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Emerging Perspectives on Distinctions between Romantic Love and Sexual Desire

Lisa M. Diamond
Current Directions in Psychological Science
Vol. 13, No. 3 (Jun., 2004), pp. 116-119
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20182926
Page Count: 4
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Emerging Perspectives on Distinctions between Romantic Love and Sexual Desire
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Abstract

Although sexual desire and romantic love are often experienced in concert, they are fundamentally distinct subjective experiences with distinct neurobiological substrates. The basis for these distinctions is the evolutionary origin of each type of experience. The processes underlying sexual desire evolved in the context of sexual mating, whereas the processes underlying romantic love--or pair bonding--originally evolved in the context of infant-caregiver attachment. Consequently, not only can humans experience these feelings separately, but an individual's sexual predisposition for the same sex, the other sex, or both sexes may not circumscribe his her capacity to fall in love with partners of either gender. Also, the role of oxytocin in both love and desire may contribute to the widely observed phenomenon that women report experiencing greater interconnections between love and desire than do men. Because most research on the neurobiological substrates of sexual desire and affectional bonding has been conducted with animals, a key priority for future research is systematic investigation of the coordinated biological, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional processes that shape experiences of love and desire in humans.

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