How the Heck Did Our Hearts Become Synonymous With Love, and Our Brains With Logic?

When you *actually* stop to think about it, it makes no sense at all.


For thousands of years, the heart — and these days more often, the heart emoji — has been THE stand-in for love, and the symbol through which millions of lovers express their feelings to their significant others on Valentine’s Day (and most other days, for that matter).

In fact, the heart is so commonly associated with love and emotion that it’s practically become a cliche when someone tells you that, “You’re too emotional — stop thinking with your heart,” or, “Use your brain, and think logically!”

Which is disconcerting on a number of levels, starting with the fact that, in reality, the heart has nothing to do with love or emotions. And the brain, well, sure, it’s a great place for logic to call home, but is there really a more “logical” organ than the one in our chests? 

The first thing to understand is how the heart became so closely associated with love and emotion in the first place, of which there are some theories. The Greeks, for one, may have associated the heart with Dionysus, the god of pleasure, and everyone knows pleasure = sex = love; considering it basically resides in the center of our bodies, the Egyptians believed the heart was the center of our being, and, thus, our emotions (hence, love).

That, of course, isn’t true; the heart may “want what it wants,” but what it wants is blood — for pumping — not love. Because the heart is a muscle, and a powerful one at that, the sole purpose of which is to ensure that your other muscles, your bones and your brain have the energy they need to function. Sorry, Greeks, Egyptians and anyone who’s ever sent their true love a candy heart on Valentine’s Day: There’s nothing “emotional” about a part of your body you actually have no conscious control over, a mindless, almost robotic pump.

But again, when you’re emotional, people tell you to think with your brain instead — this is dumb, because it’s actually the limbic system in your brain where those emotions stem from, and even more specifically, the amygdala.

The amygdala consists of two amygdalae, one in either hemisphere of your noodle, whose primary role is regulating your emotional response to external stimuli. When your boss pisses you off, when your significant other gives you the warm and fuzzies, when you’re not jazzed about heading down to the basement past 10 p.m. — that’s your amygdala working. So when someone tells you you’re too emotional and you should think with your brain, they’ve got it all wrong — all those annoying emotions are coming direct from Brain Central.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But ‘logic’ comes from the brain, too!” And you’re right: Our brains are responsible for logic and reason, specifically the frontal lobe, the part of your brain that does complex thinking. But to that I say, “Cool — but is there a more logical organ than your heart?”

The heart, you see, is the epitome of logic, reason and efficiency: It beats with the rhythm of a metronome, without fail, for your entire life. In fact, by the time you die, your heart will beat more than 3 billion times, assuming you live the 78 years you’re expected to in this country. That’s 42 million beats a year, 115,000 beats per day and 80 per minute. If you can’t see the “logic” in robotically pumping blood around the body where needed constantly and forever so that you can live, then I can’t help you.

So the next time someone tells you to stop thinking with your heart and start thinking with your brain, tell that person they’ve got it completely backwards. Unless it’s your date telling you this on Valentine’s Day, in which case just shut up and apologize for whatever it was you did.