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Stony Brook’s Playboy Professor

The Love Doctor sits on a couch in his office with one leg crossed over the other. His frameless glasses sit perched on his nose, and his hands are behind his head, supporting it. The walls of the Doctor’s office are lined with psychology magazines. The floor covered by a large red and green area rug. More than 10 filing cabinets fill the space in his office, some acting as a barrier between the door and the rest of his office.

This is the office of a professor who was featured in this month’s issue of Playboy.  But it wasn’t for the centerfold.

His name is Dr. Arthur Aron, and he is one of 20 professors across the country that has made Playboy’s “Honor Roll,” a compilation of professors that Playboy feels are “reinventing the classroom.”

Alongside Aron on the list are professors such as Charles Bamforth, “Brewmaster General,” who teaches a class on an introduction to beer and brewing at the University of California, Ian Bogost, “Indie Gamer,” who teaches video game theory, criticism and design at Georgia Institute of Technology, and others.

“The first thing I did with the issue was to tear out the article and threw the rest away,” Aron said after receiving a brown paper envelope with no label, which turned out to be the issue.

Aron was initially hesitant when Playboy contacted him about the article, so he turned to the Stony Brook Media Office. The media office checked out the article and gave Aron the green light to continue with the article.

“Colleagues thought it was cute and that I shouldn’t worry about it,” Aron said in response to telling other people about the issue. “Women teased me.”

He also said that he felt that no one who mattered to him would read it.

“Or at least, admit to reading it,” he added, chuckling.

When Aron read the article, though, he was pleased.

“It could have appeared in Newsday or USA Today,” he said. “However, on the next page were the party jokes and naked pictures.”

Love, in the words of Aron, is “an intense desire to form and maintain a close and connected relationship with another person.”

Aron became interested in the psychology of love when he was trying to find a topic for his graduate dissertation.

“I fell in love,” he said. The woman who inspired his career is now his wife, Dr. Elaine Aron, with whom he collaborates on some of his research.

Aron said that enough was known about romantic attraction that there was a foundation on the subject to get involved with. Years ago, however, there was almost no relationship science. It was there, but it was not until 25 to 30 years ago that people started to look into the science of relationships.

As a professor of social psychology at Stony Brook, Aron has been doing extensive innovative research on romantic relationships. He is also the associate editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and serves on the editorial boards of Personal Relationships and the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships, according to his professional profile on socialpsychology.org.

Some of his work that he and his graduate students have been doing involves looking at various phenomena and how they relate to love.

Some of those phenomena include the effects of sleep on love, how smoking can affect relationships, how ethnicities can affect relationships and how returning U.S. soldiers’ relationships change when they come home.

Most of the research that Aron does is with a functional MRI, or FMRI.  Through the work with the FMRI, Aron and his students look at the activity of the brain when subjects are shown certain images or presented with certain situations.

But what of love at first sight? Does it exist?

Aron did a study some years back and found that a quarter of the cases that he looked at did show signs of love at first sight. Or “love at first meeting.”

In this day and age, it seems a radical notion that love at first sight can exist. In the digital age, the internet has put up a wall for the younger generation to hide behind. Aron, however, does not believe that this has any effect on love at first sight or first meeting.

“If you can fall in love by letter, you can fall in love by internet,” he said.

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