We’ve seen it happen in movies like “Moulin Rouge” and “Titanic.” We’ve heard it sung about in tunes like, “I Saw Her Standing There.” We’ve marveled over it in TV shows like “Dharma & Greg.”
Yet despite the media’s love affair with it, is there any reality to love at first sight? Can just one look spark romantic attraction? Perhaps more importantly, does finding the “one” in a flash ultimately bring a “match made in heaven”?
While I’ve experienced instant “energy” and attraction at first sight, I’ve never known love at first sight. It takes a bit more than eye candy for somebody to truly catch my interest.
But I know people who have experienced this wonder. A couple of them are now married. And they’re quite incredulous about it. Who knew that Cupid could so easily make the perfect shot?
Apparently, a lot of people think he’s quite the marksman. An Israeli poll of 240 males and 253 females found that 56 percent believed in love at first sight. Forty percent also held the belief that everyone has a twin romantic soul. Another survey, from the 1960s, of 679 American men and women found that 30 percent had indeed fallen in love the moment they laid eyes on their partner.
Yet despite people’s expectations around such split-second seductions, love researchers will tell you that love at first sight is rare. In an interview study on this phenomenon, psychology professor Ayala Malach Pines, author of "Falling in Love," found that only one-tenth (or 11 percent) of her participants had fallen in love at first glance. Thirty-three percent of participants said they fell in love gradually.
Still, when love at first sight does happen, men tend to get hit with Cupid’s arrow more often than women, according to research by evolutionary psychologists, like David Buss, who study the sexual differences between men and women.
The reason for this is quite crude, but also understandable. A women’s physical appearance, for example, gives men a plethora of cues as to her fertility and reproductive value. Interestingly, this also lends support to the notion that men are more taken with physical attractiveness than women.
What’s even more fascinating is that the characteristics of first-sight attraction are shared by other species. We’re not simply love-crazed humans. Many creatures express instant attraction, much like humans, in that we all:
— Focus our attention on this preferred mating partner;
— Find our energy level boosted;
— Become obsessive in thinking about the love object;
— Suffer from sleeplessness and a loss of appetite;
— Practice possessiveness over our mates;
— Show physical affection, such as nuzzling;
— Demonstrate goal-oriented courtship behaviors;
— Channel all of our energies to win over this particular beloved.
Regardless of sex, this instant attraction makes sense, biologically speaking. Many species only have a few minutes, hours, days, or weeks to breed. As mating consumes time and energy, wooing can put one in a compromising position, increasing the creature’s vulnerability to predators.
Early man likely experienced the same. Thus, love at first sight enables men and women to focus their energy on a particular individual and to begin the courtship — and breeding — straight away.
Research out of the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom further lends support for this evolutionary perspective, but with a twist. Instant attraction does prevent one from wasting his or her time, but it’s also a narcissistic response. Love at first sight has little to do with romance. Instead, it’s all about ego.
People are attracted to those who are attracted to them. Investigators at the university’s Face Research Laboratory found that the most important cue in showing interest in another is whether someone is looking directly at you.
So, call it Cupid, the media, divine intervention, or Mother Nature at work, is love at first sight ultimately all that? With many mistaking lust for love, instantaneously falling for someone could actually prove itself disastrous. As we all know, hopping in the sack doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with “together forever” hopes.
Investigators at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands sought to learn just how well the effortlessly amorous fair in the long run. In a study involving 137 married or cohabitating couples, researchers found that those who experienced love at first sight did become romantically involved faster than those who hadn’t.
It also found that these couples shared more dissimilar personalities. They differed primarily around levels of social interaction, emotional stability, and autonomy. These couples did not, however, report lower relationship quality.
Certainly, it gives all of us enough incentive to look someone straight in the eye the next time you want a little bit — or a lot of — lovin.’
In the Know Sex News:
— Malaysia Grappling with Abandoned Babies. A United Nations Fund for Population Activities study has found that Malaysia has a serious social problem — that of abandoning babies. Among the solutions: sex education and family planning in preventing unwanted pregnancies. About 100 babies are abandoned every year in Malaysia. It is hoped that World Population Day on July 11 will raise awareness around this issue.
— Gay Marriage Ratified in Norway. While civil unions have been a norm there since 1993, Norway recently voted to approve same-sex marriage. In doing so, it joins Belgium, Canada, Britain, Holland, and South Africa, all of which already allow gays to marry.
— HIV-Positive Youth Have Higher Rates of Cardiovascular Risk Factors. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics reports that children and adolescents living with HIV have higher triglyceride levels than youth not infected with HIV. They also have higher cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol levels. The HDL or good cholesterol was lower in HIV-positive youth as well. All are key factors for heart disease. Many of the antiretroviral drugs they take can further increase their risk factors.
Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."