The science of love – what new research reveals

Is red really hot? Do opposites attract? Can brain activity forecast longevity?

EMRS Valentine's Special
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Last year, Elsevier's Newsroom began sending out the Elsevier Monthly Research Selection (EMRS), an e-newsletter for science journalists featuring easy-to-read summaries of the research published in Elsevier's journals. Distributed to about 1,500 journalists around the world, it highlights topical, intriguing, controversial, funny or otherwise noteworthy research that has just appeared online on ScienceDirect and is likely to appeal to the general public.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, the Elsevier Newsroom compiled a list of research studies about love and relationships:

Is compatibility the key to a happy marriage?

Partnership longevity and personality congruence in couples

Personality and Individual Differences ׀

Many say that opposites attract, but results of a study published in Personality and Individual Differences revealed that similarities in personality could help to predict longevity in partnerships. Almost 5,000 couples were tracked over a five-year period and their personalities were assessed at the beginning and end of this time. The data showed that the more compatible couples are in terms of personality, the more stable their partnership was long-term. Couples that had separated within the five-year period, a strong decrease in the compatibility of personalities was found. [divider]

Brain activity could predict longevity of a relationship

Regional brain activity during early-stage intense romantic love predicted relationship outcomes after 40 months: An fMRI assessment

Neuroscience Letters ׀

Early-stage romance is associated with activation of the reward and motivation systems of the brain. Can activation of these parts of the brain also predict long-term relationship stability? This study, published in Neuroscience Letters, followed up with couples 40 months after an initial assessment to look for factors that would predict long-term relationships. Results showed that reward functions in the forebrain may predict relationship stability. Regions involved in social evaluation, emotional regulation and mood were also a good indication of long-term compatibility [divider]

Red is the right setting for young love

Romantic red revisited: Red enhances men's attraction to young, but not menopausal women

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ׀

This study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, demonstrated that the background color a woman stands against could affect the level of sexual attractiveness men feel for her. The researchers had a young woman and an older woman stand against white and red backgrounds; men of all age groups found the younger woman standing against a red background more attractive. [divider]

'I'd be just as happy with a cup of tea'

"I'd be just as happy with a cup of tea": Women's accounts of sex and affection in long-term heterosexual relationships

Women's Studies International Forum ׀

In mainstream culture, men's sexuality has been positioned as superior to women's. Published in Women's Studies International Forum, responses from interviews highlighted a lack of sexual desire in women, but the females positioned themselves as 'wanting to want sex', or 'desiring desire'. They expected sex to be an inherent part of a relationship and some participated in unwanted (consensual) sex in order to satisfy what they perceived as men's inherent 'need' for sex. [divider]

Looking for the short-term solution

Misguided Attraction: The Contribution of Normative and Individual-Differences Components of the Sexual System to Mating Preferences

Journal of Research in Personality ׀

Everyone looks for different traits in their partners, but our own level of psychological sexual activation may also influence the type of partner we look for. This study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, revealed that sexually hyperactive men have lower short-term mating standards than those who are less sexually hyperactive. However, women who are sexual hyperactive have much higher attractiveness standards than those who are less sexually hyperactive. [divider]

Norovirus links to oyster consumption

Infectivity of GI and GII noroviruses established from oyster related outbreaks

Epidemics ׀

Many couples will be enjoying luxury foods this Valentine's Day including the so called 'food of love', oysters. However, caution needs to be taken to ensure that oysters are prepared in the correct fashion to eliminate health dangers. This study, published in Epidemics, looked at outbreaks of Noroviruses from oyster consumption. Results showed that current processes (depuration, relaying, high pressure treatment or home cooking) are not effective at eliminating Noroviruses from oysters. These viruses are highly infectious to some humans and a need to increase food safety regulations on oyster preparation is highlighted. [divider]

The Author

Sacha BoucherieThe Elsevier Monthly Research Selection for Journalists is produced and distributed by the Elsevier Newsroom, which serves as an intermediary between the scientific community and general public. Press Officer Sacha Boucherie works closely with Elsevier's journal publishers, editors and authors at one end and with science journalists and reporters at the other end with the aim of spotlighting and promoting interesting, topical research articles. She is based in Elsevier's Amsterdam headquarters and holds a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
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