Big Picture, Festival of Undergraduate Research 2021, Life Sciences, Third year

Can Greek Mythology Provide a Fresh Perspective on Whether Neuroscientific Evidence on Pair Bonding Can Relate to Romantic Love?

Sofia Velazquez-Pimentel is a Third year student in Life Sciences studying BSc Physiological Sciences.

The concept of romantic love has been written about for centuries. Neuroscientific research on the long-term bond between two individuals, known as a pair-bonding, could relate to romantic love. This study used the myth of Eros and Psyche and pair-bonding evidence to define romantic love as a pleasurable feeling birthed from sexual desire and social attachment.

A ‘whiteboard animation’ targeted at university students was produced to investigate whether this perspective influenced opinions on romantic love. Most participants agreed with the Platonic view that we have evolved love to fulfil an emotional need, before and after the animation. This highlights the limitation in relating pair-bonding to romantic love, as research cannot investigate emotions directly. After watching the animation, there was a large decrease in participants who primarily believed we evolved romantic love ‘to pass on our genes’ and an increase in participants who believed ‘reasons beyond arts and science’. This suggests romantic love goes beyond ideas of reproductive success and its study is limited by beliefs of a higher power that cannot be explained by science. Views on romantic love vary in science and society but can still be related to the myth of Eros and Psyche. After watching the video, there was an increase in participants who strongly agreed that the collaboration of the sciences and the arts would be beneficial (p<0.05). Relating pair-bonding evidence to the arts may strengthen its association to romantic love and inspire improved hypotheses that may one day answer the question: What is Romantic Love?

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