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UCR experts fill out Valentine's Day stories

UCR experts fill out Valentine's Day stories

(February 5, 2001)

Several experts at the University of California, Riverside can help reporters and editors answer those nagging questions that crop up when researching or writing a story about Valentine's Day. Who was St. Valentine? How did his feast day become today's celebration for lovers, steeped in roses, cards, and romantic getaways? Can love make you happy? How important are looks to establishing a relationship? And what makes a person charismatic?

The roots of Valentine's Day
June E. O'Connor, professor of religious studies:
Professor O'Connor's fields of expertise include Christian theology and ethics, comparative religious ethics, and women and religion. O'Connor can address the Christian origins and historical development of St. Valentine's Day. She can trace the day from the religious recognition of a Christian martyr to the national pseudo-holiday of love that stirs both consumer sales and romantic feelings. O'Connor received her Ph.D. in religion at Temple University.

Can love make you happy?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology: Professor Lyubomirsky studies the causes and consequences of happiness as well as depression. She can field questions about whether falling in love makes a person happy, why positive thinking can supercharge a relationship while negative thinking can sour a budding romance. Lyubomirsky's research examines why some people succeed at being happy and other don't, and why working harder at being happy won't necessarily make you happy. Lyubomirsky earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University.

How important are looks?
David Funder, professor of psychology: Professor Funder has studied how and why people shape their perceptions of a person on first sight. He can speak to the role of physical attraction in relationships. Funder has studied what it means to say someone is "good looking" in today's society. Funder has also studied the factors that make judgments about personalities of others and ourselves more or less likely to be accurate. Funder earned his Ph.D at Stanford University.

What is charisma?
Shelby Taylor, psychology instructor, and researcher in charisma: Taylor, who has spent the last five years studying what makes a person charismatic, said physical beauty alone is not enough. Her research shows that expressiveness with words and emotions make the charismatic stand out. Taylor runs training programs designed to help people improve their personal charisma. She studies the body language of charismatic people. Among their most important nonverbal tools are gestures and facial expressions; physical closeness without invading personal space; and eye contact, which has been shown to change the brain's chemistry. Charismatic people are quick to pick up nonverbal cues, such as the head tilt, which women frequently use when speaking with someone they find attractive, Taylor said. Taylor is a Ph.D. candidate at UCR.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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