9/15/2010

True love

Somewhere amid attraction and sex, we all hope, are strong feelings of love. But which of all the motivations really drives us? Interestingly, brain scans in people who'd recently fallen in love reveal more activity related to love than sex. "Romantic love is one of the most powerful of all human experiences," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. "It is definitely more powerful than the sex drive."

The rules of attraction make up a pretty long list. No scientist knows the order of the list. But near the top is perhaps one of the toughest characteristics to gauge in advance in the search for the perfect partner.

Despite all their differences, men and women place high value on one trait: fidelity.
Cornell University's Stephen Emlen and colleagues asked nearly 1,000 people age 18 to 24 to rank several attributes, including physical attractiveness, health, social status, ambition, and faithfulness, on a desirability scale.

People who rated themselves favorably as long-term partners were more particular about the attributes of potential mates. After fidelity, the most important attributes were physical appearance, family commitment, and wealth and status.

"Good parenting, devotion, and sexual fidelity—that's what people say they're looking for in a long-term relationship," Emlen says.