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Movies Make Hormones Surge or Fade

Godfather Pushes Power Button; Bridges of Madison County Pulls for Relationship

From the WebMD Archives

July 23, 2004 -- Romantic movies really are better for setting the mood for love than violent movies, psychologists report.

Why? It comes down to hormones, says Oliver C. Schultheiss, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Scenes from a romantic movie -- Bridges of Madison County -- boost men's and women's levels of a sex hormone linked to attentive feelings. But violent scenes from Godfather Part II make testosterone levels surge in men with naturally high levels of the power-motivating hormone, Schultheiss and colleagues found.

"When you're watching movies, your hormone levels are responding, not just your mind," Schultheiss says in a news release.

He thinks this may also help explain why certain people like certain kinds of movies.

"Affiliation-motivated people like to see romantic flicks," Schultheiss says. "Power-motivated people prefer movies with more action and violence."

The researchers had 60 men and women watch one of the following:

  • Scenes from Madison County in which a farmer's wife, home alone, becomes attracted to a handsome photographer
  • Scenes from Godfather II in which a young mob boss-to-be traps and kills the thug who currently controls the neighborhood
  • Scenes of plants, animals, and native activities from Amazon: Land of the Flooded Forest.

Both men and women had 10% higher progesterone levels after watching the romantic scenes. Men's testosterone levels dampened.

High-testosterone men -- but not low-testosterone men or high- or low-testosterone women -- had 30% higher testosterone levels after seeing the violent scenes.

Schultheiss says testosterone is linked to the desire for domination and power -- a major motivation for men with naturally high levels of the sex hormone.

He says that progesterone is linked to the need to have close, friendly relationships with others.

For dates, Schultheiss says, romantic movies are "definitely" better.

The study will appear in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

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SOURCES: Schultheiss, O. Hormones and Behavior, in press. News release, University of Michigan.
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