Many people fall in love without knowing why they did. Most are unable to pinpoint specific traits of their partners that first ignited sexual attraction. While some may give personality or physical appearance as reasons for loving another individual, scientific research indicates that love involves more primal, instinctive elements. Just as animals give off pheromones to attract mates, humans may also produce similar hormones in the presence of potential romantic partners. The biological compatibility between individuals, therefore, could lead to chemical processes within the body that allow for sexual attraction and emotional attachment.
Research conducted by scientists credits the possibility of pheromones and similar love hormones having an effect on sexual attraction between two individuals. Adam Hadhazy’s article, “Do Pheromones Play a Role in Our Love Life?” talks of the science behind love. It states, “…humans might be using a different set of subtle small cues to help select our mates.” These subconsciously sent cues have sparked much curiosity among the scientific community: in what form are they sent? Are they released as scents? Are they referring to changed body language in the presence of potential mates? While it is true that these subtle cues encompass both scent and body language, controversy lies in the issue of hormones.
Though the production of pheromones in humans has not yet been confirmed, research points to the existence of a human olfactory network that performs similar functions as the pheromonal network in animals. Pheromones definitely do play a significant role in the mating process in the animal kingdom; for example, a skunk can subconsciously sniff out the presence of nearby potential mates through the release of pheromones. Humans could similarly be sniffing out potential mates through the release of such hormones. Dorming women’s syncing menstrual cycles and modified cycle times with the placing of male armpit sweat on female lips have long been considered as proof for the existence of pheromones in humans.
Helen Fisher’s article “In the Brain, Romantic Love is Basically an Addiction,” discusses the chemical reactions that occur within the brain when an individual is in love. She writes, “feelings of intense love engage regions of the brain’s ‘reward system’: specifically, dopamine pathways associated with energy, focus, motivation, ecstasy, despair, and craving…” The article describes love to be almost like an addiction. It forces its unsuspecting victims to undertake risky actions to earn attention and care from their partners. Love actually causes the brain to release the same chemicals produced when one is taking drugs. Whereas pheromones could potentially be causing sexual attraction, this reward system within the brain may be the one sustaining it.
Some see love as the product of emotional connection and attachment rather than only of biological reactions in the body. Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece tells the story of a piece hoping to find his match. After years of attempting to find a fitting partner, the piece finally realizes that it is he who needs to develop emotionally to be fully engaged in a healthy and lasting relationship. Although love could be started by chemical reactions, it is unlikely that it could be sustained without emotional compatibility.
Dayeon Hwang, Grade 11
North Hollywood High School