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Should You Believe in Love at First Sight? What Science Says

David Wilson
January 15, 2024

After all the Hollywood movies and romantic comedies we watched growing up, it's easy to believe in love at first sight. Butterflies in your stomach, weak knees, and that first perfect moment when your eyes meet - that must surely be love at first sight, right? But is that really so? Here is what science thinks about it!

Where does the concept come from?

The concept itself is something we first find in art - literature, and poetry. The first mention can be found in ancient Greece, in Ovid's epic Metamorphoses, in which Narcissus and Echo fall in love as soon as they meet for the first time.

After that, this motif is repeated throughout the works of Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, and many others. Today, it is the base for many movies such as The Notebook, The Fault in Our Stars, Moulin Rogue, Sleepless in Seattle, and even The Truman Show.

What is love?

But what is love anyway? The idea of love has been explored through many studies. Science defines love as a combination of chemicals noradrenaline, phenylethylamine, and dopamine

Noradrenaline is a chemical that stimulates the production of adrenaline and causes a feeling of nervousness, sweating, and rapid heartbeat when we are near the person we are in love with. Phenylethylamine has stimulant effects and causes butterflies in the stomach, while dopamine, which is also known as the happy hormone, is associated with feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

How do psychologists define love?

Psychology defines love as a deep and complex mix of emotions that consists of intense affection, tenderness, devotion, a need to please your partner, and a sense of pleasure a person derives from spending time with their loved one. It is built through time and deepens with a more acute comprehension of your partner.

Psychology proposes the triangular theory of love, which says there need to be three elements for us to be able to call something love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. These three cornerstones can create seven types of love - romantic love, liking, companionate love, empty love, fatuous love, infatuation, and consummate love.

How does biology define love?

On the other hand, Australian biological expert Jeremy Griffith defines love as 'unconditional selflessness’. Biology believes that love is essentially biological, not a cultural construct that can be observed not only in humans but also in animals. 

According to biologists, love is a consequence of evolution, an adaptation to development that increases fertility and the likelihood that a couple will have a child and reduces the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and its basis is cognitive, emotional, behavioral, social, genetic, neural, and endocrine activity in both partners.

What do people think?

We laymen define love a little differently than scientists. Our definition of love is gentleness and warmth, commitment to our partner, and the desire to put his needs above our own. There is also sexual attraction, respect, and mutual growth through the development of a relationship, which takes time and a lot of work. 

So, if that is what we describe love as, how is it possible to fall in love at first sight? Most would agree - it isn't.

But let's not dismiss the phenomenon lightly. What some define as love at first sight is drastically different from how we define love, but with so many people claiming to have experienced it, there must be some basis for it.

Love at first sight 

While scientists agree that a deep love takes time, psychologist Arthur Aron conducted a study in 1997 that helped to create a feeling of closeness and intimacy between strangers simply by asking 36 specific personal questions. The questions were based on mutual vulnerability and willingness to open ourselves to strangers. This study even produced a couple that was still together six months later. 

So, if you take that into consideration, love at first sight can be just your brain processing a large amount of information in a short time and discerning if the other person has the qualities you are looking for in the long term.

From the biological aspect, love at first sight can also be related to the quick selection of a partner best suited for mating. Besides attractiveness (facial symmetry, good health, and overall fitness), we must take into consideration the mix of chemicals that affect the way we view a potential partner - pheromone attraction is a real thing; some people just smell better to us. 

Pheromones can stimulate sexual desire, lust, and magnetic pull in someone. They come into play through your sense of smell or even a kiss since they are produced through sweat and saliva. Women are particularly sensitive to male pheromones, especially during ovulation, and can be very susceptible to androstenol, which makes them feel more relaxed and causes the man to seem more appealing to them. Women produce it also, but in smaller amounts than men.

The influence of pheromones on sexual appeal is so significant that there is a whole market of perfumes and colognes with pheromones intended to attract the opposite sex.

Conclusion

After all this, should you stay a believer in love at first sight? Well... yes and no. Although the concept sounds wonderful, science says there is no love at first sight - love is something you build and invest in with your partner. However, there most definitely is an attraction at first sight. 

The roots of this attraction can be found in the chemical reactions of our bodies to someone, and they often stem from the need to quickly identify a compatible breeding partner. 

In addition, there is also a sociological and psychological aspect where, along with attractiveness, we can recognize whether someone's values ​​match ours through a short meeting and a superficial conversation. And although we cannot call it love at first sight, it is definitely a good basis for building something more.

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David Wilson

David Wilson is a skilled clinical psychologist dedicated to enhancing lives through healing and growth. Specializing in empowering clients to overcome challenges, he offers personalized therapy that fosters emotional well-being and resilience. With a compassionate approach, David guides individuals on their journey to discover self-awareness, develop coping strategies, and find lasting happiness. Trusted and revered, he is committed to making a positive impact and nurturing positive change in every life he touches.

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