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The Science of Love and Betrayal [Paperback]

Professor Robin Dunbar
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 April 2012

Falling in love is one of the strangest things we can do - and one of the things that makes us uniquely human. But what happens to our brains when our eyes meet across a crowded room? Why do we kiss each other, forget our friends, seek a 'good sense of humour' in Lonely Hearts adverts and try (and fail) to be monogamous? How are our romantic relationships different from our relationships with friends, family or even God? Can science help us, or are we better off turning back to the poets?

Basing his arguments on new and experimental scientific research, Robin Dunbar explores the psychology and ethology of romantic love and how our evolutionary programming still affects our behaviour. Fascinating and illuminating, witty and accessible, The Science of Love and Betrayal is essential reading for anyone who's ever wondered why we fall in love and what on earth is going on when we do.

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The Science of Love and Betrayal + How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks + The Human Story
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057125344X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571253449
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Brilliantly stimulating.' --Sunday Times

'A stimulating and brilliantly provocative look at the reasons why we fall for each other.' --Sunday Times Summer Reads --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A brilliant and sparkling exploration of the extraordinary nature of romantic love - from the frontline of cutting-edge scientific research.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed more breadth and excitement 9 July 2013
By Acorn
Robin Dunbar is Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford and in this clearly written and entertaining book he looks, from a biological perspective, at why we fall in and out of love and how an intimate relationship looks and feels to those involved. Along the way he explores some academic controversies about the purpose and origins of pair bonding but these are never so intrusive as to overwhelm the story. While there are some descriptions of brain function and the roles of various chemicals, the narrative is lucid and tailored to the general reader.

Dunbar explores love as it is expressed between couples, mother and child, friends and relatives. Each of these kinds of love is somewhat different (and triggers different areas of our brains) but they share many of the same psychological and physical benefits. We are happier and healthier when we love someone.

Human brains are complex and despite decades of research we still know very little about how they work. The role of some key proteins and hormones is clearly important, but exactly why these are triggered and how the brain processes them remains a mystery. We are highly sensitive to physical contact with others and to visual cues from other people, the latter skill taking decades to fully develop. While other mammals fare better than us at using smell and taste to process information, we still retain a capacity to assess other people using these senses. Deep kissing is not just about checking whether those teeth are false.

The evolutionary link between brain size, language, social group size and pair bonding is complex and an area where there are competing theories. Dunbar has a preferred position but it does not stop him from presenting the other options and the thinking behind them.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a lovely book - Its a bit grander in scope than the other work by Professor Dunbar that I have read and liked (on Gossip, Grooming and the Evolution of Language). This is about "affairs of the heart". Far from being a mere neuroscience view of the processes behind falling in and out of love, it is a tour through many facets of this most complex and confusing aspect of human life. From ontogeny -- human's are late developers, completing their growth outside the womb as highly dependent beings for far longer than even our closest evolutionary cousins, which creates roots for relationships that influence our later behaviours, but also allows us to have bigger brains for our body size, which adds to the richness of our relationships and the complexity of societies that can be sustained when compared to other monkeys); on to aforesaid neurochemistry and the role (or otherwise) of various hormones in influencing the formation of close relationships (falling in love) -- on to the ways we decide to partner, both why we are largely monogamous rather than polygamous - through evolutionary arguments -- then on to how we may make very cold blooded decisions (famously Darwin himself wrote down a list of pros and cons for whether he should marry his preferred partner)..then how we perceive differently, the appearance of our potential partners, and on to how we arrange marriage celebrations as part of the social scene; and how we deal with rejection, cheating, in the real world, but also in the newer online social networked world; finally discussing the possible evolutionary stages through which we may have arrived at our current state in terms of all these different factors that cause and constrain our physiology, psychology and behaviour. Read more ›
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I always enjoy reading Robin Dunbars books. And this book is no exception.
It is always very interesting to learn more about evolutionary psychology.
Put in love and betrayal and it becomes a real page turner...

Dunbar has a true gift for making (biological) observations, that are obvious, but at the same time very thought provoking.
Surely, evolution is sometimes a strange designer.
And, perhaps, by now we shouldn't be surprised by strange bodily functions or weird evolutionary psychology.
- But certainly, it is still interesting to hear about:

This book takes us through many of the most complex and confusing aspect of human life.
Love and betrayal is afterall what most human drama is all about.
Using evolutionary arguments Dunbar helps us understand what might really be going on:
In pairbonding, when humans kiss, when irrational thinking
about partners might really be the most rational thing to do, when the
brain calculates how much pain we should feel after a social rejection,
and when someone touches us.

All in all, it is all very entertaining and very thoughtprovoking.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not a flimsy work. Quite serious in fact. Wish I'd read this 50 years ago. Gives great insight into working of male/female minds.
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