Love Will Make You a Total Asshole

Illustration for article titled Love Will Make You a Total Asshole

Today in awesome/awful things scientists make undergraduates do: psychologists have discovered that if you make the poor kids ponder their love for their girlfriends and boyfriends, they turn into jealous dicks who are eager to insult their supposed rivals and also blast them with loud noises. Effective!


According to LiveScience, study authors first quizzed 130 undergrads in heterosexual relationships on how jealous they were (sample question: "How likely are you to surprise-visit your partner to see who is with him/her?"). Then they asked the students to think about a time when they felt lots of love for their partner, and another time when they felt lots of lust for that person. After that, the students had to undergo three love-ordeals. First they looked at photos of attractive and unattractive people — students who'd previously tested as jealous felt more negative towards the attractive people when they first considered their love for their SO. Then the students had to play a video game with a hidden partner, who was allegedly a good-looking person of the same sex (subjects only saw photos). If a player won, he got to blast his sexy partner with a noise through headphones, as long and loud as he wanted. Again, when primed with thoughts of love, jealous folks gave their supposed rivals a more vigorous blasting. Finally, the researchers showed their beleaguered subjects profiles of "attractive, interesting, outgoing, fun-loving" students of their sex supposedly interested in joining a dating service at their school. When love-primed, the students — whether they were jealous or not — mercilessly dissed the attractive candidates. Says study author Jon Maner, "The more love they felt for their partner, the more negatively they tended to evaluate these objectively attractive members of their own sex." Interestingly, telling kids to think about lust had none of these effects.

So basically, love turns us into total dicks. Of course, this study has a lot of limitations. For instance, outside of a crowded highway, it's generally socially unacceptable to blast people you don't like with loud noises. And thank god most dating sites don't require you to be rated by a bunch of early-twentysomethings who do not want to date you. Still, what's interesting about all this artificially-induced dickishness is that it appears to be triggered by thoughts of love, not sex. Which suggests that love, which is supposed to be cute and fuzzy and nurturing, is actually kind of red in tooth and claw. This should not be a surprise to anyone who's ever been in love, but it might be a good corrective to folks who like to claim that sex is the cause of all society's problems. Newsflash: our hearts are just as dangerous as our junk.

Love Hurts (Other People), New Study Finds [LiveScience]

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Isn't it likely that their responses are partly because they're, you know, kids? If you ran the same experiment on people in their 40s, for example, I'd be surprised if you got the same results. Basically what this experiment seems to show is people reacting to jealousy in an immature way, which is unsurprising given their age. Most people grow out of that kind of thing.