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I Would Love on You

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - 03:00 PM

Still from 'The Love Competion' Still from "The Love Competion" (Brent Hoff/Vimeo)

This week, a little treat for you. It's a short documentary called “The Love Competition,” by filmmaker Brent Hoff.

The premise. You get seven strangers. Each has five minutes in an fMRI machine to “love someone as hard as they can.” The winner is the one who can generate the greatest level of activity in the regions of the brain associated with love.

If this sounds absurd or a little gimmicky, maybe it is, but it quickly becomes oddly riveting. WHO WILL WIN?

The adorable old couple? The ten-year old boy? The dejected lover still in love with an ex?

Maybe you’re thinking things in the back of your head like “yeah, but can ‘love’ really be measured by a stupid fMRI machine?,” but as you watch person after person fall into a deep state of concentration (there’s a little camera tucked into the fMRI machine that lets you watch them with surprising intimacy), you begin to wonder, well, could it? Take a look:

The Love Competition from Brent Hoff on Vimeo.

My sister passed this video on to me recently, with the simple subject line: “I would love on you." When I finally figured out what she really meant by that, I found myself surprisingly... moved.

The question at the heart of things, the one on Brent Hoff’s mind as he made the film, is this: could there be a way to make external and measurable a feeling inside us?

On one hand, Brent concedes the futility of the attempt: “An old woman once threatened to throw her drink at me for daring to reduce love to mere chemicals!,” he says.

But on the other hand, in the face of the terrifying reality that we can’t ever really know what another is thinking, he figures why not use these new-fangled tools -- thanks to the generosity and spirit of play from the folks at Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging -- to try to get a little closer to witnessing a feeling as an objective thing? “All we can do is look into each other's eyes, listen, and feel doubt, or believe. So not to get all squishy, but in my mind, by masquerading as a competition, the film is attempting to prove the unprovable and make us feel less alone.”

Proof of the unprovable. Or just a great bit of fun. We hope you enjoy.

Who would you love on? Do you think you could win?

For a bit of Radiolab on the topic, check out Your Brain on Love, an odd little short that explores the biochemistry of love.

And for another of Brent Hoff’s attempts to make the internal external via competitive challenge, check out The Crying Competition. He’s weighing sadness by tears on a table. Four men. None of them can cry. A woman does it in but 25 seconds. The video has ended up inciting a major comments-war of the sexes, with people calling women fakers and men calloused.


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Comments [14]

Chelsea from Austin, TX

Can we please get the video up again? This was one of my favorites.

Mar. 01 2016 08:47 AM
BrookeB from Georgia

that was a truly amazing experiment i couldnt believe the amount of joy that all of these people were oozing and all the different kinds of love that they identified with. i recently had a struggle believing in love and had decided that i didnt think it was real and that the so called love i thought i felt for a person really wasnt love at all but i didnt know what it was i did go through a grieving period like that guy said and i thought i would never so called love again i thought that there couldnt possibly find anyone on this earth that could love me or get me or understand me and i was wrong so very wrong that couple that was together for 50 years is so incredibly lucky to have stayed in love all that time because lets face it this isnt a world where that happens very often anymore, my parents not being togtehr really really effected me and how much i trust and open up to others i probably will never be the same person i was before, not because i dont want to be but because i blocked so much of my life out that i cant even remember how i use to be as a person, all i know now is that love does exsist and i found someone who for some reason i cant figure out loves me and all of the emotional baggage and insecurities and bold craziness that comes along with me, god love him and i want to spend the rest of my life making him as happy as he makes me, i get it now
-no longer jaded :)

Dec. 13 2012 04:41 PM

For those who have not forgotten the "Fact of the Matter" this again gets at the heart of the issue of Yellow Rain, and what was wrong with the podcast from a third party perspective.

Radiolab has so much to answer for.

Nov. 13 2012 07:37 PM
Thompson Bright from Toolafalls, Mississippi

Couldn't anyone find a more wasteful use of a multi-million-dollar piece of medical equipment? Weren't there any poor folks who could use free diagnosis of actual medical conditions? Americans have to turn everything into a competition.

Nov. 04 2012 07:02 PM

Just found this: Kao Kalia Yang's (interpreter for the Yellow Rain piece) first response to "Yellow Rain"

Oct. 23 2012 11:28 AM
VD from Planet Earth

Sorry to bring this up, I did love the video and all, but were there no "brown" people that could participate in the study? I mean, this was not at all a sample of the US population in this day and age... Just saying... not that this was a scientific study (I don't think it was, right?). Thanks for posting it though...

Oct. 22 2012 01:51 PM

Anybody know the name of the song played in this video?

Oct. 21 2012 01:32 AM

this song is called the leap year by the pauses. love this post

Oct. 20 2012 02:35 PM

What is the song in this? I love it!

Oct. 19 2012 03:35 PM
Cay Cooke from Southern Oregon

A fascinating use of some expensive equipment,wicked smart researchers, and some wonderfully human participants. Well done

Oct. 16 2012 11:42 AM
Megan from Portland

Watching this, the deepest, most profound love I feel is for my niece and nephew. I'm not surprised the ten year old who's concept of love is for his cousin came in second behind the one ridiculously lucky guy who lived happily ever after. It would be interesting to do this study again with a mother or father involved. I know it's a different kind of love but I can't help but feel they would blow everyone else out of the water. Thanks, as always, Radiolab. I love you guys!

Oct. 15 2012 02:29 AM

What I thought was fascinating about this was the PSYCHOLOGY of it. All these people having a really intense experience when being asked to try to win a competition in which a judge was measuring how in love they were. Somehow the presence of a judge able to measure accurately had a profound affect on them. I imagine that loving God, thinking that you're supposed to be loving him and that he can tell, might have the same profound effect on religious people. God can tell, just as Brent Hoff can, how much you're putting into loving him, and it looks like from the fMRI experiences that love is intensified when you feel certain that you can communicate it and that you want to communicate it.

For me it says a lot about the intense desperation, the intense INTENTION, put into love poetry.

Oct. 11 2012 12:23 AM
kk from bed

super unnecessary and super cute

Oct. 10 2012 05:47 AM
Jacob from Love Street

As the video ended, I felt all the past loves of my life come together and speak to me in new ways. Its funny how one moment in your life can remain so magical. All the past worn shoes, lost friends, found friends, and small details make the 'love chemical' so complex.

Oct. 09 2012 08:26 PM

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