Love exists under a scientific definition, that it’s something biological and not simply a cultural construct. The idea then of being able to fall in love at first sight isn’t completely impossible. But what’s the science behind this love at first sight phenomenon?
The idea that you can meet your destined love partner at a glance has been around for a long time. An example being Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers who fell in love instantly. However, many people believe that it’s not possible to fall in love with someone from only a look. Looks are shallow and love is considered much deeper.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
— Harriet Sugarcookie (@HSugarCookie) June 29, 2017
Yet in the above poll, 55% of people believe in love at first sight. Less than a quarter don’t believe in it, and another 21% are unsure. Others believed that it’s possible to fall in lust at first sight, but not love.
Love vs Lust
The main argument against love at first sight is that you can not know the deeper attributes of a person simply from looking at them. Things such as intelligence, kindness and humour all play a large part in attraction.
It’s then argued that what we feel is not romantic attraction to the other person, but simply sexual attraction. Therefore you can feel lust at first sight, but not love.
However, this changes when you consider the definition of love. A mother, for instance, will feel love for her baby as soon as she sees them after giving birth. This is unconditional love and does not rely on the personality traits of the child.
Although maternal love and romantic love are very different, it does show that the brain is capable of feeling deep affection instantly.
Romantic love can also be described as “a state of intense longing for union with another” as seen in a study by Hatfield & Rapson from 1987. If upon meeting someone that you are extremely sexually attracted to, you can also argue that you are romantically attracted to straight away as well.
After all, we all meet people we think “I really want to be with them romantically” even before we get to know them better.
What is the point?
If love at first sight is something possible, the next question would be why. What is the point? Is there any biological advantage to falling in love at first sight? Some survival tactic? Other animals have been shown to also “fall in love at first sight” such as voles. If this phenomenon happens in other species, there must be some advantage.
Research has shown that people tend to choose partners who have similar DNA to them; a person’s genetic makeup and physical health can be identified visually, as well as through smell, sound, and taste.
Pheromones play a big part in attraction and on a subconscious level, your body might be able to conclude that this person is a good genetic match for you. Your brain thinks “They have DNA that will make good offspring” and pushes you then to become sexually and romantically interested in the other person.
The actual science
In neurological studies, it’s been shown that different parts of your brain are activated by feelings of love rather than sexual desire.
When you fall in love your brain releases chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria, bonding and excitement. These include dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin.
Instant love gives your brain the same reward/feelings that cocaine does. That’s why at the start of a relationship love can be like an addiction, making your heart race, making you obsessively compulsive. In long term love these feelings reduce, but the brain is still rewarded with feelings of euphoria, they just come from slightly different parts.
It appears that love at first sight can happen. It would be a way for your body to recognise someone else as a fantastic potential partner, and push you towards being with them. Your brain releases lots of chemicals that give you a rush.
Long term love can then develop as you build a relationship and get to know the person better. This love that replaced the initial intense love is what most people consider “real love”.
So whilst you might not feel that long term stable love at first sight, you are able to feel intense feelings of wanting to be with someone both romantically and sexually straight away. It is however extremely rare. It probably doesn’t happen as often as people believe it does.