60-Second Mind

Lookin' Crazy in Love

Psychologist Steven Pinker describes why passionate infatuation, typically associated with unhealthy romantic behavior, may have real advantages for long term commitment.

When Beyonce Knowles wrote the lines,“Your love's got me lookin so crazy," she knew she was caught by infatuation. And we’ve all wondered, how can such uncontrollable urge be healthy?
This week in TIME Magazine Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker puts a surprisingly positive spin on so-called crazy love.
He says that romantic infatuation, with its ideational obsession, mood swings, and intense need for signs of reciprocation is different from lust and long-term commitment.
Lust is driven by testosterone, commitment fueled by vasopressin and oxytocin; but infatuation taps the dopamine system and so feels like untamed addiction.
While this sounds dark, (think: Fatal Attraction) Pinker finds something positive in passionate chemistry.
In this culture of settling for the best objective mate one can find, there is built-in vulnerability: one of you may meet someone even higher mate value.
So Pinker suggests chosing a mate who is driven to be with you, and not your objective “mate value.” If the connection comes with involuntary reactions in the brain (increased heart rate, flushed skin, etc.) then there is less chance this person will drop you for someone with greater objective value further down the road.

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