Body Language: Faces, Love and Drugs

Make no doubt about it, looking at some people is more enjoyable than others. Even before someone has spoken a single word, they have already conveyed a tremendous amount of information.  We can easily ignore what someone is doing with their feet, but their face is a different story. If the clerk at the local grocery store says “How are you today?” we tend to look her in the eye-at least at her face-when we answer.

Many times each day we look into the face of others. As it turns out, some faces can be addicting; impacting us much like cocaine and flooding our brain with “feel good” chemicals.

Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University looked at the brain scans of people who were asked to look at photos of people they were very much in love with. When they did, the right ventral tegemental area and the right caudate nucleus went wild with increased activity. These are the areas most commonly associated with pleasure and reward. When triggered by looking at a loved one, these reward areas release dopamine…the same neurotransmitter that is released when someone snorts cocaine.

Think about how many people carry a picture of their significant other when they are deeply in love; not only do they carry it, but they get it out to show others, and to look at it themselves.  Like the famous potato chip commercial that said “betcha can’t eat just one!” referencing the habit forming salty chip that kept you coming back for more, faces can also have the same allure.

Some people I know who do a great deal of traveling, carry with them, and place on their nightstand in the hotel room, a picture of their wife. It’s not just for show, they actually look at it-even talk to it-before they go to sleep each night.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does love deepen the good feelings they experience when they look at the picture, or, does looking at the picture deepen the love they feel when they are with the person? Does it really matter? I’m guessing that looking at the picture-and firing off the brains reward centers-anchors, even deeper, the bond between the looker, and the one being looked at.

© Copyright 2010-Vincent Harris-All Rights Reserved.

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