Valentine’s Day – It’s About (Money) Love

UCR experts available to answer your burning Valentine’s Day questions through business, literature, and other topics

UC Riverside experts are available to answer all of your Valentine’s Day questions.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – Though the exact origin of Valentine’s Day is unknown, one thing is certain, the holiday centered around love has become a major consumer holiday. That is one topic, among many others, experts at the University of California, Riverside are available to discuss concerning Valentine’s Day.

Media: You can pull directly from the quotes below. If you would like to speak to the expert, please contact him or her through the contact information provided below. Or, contact Mojgan Sherkat, senior public information officer, at: or 951-827-5893.

Barry Mishra, professor of accounting
(951) 827-7707

How much do people spend on Valentine’s Day?

“After a decade-long increase in Valentine’s Day spending, U.S. consumers are expected to be more frugal this year, spending an average $136.57 in 2017, down from last year’s record-high $146.84, according to an annual survey released by the National Retail Federation. Total spending is expected to reach $18.2 billion, down from $19.7 billion last year, which was also a record.

“It is surprising that overall spending is down when the consumer sentiment is at an all-time high. However, the puzzle vanishes when one looks at the percentage of people surveyed who plan to celebrate the holiday. It has dropped by nearly 10 percentage points from 63 percent in 2007 to 54 percent this year.

“While fewer people are planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, millions of Americans will still treat their loved ones this year. They will be looking for the best deals, just as they did during the holiday season.”

Gerald Maguire, chair and professor of psychiatry
(951) 827-5705

What happens in the brain and heart when we are in love?

“There are different phases of what can happen with the brain and the whole chemistry system of the body. There is the initial attraction and oftentimes there will be an epinephrine or adrenaline rush. That is when we feel excitement or we can get a racing heart or sweaty palms. Then, if there is a sense of love and joy, that can be manifested through serotonin. This gives us a general sense of well-being and happiness. And then, if the interaction with the two individuals is positive, that can lead to a change in the reward system through the chemical dopamine.

“All of this can be interplay with each other throughout the course of attachment, and if you pair that attachment with hugging or kissing or even sexual interaction, there could be a release of oxytocin, another chemical that is involved with bonding and attachment. It is with intimacy that oxytocin is released and that can lead to a further enhancement of bonding.”

The psychological reason the heart is associated with love:

“I really think it can be related to norepinephrine in the effects that one feels with the initial attraction with the racing heart and the feeling of the heart beating.

“That’s why in old cartoons (I used to watch a lot of Bugs Bunny as a kid), when Pepé Le Pew, the skunk, sees the attractive cat with the white stripe on her back, you can see his heart beating out of his chest.

“So it’s almost like the physiological reaction of the heart racing is associated with the initial sensation of attraction. I think the heart is the easiest body part to measure the physiologic response of love.”

Jeanette Kohl, chair and professor of art history
(951) 827-5919

Renaissance Love

In her edited book “Renaissance Love: Eros, Passion and Friendship in Italian Art Around 1500,” professor of art history Jeanette Kohl observes that love is anything but blind – it is visually highly perceptive, which is why art can spark love – an insight that goes back to Leonardo da Vinci.

“There was an emergence of a visual language of love in paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings in the 15 and 16 centuries. Love, friendship, passion, and attraction became key topics that permeated even religious works of art, leaving the boundaries of sacred and profane love highly permeable.

“The Renaissance, like antiquity before it, celebrated love as art and art as love – yet with the philosophical, aesthetic and political undertones of early Humanism. It is a period in which the modern sense of love in all its oscillating shades emerges, visible in a stunning array of new works of art filled with beautiful women, gorgeous Madonnas, cuddly little babies, and adorable youths. The visual celebration of homo-erotics and homo-social bonding goes hand in hand with the veneration of chaste beauty, and love becomes the thoroughbass of a culture celebrating new notions of humanity.”

Thomas Scanlon, professor of classics
(951) 827-1462

Love as Seen in Greek and Roman Classics

Cupid and Venus, Eros and Aphrodite— the modern embrace of the diversity of Classical Love

“The Greeks and Roman invented the image of the boy with the bow, Cupid, aka Eros, who could inflame heterosexual passion but also oversaw same-sex desire. His mother, Venus/Aphrodite was called ‘the all conquering’ as she brought all gods and humans to be slaves to her influence.  But at times Aphrodite herself was subject to her own spells and suffered from ill-fated affairs.

“Love among the Greeks and Romans shaped the modern patterns, but also pre-figured the diversity of forms of love some of which have only recently been widely legitimized after centuries of being in the closet. They also told the timeless narratives of tragic love like Venus and Adonis that inspired novels and movies ever since.”

Derek Burrill, professor of media and cultural studies
(951) 827-1261

Top Valentine’s Day Movies for All

“Some people like romance, some people like anti-romance, but, pretty much everybody is on the fence about Valentine’s Day. So, here’s a completely flawed chart to help you find just the right movie to fit your mood on February 14th.”

  1. If you like “Amélie,” then you’ll love “The Artist.”
  1. If you didn’t like “Ghost,” then give “The War of the Roses” a try.
  1. If “Giant” is a little too old-fashioned for you, take a shot at “Jane Got a Gun.”
  1. If you liked “Chunking Express,” then you’ll probably love “The Lobster.”
  1. If you’re too old for “Save the Last Dance,” check out “Shall We Dance?”.
  1. If you’ve had enough of “Brokeback Mountain,” switch over to “Appropriate Behavior.”
  1. If you’re totally over “Twilight,” time to “Let the Right One In.”
  1. If you think “Wild at Heart” is an acquired taste, “Crash” (1996) is up your alley.
  1. If “Fatal Attraction” wasn’t your thing, you’ll probably love “The Notebook.”
  1. If “Revolutionary Road” did it for you, “Closer” is a step farther.

Bonus films: If you got a kick out of “Warm Bodies,” then “Life After Beth” might be your thing. And, if you think “It Happened One Night,” is a classic, try “Gaslight;” it’s a classic, but twisted.

“A special, but very, very wrong ‘romantic’ movie mention: Passengers. On a 120-year intergalactic journey to a new world, Chris Pratt is mistakenly awakened 90 years early. He gets so lonely and Jennifer Lawrence is so pretty that he takes her out of hibernation because he’s just sure she’ll love him! This effectively ends her chances at a life on a new world! And now she’s stuck with him and an android bartender! So wrong!”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-5893
Twitter: mojgansherkat

Additional Contacts

Bettye Miller
Tel: 951-827-7847

Iqbal Pittalwala
Tel: 951-827-6050

Sarah Nightingale
Tel: 951-827-4580

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