Lovers Blind to Others in Love

Love may not only make you blind toward your partner’s faults, but it may also make you blind to other people in love.

A new study shows that people in love are the worst at recognizing other couples in love, despite much confidence in their abilities.

“Love truly is blind,” says researcher Frank Bernieri, professor and chairman of the department of psychology at Oregon State University, in a news release.

“People in the study who had the longest relationships, were immersed in reading romance novels and spent lots of time watching romantic movies, just loved this research. They all were quite confident of their ability to identify others in love,” says Bernieri. “And without exception, they were, by far, the least accurate in their assessment.”

In the study, which appears in the winter issue of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, researchers showed 163 students videotapes of 25 couples.

Before evaluating the filmed couples, the students were also asked whether they were in a relationship at the time, in love, and how much they enjoyed reading romantic or relationship books, watching dating programs on TV, and watching romantic movies.

After viewing the video clips, the students were asked to judge how much they thought the man in the clip loves the woman and how much they thought the woman in the clip loves the man.

Lovers See Love

Researchers found the rate of accuracy of spotting couples truly in love varied dramatically. Those who were best at identifying couples in love were about twice as good as those who did the worst.

“Imagine observing 10 couples and trying to identify the five who love each other the most, and the five who loved each other the least. If you were in love at the time of the study, you would only get three or four out of 10 couples,” says Bernieri. “But if you weren’t in love, you’d get it right six or seven times out of 10.”

Bernieri says what probably happens is that couples in love tend to project some of their own attitudes and theories about love onto others. They may also associate certain behaviors, such as snuggling, eye contact, or a hand on the knee, as a sign of true, long-lasting love rather than infatuation or lust.

For example, some of the filmed couples had been together only a short time and had no intention of remaining together longer than a few months. But people in love who saw their behaviors were just as likely to consider the short-term couples as madly in love as long-term couples who were filmed.

Researchers say the only common attribute they could find among those who did well at identifying couples in love was that they weren’t in love at the time of the study.

Those that were in love at the time of the study were the most confident in their ability to spot other lovers.

“But as it turned out,” says Bernieri,” they were so blind in their love they turned out to be wrong more often than right.”

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: Aioni, M. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, Winter 2004; pp 287-295. News release, O