In Love? Research Shows You're an Idiot. No, Really. . .

Actually, the headline on the press release reads:

Reduced Cognitive Control in Passionate Lovers

Yawn.  How tedious.  How mundane.  How. . . scientific. 

But here's the conclusion of the research: "People who are in love are less able to focus and to perform tasks that require attention."

In fact, researcher Henk van Steenbergen and colleagues from Leiden University and the University of Maryland conclude that, "The more in love, the less focused you are."

Here's how the research went down.  Forty-three participants who had been in a relationship for less than half a year performed a number of tasks during which they had to discriminate irrelevant from relevant information as soon as possible. It appeared that the more in love they were, the less able they were to ignore the irrelevant information. Love intensity thus was related to how well someone is able to focus. There was no difference between men and women.

"When you have just become involved in a romantic relationship you'll probably find it harder to focus on other things because you spend a large part of your cognitive resources on thinking of your beloved," Van Steenbergen says. "For long-lasting love in a long-term relationship, on the other hand, it seems crucial to have proper cognitive control."

Van Steenbergen continued, "The reason why romantic love is associated with cognitive control is still unknown.
  1. "It could be that lovers use all their cognitive resources to think about their beloved, which leaves them no resources to perform a boring task.
  2. "It could also be that the association goes in the opposite direction: people who have reduced cognitive control may experience more intense love feelings than people who have higher levels of cognitive control."

*  *  *  *  *


Story Source:  Henk Steenbergen, Sandra J. E. Langeslag, Guido P. H. Band, Bernhard Hommel. Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers. Motivation and Emotion, 2013


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