A new song by the popular Korean girl group TWICE has recently been released, and I was pleasantly surprised by the song title ‘Scientist’. There are a few anime series which feature many science concepts in the episodes (see Dr Stone, Cells At Work and Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It), hence I was pretty excited to see how science can be incorporated into a Korean pop song. It’s safe to say, though, that I was thoroughly disappointed after listening to the first two lines of the song, as the overarching message of the song is to scoff at so-called ‘scientists’ who think too much in a relationship. Being an aspiring scientist who believes in science and the scientific method, I feel a strong sense of responsibility in representing the scientific community by rebutting some of the claims made in the song, and clarifying matters with none other than science.
Ratios and Attraction
Why do you keep studying me?
You are no Einstein
Why do you measure angles?
This is no sine or cosine
- TWICE, in ‘Scientist’
The first four lines of ‘Scientist’ is a cheeky attempt to embed some science-related words into the lyrics and rhyme them simultaneously, using ‘Einstein’, ‘sine’ and ‘cosine’. Usually, no normal person would use angles and their properties to study people. If so, you probably should stay away from that weirdo. However, the so-called ‘studying’ of a person is actually quite a common occurrence and we do it all the time when we meet someone new, merely based on their appearance. In fact, people are generally able to perceive another person’s personality traits accurately just by observing their physical appearance alone (Naumann et al. 2009). Although it might be erroneous at times, this tool to rapidly make relative accurate judgements from first impressions is useful many a time.
Furthermore, we also study others to find out whether their physical appearance appeals to us. Instead of measuring angles, we estimate certain important ratios of another person’s body which are important evolutionary characteristics. This is particularly applicable to men, as men have been found to value the physical attractiveness of potential mates more than women do in a large number of studies conducted in varying geographical context. The first of which is the waist-hip ratio (WHR), a measure of the female body curvature. Women typically have a lower WHR as compared to men because of certain conferred adaptive mechanisms, resulting in such an evolution. Firstly, a large pelvis facilitates a newborn’s delivery, especially since human newborns are known for relatively large heads. Secondly, a narrow waist indicates the absence of pregnancy and hence fecundity . Thirdly, fat deposited at the hips rather than the waist facilitates bipedal stability of pregnant women, contains fatty acids beneficial for brain development of the fetus and infant (Kościński 2013).
Another ratio to look out for is the body mass index (BMI), which is one’s body mass in relation to their height. Each gender has a healthy BMI range, and if one exceeds it, he/she is considered as overweight and if one’s BMI falls below the healthy range, he/she is considered to be underweight. Usually, being extremely underweight or overweight has their own health repercussions, hence men tend to prefer women with a medically normal BMI, although this might differ for varying societies and cultures, which is influenced by the environment at the time.
Contrary to what TWICE implies, judging someone’s appearance is common, as it is important to evaluate a potential partner’s health and suitability as a mate, which ultimately affects the human species’ progress. It is less of Einstein, sine and cosine, and more of primal instincts of looking for and finding the optimal mate for the self.
Understanding Love Using Science
So what’d you find out
About me so far?
My mind changes every minute
You’ll never figure it out
- TWICE, in ‘Scientist’
In this verse, TWICE claims that love is so complex an emotion that it makes it impossible for us to understand it. In reality, however, scientists now have a good understanding of what love is, and how it affects our minds.
First of all, many endocrine factors, primarily hormones, are known to be extremely relevant to love. The most well-documented is of course the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin, along with vasopressin, which serves largely similar functions. Oxytocin’s principle actions are triggering muscular contractions during birth and release of milk during lactation, while vasopressin is important for cardiovascular function and the maintenance of blood pressure. They also serve as neuropeptides, acting in the brain, triggering parts of the brain associated with love, including parts of the dopamine reward system, giving love a rewarding feeling. Other hormonal changes such as increased dopamine and reduced serotonin levels during different stages of love are also recorded and well-understood, which help in forming pair-bonds. Interestingly, reduced serotonin levels during early romantic love causes symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), such as stress, anxiety and obtrusive thinking. If you think about it, the fact that TWICE mocks people who think too much during relationships is amusing, because it is those who think too much who are actually infatuated.
Besides the endocrine factors of love, many functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have been conducted to understand brain activity in love. The general conclusions that are drawn from these neuroimaging studies are that brain areas that show activation in romantic love are the medial insula, anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, striatum, nucleus accumbens, and hypothalamus. These areas are important components of the brain reward system and all contain high concentrations of dopamine.
Despite the complicated nature of love, we are discovering more about it at a rapid pace. In contrast to how TWICE claims that we will never figure it out, its only a matter of time until we do.
Modern Lives, Modern Love
Love ain’t a science, don’t need no license
The more you sit there thinking, it’s a minus
Don’t try to be a genius, why so serious?
Follow your heart
Let your heart lead you, what you, what you waiting for?
-TWICE, in ‘Scientist’
The ‘love’ that TWICE and most of society talks about refers to the feelings between romantic partners in a monogamous relationship, which describes a relationship involving only one female and one male.
Mankind is currently predominantly monogamous, but it might not have always been the case. Comparing the monogamy of our species and other animal species in the wild, most monogamous species have only one mating partner during their lifetime, while us humans follow serial monogamy, which describes an individual only having one partner at any one time. This could imply that mankind might not have evolved to be naturally monogamous like many other species, and our ancestors could be polygamous.
Some experts describe our relationship structures as ‘socially monogamous’, which means that the monogamy which we experience now is a mere social construct, and has little to do with our nature. This could be because having monogamous relationships is more beneficial in a modern societal setting as opposed to polygamous relationships, which could be more beneficial in a natural setting.
In some sense, our monogamy is an active choice, a choice which goes against our very nature to pass down our genes as productively as possible. This behavior is similar to many other modern behaviors of humans, including deciding to go vegetarian or vegan, using contraception, and adopting children who are unrelated to them. To an ecologist, such behaviors would be confusing, because they are genetically suicidal, and should not contribute to the propagation of the species. However, to each of us, these actions make sense and are backed with sound rationale.
Like many other behaviors, love has to adapt to the modern societal scene which we live in now in order to be beneficial to our species. If we were to ‘follow our heart’ as TWICE suggests, we would follow our natural instincts, essentially reverting back to savagery, where polygamous relationships would dominate. Instead, it is the constant and active thinking of every conscious individual which prevents this.
Even if you don’t care for or don’t believe in the points mentioned above, I still argue that actively using one’s mind in a relationship makes it more interesting, exciting and realistic.
I’m not an expert on relationships, but there are many things to consider at different stages of one’s relationship. Its important not to overthink things, but closing both eyes and diving straight into things like a ‘clumsy Frankenstein’ will likely make things worse for both parties as well.
Let’s try not to hate on those who use their brain in any situation, because our brain is our greatest asset as a human being.
For TWICE, please rethink your lyrics. Thank you.
Naumann, L. P., Vazire, S., Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D. (2009). Personality judgments based on physical appearance. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 35(12), 1661–1671.
Kościński, K. (2013). Attractiveness of women’s body: body mass index, waist–hip ratio, and their relative importance. Behavioral Ecology, 24(4), 914–925.
A. de Boer; E.M. van Buel; G.J. Ter Horst (2012). Love is more than just a kiss: a neurobiological perspective on love and affection. , 201(none), 0–124. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.11.017