More than a Feeling: Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become
by Barbara L. Fredrickson
Hudson Street Press, 2013 ($25.95)
Emotion researcher Fredrickson wants to revamp our view of love. In Love 2.0., she has us reimagine love as a series of micromoments in which any two people, even strangers, can click with each other. This feeling might pop up multiple times a day, perhaps when smiling at a stranger or striking up a conversation while waiting in line for coffee.
Fredrickson builds her case by expanding on research that shows how sharing a strong bond with another person alters our brain chemistry. She describes a study in which best friends' brains nearly synchronize when exchanging stories, even to the point where the listener can anticipate what the storyteller will say next. Fredrickson takes the findings a step further, concluding that having positive feelings toward someone, even a stranger, can elicit similar neural bonding.
This leap, however, is not supported by the study and fails to bolster her argument. In fact, most of the evidence she uses to support her theory of love falls flat. She leans heavily on subjective reports of people who feel more connected with others after engaging in mental exercises such as meditation, rather than on more objective studies that measure brain activity associated with love.
Fredrickson's strongest section is her exploration of how we can turn her insights into practice. For instance, she argues that loving-kindness meditation, which focuses on directing good-hearted wishes to others, can enhance our ability to connect. In one study, she found that regular use of this practice strengthens vagal tone, a measure of the vagus nerve, which relays sensory information between the brain and other areas. People with higher vagal tone are physically healthier, exhibiting less inflammation associated with cancer, and are more adept at bonding with others.
Love 2.0 offers a new perspectiveon a well-worn topic. Despite the book's flaws, Fredrickson's aim in broadening our view of the emotion is to spread the love. A worthy goal.
This article was originally published with the title More than a Feeling.