For years, ‘mzungus’ have been researching on the associations between love, sex and intellectual abilities. Some of the reports have fascinating information.
For instance, it turns out that when we are in love, our single-minded obsession with our lovers can impair other aspects of our intellectual lives, such as studying or working.
If scientists are to be believed, passionate love in particular is associated with reduced cognitive control; the ability to focus on one thing while ignoring distractions. Further, when thinking about love (as opposed to sex or a neutral topic), we perform worse on analytical thinking tasks.
Researchers hypothesize that feelings of love, which stimulate the areas of the brain associated with reward, may also deactivate the areas of the brain associated with other cognitive functions.
However, although love impairs some cognitive skills, such as working memory and attention, the experience of love may improve neural functions such as identifying emotional states and creative thinking.
This research involved mostly undergraduate students, so we can’t be sure whether love will also make older adults dumber; increased social interaction is associated with better cognitive abilities in older adults.
Although it may not be surprising that love makes us dumb, you might be surprised to learn that sex may make you smarter. A variety of evidence shows that sexual activity is associated with better cognitive abilities in older adults.
Researchers argue that older adults who remain interested in and engaged in sexual activity also retain stronger cognitive skills, such as verbal fluency, number sequencing, and recall.
Researchers posit that sex enhances the secretion of dopamine, which may then help to improve working memory and other cognitive skills.
However, because this research involved only older adults (typically 50 or older), we can’t conclude that those of us under 50 will reap any benefits from enhanced interest in and participation in sex, but it probably couldn’t hurt.
Further, because this research is correlational, we can’t be sure whether increased sexual activity leads to better cognitive functioning, or whether better cognitive functioning leads to increased sexual activity.
To determine a causal relationship, researchers would need to manipulate the frequency of sexual activity and then measure whether cognitive increases resulted from increased sexual activity. So, would you rather be smart or happy?
Other experimental research does show that thinking about sex (versus love or a neutral topic) improves our analytical skills. However, thinking about sex in the presence of a potential partner tends to make us dumber.
As discussed here, men’s performance on working memory and attention tasks declines after interacting with a beautiful woman, presumably because the men are preoccupied with thoughts of seduction.
However, some might suggest that if a man is acutely focused on working memory and attention tasks in the presence of a beautiful woman, he is the dumb one.
By Mike Mswati