cultural Models of Emotions by Karandashev (2021) and Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions by Mesquita (2022).