The Science Behind Valentine’s Day

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what pops into your head? Red roses, hearts, boxes of chocolates and romantic music? While the history behind Valentine’s Day and Saint Valentine is debatable, the significance of the day is not. Valentine’s Day is about romance — the sexual attraction between two people. Today there are three main symbols associated with Valentine’s Day. It turns out they have strong biological roots in sexual attraction. Let’s take a look at a few.

Red

Valentine’s Day is synonymous with the color red. We eat chocolate-covered red strawberries, men send women red roses, and we receive cards adored with red hearts. Why the color red? Science has found that the color red enhances our attraction to another person.

At the University of Rochester, Psychologist Daniela Niesta conducted a study that measured men’s attraction to the same woman by varying colors. Niesta showed the same woman to different men, but varied the background colors or showed the women wearing a red or blue shirt. Next she asked the men to “imagine that you are going on a date with this person and have $100 in your wallet. How much money would you be willing to spend on your date?” Under all conditions, women wearing red or positioned in front a red background were viewed as more attractive and more likely to be asked out.

The effect of the color red on women was also studied. They asked a group of women to rate the pictures of men whose shirt color where digitally altered. The women also rated the pictures of men wearing red more attractive and sexually desirable. The men wearing red were perceived as having a higher social status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder. The women also reported a higher willingness to date, kiss, and engage in other sexual activity with the “red” men.

Chocolate

Nothing says Valentine’s Day more then scrumptious dark chocolate. According to University of Texas’ Dr. Bankole A. Johnson, “Chocolate’s ingredients have a significant impact on brain chemistry.” Johnson found that chocolate contains caffeine and two substances, tyramine and tryptophan, which the brain converts into the feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin. “It stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers,” said Johnson.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter of happiness. Most antidepressants work by keeping the levels of serotonin high in the brain. Therefore, as you might already know, each little bite of chocolate is literally a little piece of happiness. The other dance partner of delight is dopamine. This is the neurotransmitter of pleasure, and its increase is associated with sexual arousal. Another study conducted by Drexel University found that placing a small piece of brownie in a participant’s mouth caused a spike in dopamine. Dopamine is believed to teach the brain what is pleasurable. In other words, when someone gives you a box of chocolates and you eat a piece of chocolate, you could be telling your brain to associate the happiness and pleasure you feel with the person who gave you the luscious little treat.

Romantic Music

Romantic music can have an effect on women, making her a bit more willing and attracted. In a study published by Psychology of Music in 2010, French researchers asked females to test food products as a ruse to study the effects of music. The women sat in a waiting room with either neutral music or romantic music. After the ladies rated their food products, they were asked out by a man. The results: 28 percent of the women in the neutral music room said yes, and 52 percent of the women who listened to romantic music said yes.

A study at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill also confirmed that music can affect a person’s judgment of a potential romantic partner. In other words, when you listen to soft romantic music, you begin to have warm fuzzy romantic feelings toward the other person. They also found that listening to sexually suggestive music could literally suggest sex. Lastly, a study by the University of London linked women and low-pitched male voices. Apparently, male singers with deep voices may enhance the evening.

So this Valentine’s Day, let me make a few suggestions. Find a great looking red outfit, grab a box of delicious chocolates and play the deep voice crooning’s of Barry White singing “You are My First, My Last, My Everything.” You might find yourself being someone else’s “First, Last and Everything” this holiday.

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