First I get cold then hot
Think I’m on fire but I’m not
Oh, what a pain I’ve got
It must be love [...]
It must be love, it must be love
I fall like a sparrow, fly like a dove
You must be the dream, I’ve been dreamin’ of
Oh, what a feeling, it must be love
Around Valentine’s Day, I advise those of my students who looking to get a special someone to fall in love to try to get this individual to go along on a roller coaster ride. It turns out that the brain often has some difficulty in determining the apparent cause of arousal–is it because of fear or because of love? The brain has to make an interpretation that may or may not be correct. Many individuals have found themselves to be particularly vulnerable to falling in love during periods of stress. Students experience this at finals’ week; a colleague of mine reported that this would happen to him when he was at academic conferences to present a paper in front of his colleagues. It turns out that, in trying to make sense of the arousal experienced, the mind may conclude one is in love–why else would one be experiencing this feeling?
In 1962, the psychologists Stanley Schachter and Jerome E. Singer conducted an experiment that today would be considered patently unethical. Male volunteers were asked to participate in a study ostensibly on the impact of vitamins on vision. Thus, each participant received an injection. It turned out, however, that in half the cases, the injection actually consisted of epinephrine (adrenaline), triggering arousal and “fight or flight” responses. The other half of the participants, the control group, received a saline solution as a placebo. As an ostensible part of the experiment, the participants then waited for twenty minutes in room in which a confederate acted in one of two different ways: “euphoric” or “angry.” There was actually an additional manipulation by which some subjects were made aware of a potential “side effect” of arousal–thus knowing what to expect–while others were either given no information or were actively misled with expectations of alternative, non-existent side effects. Those subjects who received the epinephrine injection and were either given no information or were actually misled were significantly more likely experience the ostensible feelings of the confederate.