When it comes to falling in love, we talk about heartthrobs, heart-stoppers and that special someone who makes our heart skip a beat. But to mix a metaphor, we’re barking up the wrong organ. What draws us to another person is not the work of the heart, but the brain. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, National Geographic’s “Brain Games” proves that less romanticized but no less fascinating notion with the special episode “Laws of Attraction,” using experiments to underscore the fact that the emotions we feel are all in our heads.
“It's always fascinating to translate the emotions of the heart to ‘algorithmic cascades’ -- the idea that we are all software, our genes are software programs, programmed to mate, to reproduce, and wired to seek out fertile, healthy genetic matches,” says host Jason Silva. “The idea of free will is a subjective one, but empirically we are a lot more predictable than we think. Attraction seems to be a pre-determined faculty, and that's wild.”
In one experiment, “We asked audiences to compare similar faces and identify whom they found most attractive, and then we explained how predictable their choices were. We also highlighted the common symmetry we see in attractive faces and the golden ratio properties, the sheer mathematics, ever present in beauty,” notes Silva, who gained a better understanding of what turns him on.
“Certainly, I can see there are archetypes for the women I'm attracted to. They all share fundamental attributes and common features. There is, in fact, a ‘type’ in my love life. However, I also find myself very influenced by pop culture ideas of romance, and find that features I have found attractive in female screen characters are qualities I also look for in real women,” he says.
But does scientific fact take the romance of out of falling in love? “Not at all,” Silva believes. “Science merely translates the metaphysical into equations and lines of code, but it doesn't reduce the power or impact of the subjective experience of romance and attraction. Goosebumps are still goosebumps even if you know how they work,” he says hoping viewers take away “a sense of having learned something new, a sense of wow, a sense of wonder” from watching.
“Brain Games: Laws of Attraction” airs on National Geographic on February 10.