We’ve all heard those romantic stories about two people that seemingly fell in love the moment they laid eyes on each other. This phenomenon has been commonly referred to as “love at first sight,” and has been accepted since the days of Ancient Greece, where they believed that the mythological Cupid (or Eros) caused people to become lovesick. For those that believe in love at first sight, you might not want to hear what scientists had to say.
It might seem hard to scientifically measure something that seems intangible, but Florian Zsok and a team of researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have created a study that collected data from dating events, lab studies and online studies. In the end, they revealed that it was physical attraction that caused the phenomenon, leading them to believe it’s more of a “lust” at first sight situation.
Participants in the study frequently said that their passion for their partner was higher in the present than it was at the first meeting, but the researchers said this is a result of a “confabulated memory,” and “a projection of their current feelings into the past.” The participants were also asked to look at photos of potential partners that they hadn’t met and were asked to rate how attracted they were to this person, and if they had any feelings of love.
As for the dating studies that were included in the research, those that were looking for love were invited to a speed dating event and were asked afterward how they felt about those that they met. Nearly half of the participants said that they felt love at first sight with one of the potential partners that they met at the event, though none of the people that they were talking about had mutual feelings.
Instead, there was a strong correlation of the people claiming to feel love at first sight and finding the potential partner to be attractive. These people gave high ratings in terms of attractiveness, but not many other categories. The study says that “our findings suggest that love at first sight reported at actual first sight resembles neither passionate love nor love more generally.” What they felt, according to the researchers, was “a strong initial attraction that some label as love at first sight – either retrospectively or in the moment of first sight.”
In short, those that are currently in romantic relationships with someone that they claimed to have fallen in love with at first sight simply had a mutual physical attraction, and not much else. There were no connected feelings or any known shared interests at the time that they met, so attraction alone is what brought many of these couples together.
Helen Fisher of the Kinsey Institute said that while it’s the physical attraction that brings people together initially, finding common interests in the first few moments of meeting is what gives people the feeling of love at first sight. “Romantic love runs along certain electrical and chemical pathways through the brain, and these can be triggered instantly,” Fisher said.
When someone meets many of the traits that you have considered to be desirable throughout your life, you can quickly become attracted to someone and develop feelings. “You can get scared in an instant, and you can fall in love in an instant,” she added. “But the person, to some degree, does have to fit into your ‘love map.’”
Though the research does say that most feelings of love at first sight aren’t mutual, that doesn’t mean that people don’t believe it, or that they can’t fall in love quickly. One major study showed that nearly 60 percent of men believed in love at first sight while more than 40 percent claimed to experience it for themselves. Meanwhile, about half of women believed in the concept with 30 percent of them experiencing this type of love.
While that might sound a bit surprising, Fisher said that “Men fall in love faster, statistically speaking, and have experienced love at first sight more often, probably because they are more visual. It’s a basic drive, like thirst and hunger. Food and water keep you alive today; romantic love leads to bonding, mating and sending your DNA into tomorrow.”
The results of the research are unlikely to lower the number of people that feel love at first sight. There are still plenty of romantics out there, and it’s not exactly damaging to feel this way. Skeptics of love at first sight have always been present, so that’s also unlikely to end anytime soon. Just know that if you feel love at first sight, it’s more likely to be the result of a lustful feeling at the end of the day.