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Myth busted: It’s lust at first sight, not love

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How did you know she was the one?” Prince Harry, fifth in line to the British throne, was asked in his engagement interview with his fiancee Meghan Markle. “The very first time we met,” he replied.

Well that may have been the case but unfortunately the prince was probably experiencing lust rather than anything else the first time he met his bride-to-be, because a study has proven once and for all that “love at first sight” doesn’t exist. Psychologists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands scientifically investigated the phenomenon to try and work out whether the common romcom trope is real.

Disappointingly for the romantics amongst us, they concluded that what we often think is love at first sight is in fact more likely strong physical attraction. Researchers conducted their study on 396 participants, roughly 60% of whom were women, most were heterosexual and the vast majority were young Dutch and German students. Via an online survey, participants were asked questions about their current romantic relationship (if they were in one).

They were then shown pictures of various strangers and asked to rate their attraction to them, noting any feelings of love, including intimacy, passion, commitment and “eros”, which is measured by statements such as: “I feel that the person and I were meant for each other”. They were also asked whether they felt that they were “experiencing love at first sight.”

Two further studies were conducted which involved speed dating, where participants either spent 90 or 20 minutes getting to know each other. Again, they were asked their feelings for their potential partners. Taking the results of all the tests into consideration, 32 participants (most of whom were men) described 49 experiences of love at first sight.

However this was strongly linked to finding the other person incredibly physically attractive — with every point increase on the five-point attraction scale, a participant was nine times more likely to report love at first sight. But at the speed dating events, none of the instances of reported love at first sight was mutual.

“To conclude, our findings suggest that love at first sight reported at actual first sight resembles neither passionate love nor love more generally,” the researchers said. While we may convince ourselves love at first sight happened with our significant other, it’s more likely nothing to do with true love at all, but an instant sexual connection or attraction to another person. It is also us projecting our current feelings to past memories.

Interestingly, the participants who were in a relationship at the time of the study and believed they’d fallen in love with their partners at first sight reported higher levels of passion in their relationship than those who didn’t say they fell in love at first sight.

Updated: December 1, 2017 — 4:17 pm

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