Biological Factors of Human Relationships
Biological factors are something that contributes hugely to the formation and maintenance of relationships- whether it is romantic, friendly or family related.Many researchers have conducted studies in which they have attempted to try and explain the link between biological factors and human relationships.I am going to specifically focus on Bowlby’s study on the role of hormones in bonding, Buss’ study on women jealousy and its relation to estrogen levels, Fishers study on the brain and its role in romantic relationships, and Marazziti who studied the effect of serotonin on love obsession.
These studies will help me show the role that biological factors have in human relationships in both the development and maintenance of them.
Serotonin. A neurotransmitter that may be involved in love, but is more commonly known as a chemical in the brain to change according to the moods of a person. A study conducted by Marazziti et al (1999) in Pisa (Italy) was to determine whether serotonin could perhaps explain the continuous focus on the beloved. The study mainly showed that the early stage of love really changes the way that people think.
He used 60 participants; 20 who were in love, 20 who were OCD and 20 neutrals- who were not in love or OCD (controlled variable). He conducted the experiment by analyzing samples of blood from each of the participants. He found that the serotonin levels in the lovers were that of the same level as those participants who had OCD. This helps to show that there is a possible connection between the serotonin levels in the blood and the connection of romantic love.
However some downfalls to this experiment could be the fact that Marazziti did not document or analyze and consider the serotonin activity in the specific brain regions may effect the validity and the reliability of the results from the study. This is because without having these factors being played into the study and research we are unsure of the exact role that serotonin has in romantic love. Hence, the influence of this biological factor is not soundly connected with romantic relationships and has no definite tie to show how it affects or doesn’t affect it.
The development of a relationship from the first and early stages of love to the more developed stages, couples tend to move from the passionate love to the more intimate relationship of relaxation, dependency, and security which all play into attachment. In 1969 Bowlby suggested, “Humans have an innate attachment system which consists of specific behaviours and psychological responses called attachment behaviours. ” For his experiment it mainly was conducted for research on mother child relationships however many believe that the results are relatable to both mother child and romantic relationships.
According to more modern research, it has been shown that both oxytocin- a powerful hormone which is released in men and women during touching and sex which helps to deepen and intensify the feelings of the select attachment- and vasopressin- a hormone released also during sex- help in increasing the bond that is between two lovers. Through this it helps the couples to feel closer and more bonded. One of the main criticisms of this experiment was the complexity of the researched relationships and how since they didn’t consider other factors that might affect the results, therefore resulting in the possibility that it could be unreliable.
However if looking at just this one aspect, this biological factor can be considered to have an influence on human relationships both mother child and romantic, but it is unknown the influence when other factors are in play as well. In 1996, Buss suggested that jealousy may be something that is biologically based, and found that women’s patterns of jealousy vary throughout their menstrual cycle. So when oestrogen levels are low, women tend to be more sexually jealous where as when the oestrogen levels are relatively high women tend to be more emotionally jealous.
This helped to set the base of his argument that “human sexual behaviour is grounded in the need to optimize the potential for reproduction, with the goal of the best genetic combination possible for the offspring, as well as maximizing parental care after a birth. ” When he did his study in 1993 he found that women and men in regions of the world with high levels of pathogen stress rated the importance of physical attractiveness. For this study there was a huge amount of gender bias as he tends to favor men and only criticizes women… This gives an uneven weighting and unreliable results from the research.
Also he made generalizations that cant be made as different people have different personalities. Due to these criticisms, there can be hints at possibilities on his theories of this biological factors affect on human relationships however it is not something that has been proven. Finally, Fishers research in 2001was a conducted study using FMRI (functioning magnetic resonance imaging) to analyze and examine the impact of the brain on romantic love. He took a large sample of young couples to test in this experiment.
He took each person individually into the scanner and showed him or her a picture of their beloved and of an acquaintance in 6-second intervals. Throughout this process, Fisher got results that showed the brain in love. This is because the brain showed the “reward” system when the picture of their loved one came up however when the neutral or controlled picture showed, there was no activity. Interestingly, the more passionate people were- in accordance to the questionnaire they filled out of the “Passionate Love Scale” before the test- the more active the brains reward system was as well.
All in all this shows that yes this biological factor does play a role in the overall outlook of human relationships. Overall, we can see that throughout the vast variety of different studies done by a variety of different psychologists, there are quite a few things that a lot of them did not consider. Through this we can see that yes there are a lot of things that could play a role in the human relationships but due to the criticisms and downfalls of the studies we are yet to discover how much of a role they do actually play.