Monogamy – the most common type of relationship in our culture – is about emotional bonding with one person. Its opposite is polygamy – marrying more than one person at the same time. In our country, it is possible to enter into monogamous marriages only with a person of the opposite sex.
Searching for monogamy
The researchers set out to investigate whether monogamy could be “encoded” in the human mind and what it might indicate. The study asked 20 heterosexual men to view different types of pictures: some pictures were of a sexual nature, others were romantic, and some were neutral. During the experiment, individuals were subjected to brain scans.
Importantly, half of the men surveyed described themselves as monogamous: they had not entered into open relationships or committed infidelity. They also reported fewer than average sexual partners in their lifetime. The other half of the respondents had conflicting experiences and beliefs. They made it clear that they would prefer to have multiple partners at the same time.
The brain’s reaction was indecisive
The results showed that regardless of the orientation of the relationship, the men showed significant activity in the brain’s reward pathways after exposure to sexual images. These things have activated the brain’s reward system and have been described as “pathological.” The difference appeared with images with a sexual context. While the first group showed a similar brain response to these types of images, the second group involved high-level cognitive processing – thinking and analyzing.
Based on these findings, scientists cannot rule out that monogamy and its opposites are rooted in the structure of the brain. In further work, they would like to repeat the research on larger and more diverse groups.
More on the research: Hamilton, LD, & Meston, CM (2017). Differences in neural responses to romantic stimuli in single and single men. Archives of sexual behaviorAnd 46 (8), 2289-2299.
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