Love at First Sight? Nah

By Lacy Schley | December 6, 2017 11:44 am

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Cynics rejoice — the oft-reported phenomenon of love at first sight is more akin to lust at first sight.

Psychologist Florian Zsok and colleagues from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands recently published a study that found even though people generally do believe they’re experiencing love at first sight (LAFS), the event has more to do with physical attraction than actual feelings of love.

Zsok and his team set up various experiments to answer some questions: Is LAFS actually happening in the moment, or is it something people remember only after they’ve fallen for someone? How does physical attraction affect LAFS? Does LAFS differ from love reported in romantic relationships?

To get their answers, the group recruited nearly 400 adults, mostly women, mostly heterosexual and mostly Dutch or German students. One group of volunteers filled out a survey about themselves and how they felt about their current partner, if they had one. Then, those same participants were shown, based on sexual preference, images of strangers and asked to imagine meeting them at a speed dating event. Afterward, they filled out another questionnaire — but with the people from the images in mind.

This time, participants rated how much they agreed with statements like, “I feel that this person and I were meant for each other,” and “I am experiencing love at first sight with this person.” It also asked them to rate the attractiveness of each potential partner on a scale of one (not at all) to five (very much).

The rest of the volunteers, all of whom reported being single, went to face-to-face soirees where they first met each other either in small groups or as part of a speed dating event. Again, the participants filled out the questionnaire that probed how they felt about their potential partners.

Ultimately, out of the nearly 500 meetings Zosk and his team studied, 49 of those resulted in someone reporting LAFS, supporting the idea the phenomenon isn’t just something people conveniently remember once they’re in a relationship. Sadly, in this study, there were no reports of reciprocal LAFS — womp, womp.

There was a common theme, though: People who reported LAFS often rated their date as more physically attractive than the rest of the volunteers. They also tended to score lower on questions measuring love than did people who reported being in a relationship, suggesting there is a difference between the two.

And, interestingly, people in relationships who claimed they’d experienced LAFS with their current partners were more likely to report feelings of passion (I wish I knew how to quit you!) than those who said they didn’t experience LAFS with their partners.

In all, this study might burst a lot of people’s bubbles. But, as they say, nothing in science is ever proven. So maybe there’s still hope out there for the hopeless romantics.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts
MORE ABOUT: emotions
  • JC Hamner

    This kind of incompetent setup and predetermined reach-y conclusion is why people don’t take psychological studies seriously.

  • Fllora

    All this proves (maybe) is that love at first sight isn’t predictable, nor can it be forced. It certainly doesn’t prove that it doesn’t exist.

  • Uncle Al

    My honey and I locked eyes, and there was no fleeing from it – 27 years and counting. One might ask, “OMFG! What were the chances?” 100%. Folks wondered how I did it, too. Choose your hunting grounds wisely (a Mensa newsletter editing session). Youtube v=FhE6Izmkpx4

    Don’t compete with each other. Turn outward together and slaughter the world.

    • StanChaz

      We need fewer people who slaughter and more healers.

  • Sankhyo Halder

    I don’t find the study misguided. It merely shows that lust is the actual emotion being displayed, we tend to conflate that with love linguistically. So what we believed was happening does happen, it’s just that our belief of what the word means isn’t what it actually does haha

  • Julie Collins

    I NEED MY EX LOVER BACK Contact: ,Is certainly the best spell caster online, and his result is 100% guarantee…

  • Alexander

    Ha-ha, funny story, but where is the actual experiment?

  • Anemone999

    For me, it’s not “love” at first. It’s recognition, as if I know them already before I’ve met them and then it’s a very deep attachment following.

    It pretty rare and it has nothing to do with traditional physical attractiveness. And, yes, it’s been mutual twice.

    The first I could have married but we were so different as to be impossible. The second I did marry and we remained married until he passed.

    The third remains unresolved as he was breaking up another relationship when I met him. I still believe that it might work.

    The point is, yes, there is such a thing as people who are “meant for you.” You have to find them.

    Don’t settle.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar