Press Release of the Week: “Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers”

This week’s Press Release of the Week was released into the wild by Leiden University. Here are its headline and highlights:

Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers

steenbergenPeople who are in love are less able to focus and to perform tasks that require attention. Researcher Henk van Steenbergen [pictured here] concludes this, together with colleagues from Leiden University and the University of Maryland. The article has appeared in the journal Motivation and Emotion….

“When you have just become involved in a romantic relationship you’ll probably find it harder to focus on other things because you spend a large part of your cognitive resources on thinking of your beloved”, Van Steenbergen says. “For long-lasting love in a long-term relationship, on the other hand, it seems crucial to have proper cognitive control.” Over time, a balance between less and more cognitive control may be critical for a successful relationship….

Van Steenbergen emphasizes that the link between romantic love and cognitive control is a new area of research. “The reason why romantic love is associated with cognitive control is still unknown.”

The study is:

Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers,” Henk van Steenbergen, Sandra J. E. Langeslag, Guido P. H. Band, Bernhard Hommel, Motivation and Emotion, November 2013. The authors are at Leiden University and the University of Maryland. The authors write:

“We examined the link between passionate love and cognitive control in a sample of students who had recently become involved in a romantic relationship. Intensity of passionate love as measured by the Passionate Love Scale was shown to correlate with decreased individual efficiency in cognitive control as measured in Stroop and flanker task performance…. This study provides the first empirical evidence that passionate love in the early stages of romantic relationship is characterized by impaired cognitive control.”

Travis-J-CarterBONUS: Travis J. Carter, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, published an essay in Psychology Today with the headline “Despite What You Might Have Heard, Psychology is Science“.  Dr. Carter writes:

“We base our assertions on real data…. That’s what psychologists do: we collect a lot of data based on what we can see, make inferences, and then test those inferences to see if they hold up to scrutiny. This is the scientific method, and it’s the best way to find out what’s true.”

Dr. Carter is himself the lead author of a study that, one way or another, raises flags.