The authors present two studies to support this model. Participants in the first study first imagined one of three situations: a long walk with their beloved one (the love condition), casual sex with a person to whom they were attracted but not in love with (the sex condition), or a nice walk on their own (the control condition). Participants then attempted to solve three creative insight problems and four problems that assess analytic thinking, which were logic problems from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) (e.g., if A < B and C > B then ?) As predicted, participants in the love condition solved more creativity problems and less analytic problems than those in the control condition. Participants in the sex condition, on the other hand, solved less creativity problems and more analytic problems compared to participants in the control condition.
The second study examined whether more subtle reminders of love and sex can also elicit similar effects. First, as part of an alleged attention task, participants were subliminally presented with words related to love (e.g. "loving"), words related to sex (e.g., "eroticism"), or a non-word letter string (control condition; "XQFBZ"). Next, analytic thinking was measured using the same GRE problems as in the first study. Creative thinking was measured this time using a generation task, in which participants had limited time to generate as many uses for a brick as possible. Replicating the findings of the first study, participants in the love condition generated more creative uses and solved less analytic problems than those in the control condition, whereas participants in the sex condition displayed the opposite pattern.
One of the most noteworthy implications of these experiments is that love and sex don’t simply influence the way we think about the people we love or desire. Instead, they influence the way we think about everything. The same researchers demonstrate this tendency in yet another experiment. When in love, it seems, we struggle to distinguish between the different qualities of the beloved person (e.g., "If he is so handsome, he must also be kind!"), a phenomenon that is often labeled the halo effect. Does love also promote halo effects for other objects? It seems that the answer is yes. The same group of researchers reasoned that the halo effect reflects global processing, and therefore it should increase when people think of love and decrease when they think of sex. They found the predicted pattern of evaluations (that is, less differentiation between distinct qualities after thinking about love and more differentiation after thinking about sex), not only in evaluations of a romantic partner, but also in evaluating different aspects of a chair! The takeaway lesson is that thinking about love, or anything that promotes a distal perspective or global processing, can make us more creative. Perhaps love is an especially potent way to induce in us a sense of transcendence – being in the here and now yet also contemplating the distant future and maybe even eternity.