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Is Love at First Sight a Romantic Myth or Scientific Fact?

A woman who believes in love at first sight, looking into her boyfriends eyes before they kiss outside at night.

The idea of falling in love at first sight is a beautiful one, but is it true? Can you really fall in love with someone as you lock eyes across a room? It sounds dreamy, but is it even possible to feel instant love for someone right as you meet them? If you’ve been a big believer in love at first sight, you’re not alone—about half of Americans polled said they believe love at first sight is possible. But believing in something doesn’t necessarily make it true. 

Like a lot of things when it comes to love, it’s hard to find a definitive answer. There might not be one conclusive explanation for this question, but there have been significant amounts of scientific studies on the topic of love at first sight, and the answers may hold some surprises. The data gathered from these studies shows us a lot about our evolutionary process, and how we shape our own narratives when we believe strongly in romantic ideals. Here are a few clues that scientists have found to be true when it comes to love at first sight.

It’s more real for men than it is for women.
Studies have shown that men are more likely to report feelings of love at first sight than women do. Scientists have theorized that this may be due to the more visual aspects of attraction that men typically report noticing first, while women are more cautious and less prone to quickly assessing a man by his looks alone. However, that’s just a theory. There’s not really a consensus yet on why men might report feeling love at first sight more often than women do. (So this theorizing may be some outdated sexist stereotypes at play.)

Your senses get activated.
When you see someone you’re instantly attracted to, your body is paying attention too. Your sense of smell might have a lot to do with your ability to feel love at first sight. Pheromones play a part in creating the attraction between romantic partners, in ways that scientists are still studying. It’s replicated in nature, though—when mammals mate, pheromones are a huge factor. So it makes sense that it would be an indication of attraction in humans, too.

It’s all about the chemicals.
The instant chemistry you may feel with someone is real. Attraction creates a
chain of chemical reactions in the body, leaving you susceptible to falling in love. Dopamine and serotonin can be impacted by the chemistry you feel with someone, and once that rush hits, it’s hard to walk away from it. This is why love can feel addictive sometimes. Chemically speaking, it is addictive! Once your brain starts getting those pleasurable vibes, you’re more likely to want to continue spending time with the person you’ve just connected with.

Sometimes it’s one-sided.
Research suggests that it is rare that both members of a relationship
will report falling in love at first sight. This could indicate that it’s really just based off attraction at first sight, but that’s technically still up for debate. It’s also much more likely to happen with people who fit the stereotypical beauty ideals of their culture. Chances are there are plenty of people who have fallen in love at first sight when they see a supermodel across the room—but the likelihood of it being mutual, in that example, is slim to none.

It might be all in your head.
There is some research that shows people who are in long-lasting romantic relationships tend to shape the narrative of their relationships based on the outcome. This is called “positive illusion.” So, someone who has been in love with their partner for years may be more likely to say they fell in love at first sight, due to the outcome of their meeting resulting in years of a happy relationship. They might be applying this ideal retroactively, through the rose-colored glasses of lasting love. However, this isn’t a provable explanation of all relationships that report feeling love at first sight.

“Love” might not be the right word for it.
Science has established a basis for connection, attraction, and interest upon first meeting someone. It can create an inexplicable pull between you and someone else. What this really means is that people who experience feelings of “love at first sight” are more open to the possibilities of developing a relationship with the person on the connecting end of their gaze across the room.

Maybe love at first sight is real, or maybe it’s something quantifiable, but undefinable. Maybe it’s an opportunity to leap into something new, a chance to experience that chemical connection. Either way, it’s still a beautiful thing.

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