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Is love just a chemical reaction? © Dan Bright

Is love just a chemical reaction?

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Blame it on your hormones all you like, although they play a part in taking you to lovey-dovey town, there are also non-chemical factors involved in whether we fall in love.

People who are in love have higher levels of several key hormones. For example, oxytocin and vasopressin – two hormones produced in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus – cause stronger feelings of attachment.


The development of hormones that encourage us to form committed relationships makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: our ancestors would have been more likely to successfully raise, feed and protect their children if both parents worked together. But does this mean that love is just a chemical trick being played on our brains?

Oxytocin has been shown to increase the amount of time you spend gazing into the eyes of your loved one, and it also boosts your ability to read someone’s emotions. Some perfume manufacturers have tried to exploit this by adding oxytocin to their scents, but the dosage is too low to have any effect.

It’s possible that a more thorough understanding of the way different hormones interact may eventually allow us to create a potion that increases our chances of falling in love. But things like shared history, values and cultural reference points also play a part in whether we fall in love, and these things aren’t directly controlled by our hormones.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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