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So, You Want To Know What Love Is

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

Do We Still Believe In True Love?
True Love or Just the Associated Effects of Emotion, Proximity, Exposure, Similarity, Beauty and Familiarity?

The Wealthy Widow and The Vagabond King:

True Love or Just the Associated Effects of Emotion, Proximity,

Repeated Exposure, Similarity, Physical Beauty, and Familiarity.

Robert E. Rigg


Updated From a 8.16.17 Research Paper

First Sight

At first it might seem that their love story might not get off the ground at all. He was a warrior rejected and attacked by his king because of the king’s jealousy. He was a man with no country a man on the run. She was the wife of a rich demanding landowner who was not about to let go of his prized possession. It seemed impossible that they would even find each other in the crowded agricultural center. It would take an act of God for the two potential lovers to cross paths and glance for only a moment into each other’s eyes. If that moment could happen then perhaps physical beauty would pull them closer together.

For without proximity other things may not follow, how can they be attracted by their beauty if they are never in the same proximity (Branscombe & Baron, 2017). This is a love story by all accounts, but the story itself reveals the fallacy of magical mystical true romantic love and supplants the fairy-tale version with a truer truthful love, which for this paper we will call true psychological love.

Romantic Love

Romantic love has been written about and sung about for ages. Romantic Love is what young girls dream about in their younger years until the day of their wedding and beyond. Aron et. al., (2005) supported this thought with this passage from their study, “Intense romantic love is a cross-culturally universal phenomenon. In a survey of 166 contemporary societies, Jankowiak and Fischer (1992) found evidence of romantic love in 147” (p. 327). But with the new discoveries in brain science aided by brain imagery we must look at romantic love or what we might call true love with new eyes.

If we place romantic true love under the microscope of brain imagery and modern neuroscience we might begin to understand that what has been called over the centuries romantic love or true love is really just a series of neurochemical reactions to stimuli which feed the brain’s need to feel good similar to the use of psychoactive chemicals. (Branscombe & Baron, 201. P. 227). Arons et. al., report in their paper “Reward, Motivation, and Emotion Systems Associated with Early-Stage Intense Romantic Love”,

First, romantic love would specifically involve subcortical regions that mediate reward,

such as the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens

such as the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and ventral striatum/nucleus accumbent . 1984;

and Everitt 1996; Schultz 2000; Wise and Hoffman 1992). Several of the behavioral

aspects of romantic love suggest that it can be like cocaine-reward producing

exhilaration, excessive energy, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite (2005, p. 327).

Psychological Love

Psychological love on the other hand does not pretend to be something mystically implanted on the unsuspecting victims of romantic true love. It does try to explain this love phenomenon with chemistry, logic and experiments. As stated above psychological love is a reaction to different stimuli which releases a set of neurochemicals that create a euphoric state of mind, a lightheadedness or a feeling of being loved (Branscombe & Baron, 201. P. 227).

Let’s look at our two star crossed lovers or maybe that should be our two neural crossed lovers. They are about to cross paths, and depending how your belief system they may have been directed by God, or they just happened to run into each other.

Associated Effects of Proximity

Our hero and his band of amazing men are looking to make some money the only way they know how by marauding around. They came upon some men tending sheep and offered to “protect” them from the bad guys for a price. When they were told of who to extract the protection fee from they learn it was a local wealthy landowner named Nabal, the husband of our fair lady Abigail. Soon we have our hero and our heroine in proximity as the dashing and daring vagabond David will attempt to extort a protection fee from the wealthy landowner Nabal.

David is rebuffed by Nabal and insulted at the same time (Zucker, & Reiss, (2016). Meanwhile Abigail, who “is the centerpiece of 1 Samuel 25. Termed “extraordinarily

enterprising and practical” after learning of David’s anger heads out in an attempt to calm David down in order to protect her husband. She offers him food and supplies in exchange for David to leave her husband alone. Now with proximity comes the opportunity for the eye to eye look of love.

Our soon to be lovers have seen each other because of proximity their physical attraction can begin as noted below,

The initial contact between two people is very often based on proximity—nearness to

each other in physical space. Proximity leads to repeated exposure effect and that, in

turn, often produces familiarity and increased attraction (Branscombe & Baron, 2017. P.


Associated Effects of Physical Beauty

People are attracted by physical beauty. This is an age-old phenomenon as well. Without physical beauty human life would just fade away. I believe this is God’s gift to humans. To keep us alive and on the planet, he created the reward pathway which creates pleasure in the brain. In this case our hero David was hit by the beauty of Abigail and because of neurochemical reaction to her beauty stimuli he was smitten or brought to a neurologic high.

As Branscombe & Baron state, “physical beauty and also youth have been found to be among the most important characteristics people generally seek in a potential romantic partner” (2017. P. 250). Abigail was a knockout and more, “Abigail is beautiful, intelligent, cunning, and brave. She is a “take charge” person. She recognizes . . . and understands power” (Aron et. al., 2005, p. 74). It is becoming clear how these two are drawing closer together.

David is no wallflower either, he had that look that women want, “So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12, NIV). Proximity brought them close enough to see each other’s beauty. Their beauty gave them reason to have repeated exposure.

Associated Effects of Repeated Exposure

The more people are near each other the more trust can be built. By having repeated exposures to each other people feelings of discomfort decrease and comfort with that person increases. (Branscombe & Baron, 2017. P. 230). David and Abigail are now becoming more involved through repeated exposure. After her husband Nabal dies David sends for her and Abigail responds by showing up at David’s camp. The true psychological love effect is beginning to work, first proximity, second physical beauty takes hold and now repeated exposure will move them along toward true psychological love.

Associated Effects of Similarity

People will be more likely to follow through with a friendship or romantic relationship if they similarities. Friendships and relationships can grow because similarities make it easier, more things to talk about and do together. The similarity hypothesis demonstrated that couples who grow old together tend to gain more similarities.

David and Abigail have a couple of similarities. First, they are both smart strong willed determined people (Aron et. al., 2005). They were living in the land of Judea, they were Jews and spoke the same language. They had both recently lost someone who they were close to, Abigail lost her husband Nabal and David had lost his mentor and father figure Samuel.

“Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him. They buried him at his

house at Ramah. Then David got up and went down to the wilderness of Paran” (1

Samuel 25: 1, LEB).

The many similarities including culturally helped to move the relationship forward.

Associated Effects of Familiarity

More exposure, more conversations, more business type associations, and more opportunity to pursue after the death of Abbigail’s husband creates fertile ground for familiarity. Familiarity helps people gain trust and bond with each other (Branscombe & Baron, 2017).

The familiarity they share gives Abbigail the freedom to flatter and influence David with words that bless his ears, “Abigail’s repetition of the phrase “my lord”—used just short of fifteen times—explains Fox, “may seem overly groveling to modern ears but which serves to accomplish her purpose” (Fox: 394). David listens carefully and blesses her” (Aron et. al., 2005, p. 74). Yes, they are becoming quite familiar. So much so that the romance escalates and soon we will have the happy ending to our story.

Associated Effects of Emotions

Emotions are guided by neurological processes as stated by Shafir, Taylor, Atkinson, Langenecker, & Zubieta,

… representing the physiological… status of all body tissues, which create in the brain

unique neural activation patterns. These neural activation patterns represent

unconscious emotions that guide behavior and influence decisions, and they correlate

with the conscious feelings of those emotions (Damasio,1999) (Shafir, Taylor, Atkinson,

Langenecker, & Zubieta, 2013, p. 219).

The hero and heroine of this love story have crossed through many emotions throughout their story. Both had lost people near to them and must have been experiencing some loss. Our hero is an emotional man, he has anger against Nabal and then a soft heart when he asks Abbigail to marry him. She comes to him with praise and expressing her admiration for him. They both have the ability to express emotions openly to each other which creates a bond and closeness with each other (Branscombe & Baron, 2017).

Romantic Love and Psychological Love

Our definition of romantic love must be broadened to include the neurological processes that are activated in the brain when one experiences emotions and love. We now know that early-stage romantic love is brought on by the reward and goal regions of the brain. The reward pathway and the spark of reward neurotransmitters is what gives us the romantic love high. Once this is activated neurological rewards are ignited by, proximity, repeated exposure, familiarity, similarity and physical beauty. This associated effects can lead to long lasting relationships as the benefits and rewards are maintained (Aron et. al., 2005).


The story of “The Wealthy Widow and The Vagabond King” brought David and Abigail into proximity through circumstances beyond their control. Once they were in proximity of each other their desire for each other was raised by their physical beauty igniting the reward pathway. The attraction to each other gave them motivation to create repeated exposures with each other. Repeated exposure led to knowing more about their similarities which created more rewards and benefits which led to more attraction.

The time together created familiarity with each other which fanned the flames of desire and the hope of being together,

Then David sent and spoke with Abigail to take her for his wife… Then Abigail quickly

got up and rode on the donkey, along with five of her maidservants who attended her,

and she went after the messengers of David and became his wife (1Samuel 25: 39 & 42,


True psychological love is the modern neurological version of true romantic love and can support this married couple living happily ever after.


Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D. J., Strong, G., Li, H., Brown, L. L., (2005).

Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage

intense romantic love Journal of Neurophysiology Vol. 94 (1), 327-337

DOI: 10.1152/jn.00838.2004

Branscombe, N.R., & Baron, R.A. (2017) Social Psychology. New York:

Pearson. Retrieved from:

Shafir, T., Taylor, S. F., Atkinson, A. P., Langenecker, S. A., & Zubieta, J.

(2013). Emotion regulation through execution, observation, and

imagery of emotional movements. Brain and Cognition, 82219-227.


Zucker, D. J., & Reiss, M. (2016). David's wives: love, power, and lust. Biblical

Theology Bulletin, (2), 70. Retrieved from: https://lopes.idm.oclc. org/login?url=http:

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