Intermittent Love

Providing evidence ♥♥♥YET AGAIN♥♥♥ for another Chateau Heartiste maxim, a study has come out which finds that women love men who parcel their displays of love unpredictably (h/t: reader George).

I Heart Unpredictable Love

TO love is to suffer; to be happy is to love. So must one suffer to be happy? This syllogism won’t win any prizes in logic, but it accurately describes a curious paradox of human behavior: the allure of unpredictable romantic partners. […]

This kind of amorous attachment is like gambling — except that the currency is affection and sex. The key is that the reward is unanticipated, which makes it particularly powerful and alluring to our brains.

To understand why, consider what happens in the brain when people are given rewards under two different conditions: predicted and unpredicted. The psychiatrist Gregory Berns did just that in a study in which subjects were given fruit juice and water, both naturally pleasurable rewards, while scanning their brains with an M.R.I. During part of each session, subjects received water and fruit juice at random intervals; during another part, the water and juice were administered every 10 seconds.

Professor Berns discovered that the water and juice elicited greater activation in the brain’s reward circuit when the reward was unanticipated than when it was delivered in a predictable fashion. The pattern held true whether the reward was water or fruit juice — even though most subjects claimed a clear preference.

When the reward circuit fires, it also tells the brain something like, “Pay attention and remember this experience because it’s important.” This circuit releases dopamine when stimulated, which, if it reaches a critical level, conveys a sense of pleasure.

Intermittent rewards are far more powerful a bonding agent than predictable rewards. This is why aloof and inscrutable men are so intoxicating to women — they are like the unanticipated glasses of water and juice. You want to keep a woman on her toes by showering her with your loving lovingness in a very haphazard fashion, what pickup artists like to call hot/cold/hot/cold. The more astute readers will notice that the hot/cold/hot/cold routine is frequently and instinctively deployed by women when they are in the early stages of dating a new man, and need to test him for alpha male congruence. You, as the hopeful womanizer, should know from reading this blog that adopting the psychological tricks of women for your own nefarious ends is quite a potent weapon in the battlefield known as the sexual market.

This blog long ago discussed the relevance of intermittently rewarding women for good behavior and promptly punishing women for bad behavior.

VI. Keep her guessing

True to their inscrutable natures, women ask questions they don’t really want direct answers to. Woe be the man who plays it straight — his fate is the suffering of the beta. Evade, tease, obfuscate. She thrives when she has to imagine what you’re thinking about her, and withers when she knows exactly how you feel. A woman may want financial and family security, but she does not want passion security. In the same manner, when she has displeased you, punish swiftly, but when she has done you right, reward slowly. Reward her good behavior intermittently and unpredictably and she will never tire of working hard to please you.

The article about the study goes on to discuss why people are attracted to intermittent rewards.

The reason this happens is simple. The brain’s reward circuit has evolved over millions of years to enable us to recognize and extract various rewards from our environment that are critical to our survival, like food and a suitable sexual mate. Unlike predictable stimuli, unanticipated stimuli can tell us things about the world that we don’t yet know. And because they serve as a signal that a big reward might be close by, it is advantageous that novel stimuli command our attention.

Which brings us to inconstant love. It turns out that human love and attachment are, like the fruit juice in Professor Berns’s experiment, natural reinforcers that can activate your reward pathway. The anthropologist Helen Fisher studied a group of 17 people in the grip of intense romantic love and found that an image of their beloved strongly activated the reward circuit.

If you are involved with someone who is unpredictably loving, you might not like it very much — but your reward circuit is sure going to notice the capricious behavior and give you information that might conflict with what you believe consciously is in your best interest.

Indeed, you may not even be aware of your own reward circuit’s activity. One of the curious things that Professor Berns found was that most of his subjects couldn’t tell the difference between the predictable or unpredictable condition in which the reward was given.

Since unpredictable rewards cause more dopamine release than predictable ones and more dopamine means more pleasure, one implication of this study is that people experience more pleasure with unpredictable rewards than with predictable ones — but they may not be consciously aware of this fact.

Poon Commandment VI… CONFIRMED. By science! Oh, and by real-world experience.

By the way, the fact that people aren’t consciously aware of the pleasure-giving power of intermittent love goes a long way to explaining why women can’t adequately tap into their true desires and explain them without resorting to pretty lie generating hamsterisms. They simply might not be cognizant of the primal emotional machinations fueling their tingles.

Not just that, but there was essentially no relationship between the subjects’ stated preferences and the observed activity in their reward circuit. This suggests that our reward pathways may not only be activated without our recognition, but perhaps even in ways that are contrary to what we think we prefer.

Did science unintentionally uncover more evidence for the existence of the rationalization hamster? Why yes, yes I believe it did! Proof that you should watch what women do, not listen to what they say, about matters of love.

These data might explain, in part, the paradox of people who complain constantly about their unreliable lovers, but keep coming back to them, time and again.

Science discovers that chicks dig aloof and indifferent jerks. Feminists disengage from scissoring to console each other with an uninterrupted stream of feelgood bullshit.

Science: 1. Game: 1. Chateau Heartiste: 1. Love: 1. Game denialists and haters and feminists: 0.

I feed your unfathomably bitter tears to my Galactus-sized ego. Yum.

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