Thanks to a culture “with a tradition of arranged marriages where romantic love is disruptive,” when Chinese people talk about dating and crushes, they tend to use slightly different terms than their counterparts in the West: it’s anxiety causing, it’s scary, it’s depressing. But despite all that negativity, it looks like, at least on a neurological level, their brains are firing up with exactly the same type of romantic fervor.
A Human Brain Mapping study found that cultural differences mattered naught to our love-addled minds:
They discovered that cultural differences in how love is expressed don’t change the brain’s neurological reaction to romantic love. The scans showed that love lights up the brain in the same manner, regardless of ethnic background.
“This measure doesn’t depend on culture,” Dr. Aron explained. “We were able to replicate our findings in a culture where everyone thought love would be the most different.”
To study love on the brain, men and women are placed in brain scan machines and shown pictures of their loved ones. They also see pictures of a familiar friend about whom they don’t have romantic feelings. Just as in the studies of love in the United States, the photo of the loved one evoked a unique pattern of neural activation in the area of the brain associated with intense reward — similar to the patterns shown when people take addictive drugs or gamble.
Of course, that Chinese people can get just as wacky in the throes of romance as anybody in the West is probably old hat to anyone who’s actually dated a Chinese person.