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Love at first sight has little to do with love, study finds

The idea of “love at first sight” has been a popular trope for years, but a new study has found that those feelings of instant attraction are not love.

According to researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, love at first sight, or LAFS, is a commonly used but rarely scientifically studied phenomenon. Ultimately though, those initial feelings are more about physical attraction and lust.

LAFS could be the result of several factors including infatuation and biased memory, but for this study, the researchers wanted to take a more scientific approach and examine a person’s reasons for falling in love at first sight.

For the study, the researchers asked participants to respond to an online survey and take part in three dating events. The events were face-to-face dating, speed dating, and an informal gathering for mingling where the researchers provided food.  

There were 396 volunteers for the study, and the researchers had the participants fill out questionnaires before any of the dating events.

After analyzing the survey responses, the questionnaires, and the different dates, the results show that a majority of the participants did not mention love at first sight or say they experienced it.

In fact, LAFS was only brought up 49 times by 32 different individuals. No matter how many times LAFS was reported, the researchers noted that love at first sight in the study was strongly linked to levels of attractiveness.

For every one unit increase of physical attraction, the probability of love at first sight being mentioned was nine times greater.

“As hypothesized, those who reported LAFS experienced strong physical attraction toward their dates,” said the study authors. “Physical attraction strongly increased the likelihood of LAFS.”

The research is a major step forward in differentiating emotions of attraction. By taking love at first sight out of romance stories and putting it in a lab setting, it’s easier to deconstruct and identify where those initial knee-jerk feelings of high attraction come from. In this case, it turns out those emotions are more linked to desirability and physical attraction than long-term perspective.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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