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The Psychology of Love


What is love? Around this time of year, a lot of people would likely say “confusing,” “frustrating,” or “completely and totally irrational.” But last Thursday, Psychology professor Dr. Chris Buchholz gave a lecture that broke love, or at least attraction, down into an actual science.

Locals and students alike crowded the front of Mill Mountain Coffee, eager to understand the rationality behind such a tumultuous emotion. Dr. Buchholtz started with a simple question, “what do you look for in a partner?” Some of the answers included muscles, voice, intelligence, and a big fat “CASH!” yelled by a little old lady drinking tea in the corner. But what really determines attraction?

According to Dr. Buchholtz, initial attraction is determined by something much more subtle than money or smarts: symmetry. According to research, the more symmetrical a face is, the more attractive it’s considered to be. And what about bodies? Research has noted a so-called “golden ratio” of approximately 1 to 1.618 that dictates how aesthetically pleasing a body is, regardless of size. This is supposedly because a woman whose hips are about 1.618 times bigger than her waist is perceived as more fertile, and thus more attractive. So really, human shallowness is a mere product of biology.

Dr. Buchholtz also looked beyond the first sparks of love and into lasting romantic relationships. The last half of the lecture was concerned with what keeps couples together even after their bodily symmetry has become a thing of the distant past. Though it’s hard to say for sure, his research found that even after decades of companionship, couples need more than compatibility to stay together: they need excitement, change, and unpredictability.

Relationships suffer from monotony, and the initial thrill of finding someone with that perfect 1 to 1.618 ratio dies off quickly. As such, lasting love requires a dedication to spicing things up every now and again. Dr. Buchholtz recommended that couples make an effort to change up their daily routines, take trips to new places, and experiment with hobbies. Of course, there is no fool proof plan for making the perfect relationship; not even science can do that. But, by attending lectures like these, lovelorn folks everywhere can have a better understanding of why they feel so hopelessly attracted to their remarkably symmetrical barista, or so hopelessly bored in their 30 year, cookie-cutter marriage. Ultimately, the answers are much more rational than they appear, even in the wild world of love.