Which Type of Love is Most Powerful? Science Attempts an Answer
By Erin Froehlich More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Id and Ego Blog Series
As disillusioned as many of us are toward that commercial holiday Valentine's Day, it's hard to pass the occasion without thinking about love. But what IS love actually? We experience it in so many different ways. Love or lust for our partner. Familial love for our parents and siblings. There's love for close friends. Love for pets. And it's not constant. It can grow or it can fade. Now, science is attempting to measure that elusive feeling in an intriguing 15 minute documentary: "The Love Competition."
Watching this strangely moving, yet scientific short film, you see 7 participants volunteer to put their love to the test and to attempt to "outlove" the other 6.
The film explains the rules, "Contestants will have 5 minutes in an fMRI machine to love someone as hard as they can. Brain regions involved in producing the neurochemical experience of love will be measured. The contestant who generates the greatest level of activity in those areas, wins."
The first introduced to us in the film is Kent, aged 75. Kent is going to attempt to outlove the others by thinking about his wife who, he says, he met and fell in love with over 50 years ago. He tells the interviewer, "I can still feel that feeling and while that original intensity maybe has moderated, my respect and admiration for her has deepened so the love has taken on a new definition as we've been together all these years."
The second says she’ll be focusing a much more recent love interest. In order to outlove the others,"I will be thinking of all the cute, random, sweet things of my boyfriend." said Tiffany, age 23.
The third, Peter age 31 had an unusual subject he would be pinning for - his EXgirlfriend."When you’re in a relationship like that it's sort of like a death. You know, when it's not around anymore you do go through the stages of grief…” But instead of focusing on his loss, he told the interviewers, “I'm going to focus on the first 8 months when things were perfect."
As Morgan, age 24 told interviewers, she wouldn't be thinking of any one person at all! Rather, she says she’d be focusing on love in general. "I've been meditating on love...it's sort of truncated chakra medication.” She admits she doesn’t think this love could win out over a love that is focused on a single person but,she says, “I don't feel like I've ever actually been in love so... I'm told that once you are in love you know and if I'm apprehensive, that probably means I haven't felt it."
The fifth, Don at age 60, tells the interviewer that while he’s been in love many times throughout his life, he’ll be taking a similar approach to Morgan on this challenge. "I can think of so many things that I've loved that don't necessarily relate to romance or lust or whatever the wide variety of responses are that we attach the word love to. I find love unavoidable and continuous and often coming from somewhere you don't expect."
The silly game of “I love you.” “I love you more!” isn’t typically a contest where any clear winner could be determined, but for perhaps the first time, the introduction of the next contestant actually allows the love of two partners to be scientifically measured against the other. Marilyn, aged 72, is actually the wife of contestant one! When asked what real love meant to her, she explained, “It means to evolve together... you're helping the other person to evolve into the person their meant to be, and they're helping you evolve."
When asked whether he’d ever been in love before, the last contestant answered somewhat embarrassed, “Not like CRUSH love, but I have." Milo, age 10, represented the innocent familial type of love, as he focused on his baby cousin.
So whose love would prove most powerful?
The husband’s for his wife? The wife’s for her husband? The grief-stricken ex’s? The new, exciting love of the young woman? The pure, non-specific love? The love of a child for his baby cousin?
The scientists, who watched and analyzed the data as thoughts of love sparked blue, yellow, and green across the brain, were more curious spectators than answer-seeking experts. What does love actually look like? How would these very different types of love measure up against the others?
As for the contestants, though the actual measurement process lasted for just 5 minutes, there were some very powerful responses in its aftermath. There were tears of gratitude from some, and somber revelations made by others.