x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Required reading: love drug

Amid news that a 'love drug' medicine may one day be prescribed to unhappy couples, we examine the science and art of love.

Scientists at the University of Oxford, we learnt last week, are at work on a “love drug” intended to keep couples together, and happy about it, for life. Anders Sandberg at Oxford’s Future of Humanity institute says that a future drug that modulates oxytocin – the hormone responsible for feelings of attachment – could one day help cut the high divorce rate in many western countries.

A drug to keep us happily married? It sounds like science fiction – and slightly scary science-fiction at that. So how much do we really know about the science of love?

- For an up-to-date introduction to the subject, see Professor Robin Dunbar’s The Science of Love and Betrayal (John Wiley & Sons, Dh104). Dunbar, a renowned anthropologist, reaches deep into our evolutionary past to explain romantic love and commitment.

- But can science tell us everything we need to know about love? See Plato’s Symposium (Oxford Paperbacks, Dh41) for the ancient philosopher’s take on the subject. Here you’ll find Socrates making his famous argument that through love for one another we can learn to becomes lovers of wisdom, and thus fulfil our highest purpose as human beings.

- Jane Austen, whose protagonists – including Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (Penguin, Dh41) – always end up both wise and married, would surely have agreed.

- For your dose of relationship-strengthening gender stereotyping, see Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps (Orion, Dh46), in which Allan Pease explains, among other things, “why women talk so much and men so little”. Hmmm; a 2007 study published in the journal Science found that both men and women speak on average around 16,000 words a day.

- Get back into the mood with Love (National Geographic Society, Dh116), a book of photography that celebrates people in love, from a young couple under the shimmering Shanghai skyline to an Eskimo couple in Greenland. It may be the best love medicine you’re going to find, until the boffins at Oxford come up with their wonder pill.

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