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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Science of Love by Robin Dunbar

"The Science of Love" is the fascinating science behind the human universal of falling in love. Anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, Professor Dunbar takes the reader on a journey of an often-ignored part of science that deals with what causes us to feel love. Drawing on extensive research and interesting theories, the book provides an insightful biological story. This excellent 325-page book is composed of the following ten chapters: 1. Now We Are One, 2. Truly, Madly, Deeply, 3. The Monogamous Brain, 4. Through a Glass Darkly, 5, Saving face, 6. By Kith or by Kin, 7. A Cheat by Any Other Name, 8. Sleeping with the Devil, 9. Love and Betrayal Online, and 10. Evolution's Dilemma.

1. A well-written, extensively researched, and accessible book.
2. A fascinating topic in the hands of an author with pedigree.
3. Finally, a book on love that is science driven. Anthropology, psychology, and biology (evolution).
4. Professor Dunbar keeps it real. He makes it clear that our scientific knowledge is limited and is not afraid to say so.
5. Defining the elusive term of love. "Perhaps the best and most successful of the attempts to define romantic relationships in this way is Robert Sternberg's `Triangular Theory of Love'. He argued that romantic relationships can be categorized along three independent dimensions: intimacy, passion and commitment."
6. The book is full of interesting research. On monogamy, "Similar behaviour is seen in antelope like the klipspringer. This small African antelope, not a lot bigger than a weaned lamb, is intensely monogamous, perhaps one of the most intensely monogamous of all mammal species."
7. Great use of neurobiology and psychology, to explain how romantic attachments differ from other kinds of relationships. "If oxytocin is about bonding, then its job might simply be to strengthen the bond with whomever you happen to be involved with at the particular moment - baby in the first case, partner in the second. It's a cheap chemical trick to bypass your natural defenses. Rational thought flies out of the window, and instead you get poleaxed whether you want to or not, your better judgment notwithstanding."
8. Laugh it up, it's good for you. "Laughter turns out to be a very good releaser of endorphins. Laughter seems to produce a more generalised effect that applies rather more equally to everyone who happens to be in the conversation at the time, whereas physical contact is very much a one-on-one thing."
9. The importance of smell, "smell plays a very important role in sexual arousal for women in a way it doesn't for men. Perhaps as a result, women rate smell as more important in mate choice than men do, whereas men rely much more on visual cues, reflecting the fact that men tend to make up their minds about a prospective mate from further away than women do."
10. What's really behind all that kissing?
11. Brains and how it relates to relationships. "Nonetheless, the bottom line is that both our brains and theirs are designed to manage our relationships. Our brains provide us with a semi-rational computer that complements the purely emotional component arising from the neuroendocrine systems..."
12. The six most important traits for a prospective partner are....
13. Great facts. "Humans are unusually fat by primate standards. In normal, healthy, average-weight women, about 20 per cent of body weight is fat, with men closer to 15 per cent, compared to around 3 to 5 per cent in monkeys and apes."
14. The importance of being networked. "In another study, wounds healed more quickly in patients with harmonious marital relationships than in those with more hostile relationships. Your social circle protects you in some way that we don't really understand."
15. It pains me to tell you this. "Yet one involves physical injury, and the other is a purely psychological experience. In fact, it turns out that both kinds of pain are processed in the same part of the brain, an area known as the anterior cingulate cortex (or ACC for short), which lies just below the main layers of the cortex in the centre of the brain."
16. One of the most interesting and surprising sections of the book has to do with religious kind of love. " Andrew Newberg (a neuroscientist) and Eugene d'Aquili (an anthropologist) found that individuals in the state of religious ecstasy produced during meditation have a unique pattern of brain activation. They show greatly reduced levels of activity in the left posterior parietal lobe (in effect, near-complete shutdown) and a great deal of generalised activity in the right hemisphere, usually associated with more unconscious, emotional responses."
17. Virtual love, romantic spamming. "Romantic spamming is a psychological art, often perpetrated by people who are not especially well educated. But they understand the victims' psychology and weaknesses and can exploit the loopholes in their defences in what is invariably a masterclass in deception."
18. The four most likely reasons pairbonding evolved. Interesting theories.
19. The importance of science. "Understanding the machinery that creates our experiences does not, and cannot, change those experiences for us, if only because we experience them as emotions, not as bits of the brain lighting up. We will continue to fall in love despite knowing exactly which bits of the brain fire up when we do so."
20. Extensive bibliography.

1. Very few links despite the fact that the book includes an exhaustive bibliography/notes section. In other words, does not take advantage of the Kindle technology. Shame.
2. Repetitive.
3. Graphs or diagrams would have added value.
4. Conveying conclusions with more conviction would have been welcomed.

In summary, I really enjoyed this book. The Science of Love lived up to my expectations. The book is full of interesting research backed by science. Professor Dunbar does a wonderful job of explaining the science behind falling in love and makes this book a worthwhile read. I highly recommend it!

Further suggestions: "The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us" by Sheril Kirshenbaum, "Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior (Vintage)" by Leonard Mlodinow, "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman, "The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain (Vintage)" by Tali Short, "The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good" by David J. Linden, "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer, "SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable" by Bruce M. Hood, "Human" by Michael Gazzaniga, "Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality" by Laurence Tancredi, "Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality" by Patricia S. Churchland, "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker and "The Brain and the Meaning of Life" by Paul Thagard.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2012
There can't be many people who know as much about people as Prof Dunbar. In prior books he took on the evolution of language (Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language) and provided a virtual short course in anthropology (How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks). Here he considers why people fall in love (choose to pair bond), and why they sometimes cheat.

Dunbar considers pretty much everything from why humans live as they do to individual choices. He explains why it makes sense for humans, with their terribly premature babies (by mammalian standards) and their niche in the food chain to practice monogamy. He also explains why some level of cheating can be a successful reproductive strategy and how, all other things being equal, there would be an equilibrium condition between true monogamy and promiscuity, with monogamy more common. But social structures can change this equilibrium, and he considers the tremendous variety of societies around the world, from strong pressures for pair bonding and strict penalties for promiscuity, to acceptance of polygamy, to the occasional matriarchal society and even polyandry. He also explains when and how these various strategies can work to maintain a society.

This book also covers the personal aspects of mating. Dunbar explains how people choose mates (such as scent, to ensure a complementary immune system for producing healthy children, and symmetry, to ensure good genes and health). He discusses the parts of the brain involved in "falling in love", remaining faithful, and, yes, cheating. As well as explaining why people fall in love and stay together, he also looks into why they sometimes don't, and why some people sometimes cheat.

Even that doesn't exhaust the scope of this book. Dunbar also covers the related topics of how pairing with someone affects "kith and kin", and how love of a god can be similar to love of another person. Concerning the former, falling in love generally results in the loss of a close friendship or two, and reduces contact with some close relatives. (That isn't necessarily to say friends cease to be friends, but they leave the inner circle of about five close relations a person has.) Regarding religious love, Dunbar shows that when someone falls in love with a deity similar parts of the brain are engaged as when one falls in love with another person. Likewise, there are similar features to the person's behavior in the relationship, although the relationship remains unrequited.

Overall, this is a well written and highly informative book. If the subject interests you, you should enjoy the journey.

I read the UK edition of this book* under a slightly different title. I don't believe there are substantive differences between the editions, but I would guess the US edition has been reedited to relieve some of the "Britishisms" for the American reader.

The Science of Love and Betrayal
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2013
This book, written by a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford University, was published as 'The Science of Love and Betrayal', 2012 Faber & Faber. It is a psychological postulation of why humans 'fall in love'. The cornerstone of Dunbar's thesis is that 'falling in love' is part of the evolutionary process and he explains in this fascinating and enjoyable book what psychologists and anthropologists have discovered in their studies. Dunbar discusses the chemical processes that take place when people find themselves in love.

He discusses the reasons for monogamy and polygamy, pointing out among other factors, that differences in wealth tend to increase instances of polygamy. His thesis ties down the choice of mates in humans to the evolutionary instinct for survival. The reasons and basis men choose their mates are different from the reasons women choose theirs. He explores some of the reasons behind such differences, including the greater propensity of women to be religious. This 'God-factor' (though there are more men than women priests and church leaders, women form the mainstay of religious congregations - in almost all religions. Women, he writes, are drawn to charismatic figures (David Koresh was given as an example) and thus men are able to exploit this factor. This is one of the factors. Another is the need for a strong person to protect the woman and her offspring - the 'hired-gun' theory.

Although he discusses at length the subject of cheating, he reminds us that cheating forms only 20 per cent of the falling out between partners. The four causes discovered from his studies centres around four kinds of events: (1) insults (2) failure to be at an important event (birthday party), (3) spreading lies and rumours, and (4) remonstrations (scolding).

This book is about the causes for pair-bonding in humans. It has talked a lot about humans 'falling in love' and why people get attached and subsequently fall out, but it does not offer any examination of what 'love' means. It is a word that is used almost daily by almost everyone, but there is no explanation for what it means exactly. Most of the time, it merely replaces another (often more accurate) word. When one says 'I love ice-cream' he means he likes very much to eat ice cream; when a man says to a girl that he loves her, he means and intends that he wants her to himself (whether as a wife or a special partner); when a parent says she loves her child, she means that she is very emotionally attached to the child. Emotional attachment may be the closest description of love, but it is not a flawless definition. It becomes problematic when the emotional attachment of one person to another reaches obsessive levels.

A similar work, 'A General Theory of Love', was published by three psychologists in 2000 by Vintage Books. That book similarly attributed human behaviour to the mix of emotion and reason, but adding that 'Because of the brain's design, emotional life defeats Reason'. And similarly, the authors referred to love by association with conduct and thus like Dunbar, did not define what love is.

Dunbar's book may appear to take the romance out of relationships but the author does not think so. We are, he claims, biologically and evolutionarily primed to 'fall in love'. We can't help it - even though we may fool ourselves into thinking that love 'is the greatest thing on earth'. It may be a good illusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2014
A very insightful book on what humans call "love". Strip away the romanticized stylization and your are left with the base instincts and biology of the process which all members of the species have in common. Nature has a plan, which doesn't include Hollywood.
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on May 26, 2015
Scientifically based, perhaps, but not scientifically notated. A bibliography does not take the place of proper references within a document. Since the bibliography does not identify specific passages, one is left to determine which book or article is what the author intended to pair up with his assertions. This is disappointing in that he then assumes he is adding to the literature, the goal of writing such a thesis, but instead leaves the reader hanging. It then takes on the force of fiction or prose and not science. Sorry.
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on September 25, 2015
very nice... lovely... :)
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