A Sexy Bridge Of Love

Society has been dead set on thinking that love was some form of magical thing that involved alchemy, chemistry and probably math so we should never question it. I mean, math, who gets that? Love math is probably like calculus done while doing Pilates over a shark tank. However, many moons ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Social Psychology researchers realized that attraction is was a really powerful thing that made us really stupid. Thus, the fantasy of the power of love was born. Now, let us be completely clear- we believe in love and are all sorts of stupid when it comes to the lovey stuff, too.

Are you feeling aroused?

Are you feeling aroused?

In 1974, a couple of Social Psychologists decided to study attraction not as an absolute but as a construct that can be manipulated. What? Attraction isn’t just BOOM-ZAP-MAGIC? Nope. Attraction, like pretty much anything else, can be manipulated. So they constructed their experiment to see if the situation affects the level of attraction. I know what you are thinking- you and your love were meant to be together because some shaman told you that your soul mate would be wearing blue and there he was. Trust me, my aunt did that to me and then pointed at Paul and I was all, “no way!” But then, here we are 28 years later.

The experimental design was this: Men were asked to cross 1 of 2 bridges- the first bridge was high and unstable and the other was low and sturdy. Before the men crossed the bridge, a female experimenter would ask them to tell them a story. After they told a story, the female experimenter gave them her number in case they had any questions. The men about to cross the high, unstable bridge tended to tell stories that were more sexual in nature and tended to contact the researcher. They believed they were attracted to her. Whereas the men who crossed the low bridge, did not call the experimenter and their stories were tame in comparison.

Why did the men who crossed the high, unstable bridge become smitten by the experimenter? The Social Psychologists attributed this to a misattribution of arousal. Yes, they actually interpreted their fear as arousal and attributed it to the female experimenter. In other words, the situation where you meet someone can have a direct effect on your attraction.

For example, why do so many people meet their mates at school? Well, we can say that it has to do with similarities or proximity, but maybe it has more to do with being ‘foxhole buddies’. In a school situation, there is tension and stress. Whether we acknowledge it or not, the anxiety of certain situations may not be walking across a rickety bridge or cutting a red/blue wire, but your emotions do not know that. What if your crush is nothing more than a misattribution of arousal?

The point is magic and math has solutions and answers. Maybe we need to spend a little less time making them incomprehensible and a lot more time building a real foundation of friendship and respect.

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