Many of us dream of locking eyes with someone on the street, instantly falling in love with them, and living happily ever after. But researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands have found that the cultural phenomenon of “love at first sight” doesn’t exist. They say that those butterflies you feel when you meet someone you’re attracted to are just that — physical attraction.
The research was published in the Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research. According to an article in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, it consisted of multiple studies that involved close to 400 mainly heterosexual participants from the Netherlands and Germany.
During one of the studies, the research subjects had to fill out an online survey where they had to rank the attractiveness of strangers in photos. They also answered questions that gauged their feelings for the person according to different categories like intimacy, commitment, and passion. These are the three pillars of love that are part of the “Triangular Theory of Love” created by psychologist Robert Sternberg. To measure their feelings in these areas, participants were asked to answer questions like “I feel that the person and I were meant for each other.” They also had to answer the question, “I am experiencing love at first sight.”
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In another study, the participants had to come in and view the photos in the lab. In two others, they had to meet people in person for 20- and 90-minute sessions before answering survey questions about their feelings.
As Research Digest notes, in most cases, researchers found that “love at the first sight” was closely linked to a strong sensation of physical attraction. Those scores were much higher when compared to the other pillars in the Triangular Theory of Love. So, those feelings of instant love are more likely lust. Also, the feelings weren’t a match in many of the cases. If one person felt strong feelings of instantaneously love, the object of their affection often didn’t reciprocate.
This new research contradicts a study from 2009 which stated that “love at first sight” could be genetic. But that study was done with fruit flies and not humans, although Live Science notes that the results could apply to us too. The study found that female fruit flies have evolved to quickly detect which male fruit flies were the most genetically compatible with them. They also have a tendency to make more eggs with the good choices than the ones they deemed less suitable.