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Health, Sports & Psychology

Are We All Love Junkies?

Updated Tuesday, 9th August 2005

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson really buys into the idea of love for sale – she’s always falling for the images of love used in advertising and magazines. But she wonders if it’s natural to be a love junkie - or if she’s being exploited by cynical admen. Ever Wondered sends her to find out

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Tara Palmer-Tomkinson Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: BBC

How do they package love and why is it so successful? Tara goes to see advertising guru Martin Smith…

Martin Smith

Martin Smith is Deputy Chairman of the London advertising agency Bartle Bogle and Hegarty whose accounts include Levis and Audi

Tara: Can you sell anything with love?

Martin Smith: Every good ad has to tap into people’s emotions but actually the one that advertiser’s tend to use instead of romantic love is an adjunct to it – sex, seduction, sensuality.

Tara: But isn’t this manipulating our emotions?

Martin Smith: I wonder if it is – in a sense it’s reflecting what tends to drive people every day of their lives. Love or sex are quite important driving forces in everybody’s life. They bind everybody together – everybody knows what you’re talking about when you’re talking about love.

Tara: Do the English buy love?

Martin Smith: I think that people know we’re playing games with them – they know that we’re trying to sell them something. And they’re willing to go along with the game provided they’re entertained, and they’re more entertained by seeing sensuality than they are by seeing inside somebody’s head and getting this schmaltzy view of love.

If you would like to find out more about the power of visual images then have a look at course D850 The Image and Visual Culture

So in this post-ironic world, the advertisers say we’re all aware our emotions are being are manipulated – but what so the psychologists say? Tara takes a trip to the Freud Museum for a spot of therapy from Dr Robert Stevens…

Dr Robert Stevens Dr Robert Stevens is Head of the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Social Sciences in the Open University

Tara: I’m not sure I trust those advertising people – what really is going on in my mind when it comes to love?

Dr Stevens: It’s a fundamental part of being human – you could even say it’s a fundamental part of us biologically. Your parents brought you into the world, their parents brought them into the world and so on – we’re all the outcomes of successful reproducers. If these people hadn’t been into sexuality, connection, love, they would have been unlikely to reproduce - their biology wouldn’t have been passed on in evolutionary terms. So I think wanting to connect, wanting to have love/sex is a fundamental part of being human.

Tara: What does Freud think about all this?

Dr Stevens: Freud took a rather different position. He accepted the biological position to some degree and saw psychosexuality as a very important feature of who we are. What’s important in love for us as individuals will depend on what happened to us in childhood, the kinds of emotional relationships between our parents, between our siblings, between other people in our lives. That these set up unconscious feelings which are then replayed or transferred onto the kind of partners we seek in adult life. This is the idea of transference. We’ve got to alert to the role these influences play in determining what goes on in our adult love life.

Tara : Is that craving for love what makes me human?

Sigmund Freud blue wall plaque Dr Stevens : Love is something profoundly existential. It’s, when we’re in love, when we feel desired that we really begin to feel excited, engaged with living. You know when you feel you’re really in love with someone or when you’re really feeling desire? You feel intensely alive, really engaged in living. The great quality or potential of love is that it enables us to try to overcome our existential aloneness, to try to connect fully with another human being.

Tara : So is there a written formula for love?

Dr Stevens : I think one of the problems of people’s obsessive involvement in love is that they’re very aware of their own needs and what they’re looking for…but they’re not sufficiently aware of the other person. Love is about mutuality, it’s about two people in interaction. It’s about connection. It’s very important to give each other space, to really listen to what your partner is feeling, not to impose what you think they ought to be feeling. Sometimes it may not be what you want to hear, but it’s very important you know what they’re feeling.

Next stop the cinema – where Tara watches her favourite mushy movie, Gone With The Wind. But is she still being manipulated? Educational psychologist Ingrid Collins gives her view…

Ingrid Collins Ingrid Collins is a Consultant Chartered Pyschologist and a registered Spritual Healer. She also runs the The Soul Therapy Centre

Ingrid Collins : Images and words in a romantic film or literature create an emotional response in the body. Emotions are called feelings because we actually feel them in our body. These images release hormones like oxytocin – the love hormone. It’s very good for our well-being – it’s why you glow when you’re in love.

Also if you have worries then a beautiful image on the screen you release endorphins, which help to calm the pain.

Tara : But if I come to see a movie after I’ve split up with my boyfriend – it might make me sad…

Ingrid Collins : But that’s also good because it might move you to tears and tears are also very healthy. They release a sad emotion – tears of sadness have a different biochemical composition to tears of joy. They don’t contain any oxytocin.

If you would like to develop an understanding of the role love plays in our social behaviour then have a look at course D317 Social Psychology: Personal lives, Social Worlds

If you would like to find out more about the ideas of love explored you might try these suggestions :

Books you can read

‘Psychology of Love’, Robert J Sternberg/Michael Barnes (Editor), Yale University Press 1990, ISBN 0300045891

’Advertising and Society’, Captus Press, ISBN 189571205x

’Advertising and Culture’, Mary Cross, Praegar Pub Text, ISBN 027595351

’Love: A Celebration in Art and Literature’, Jane Lahr, Stewart Tabori and Chang, ISBN 0941434206

Links You Can Surf

For more information about Dr Stevens and the social science courses at the Open University

For more information on the British Psychological Society

Also on this site : You can join Margi Clarke as she finds out more about what happens to our bodies when we fall in love or find out what Plato made of L-O-V-E

If you think you might be interested in studying more about these subjects, find out what the Open University has to offer.

The BBC and the Open University are not responsible for the content of external websites





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