Love at First Sight
Once upon a time there was a girl. One day she saw a boy she’d never met across a crowded room. Their eyes locked: she froze in her tracks, her face stuck in awe. Her blood ran cold; her fingers began to tingle as a shiver ran through her entire body. 8.2 seconds later the boy flashed her a beaming smile. His expression injected a flood of warmth into her fragile heart and her mouth involuntarily turned up to return the gesture. She didn’t know how or why but she knew at that moment that this boy was the one. This is the true and universal story of a phenomenon known as love at first sight.
When I was a child I used to shamble after my mom around the house asking her “Mommy, what’s it like to be in love?” she always sat me down and answered “It’s nothing I can explain, sweetie, you’ll know it when you feel it”. How could this be? How could an experience be so complex it can’t be described in words? How on earth could this happen with one look? Science says it’s simple: it’s all in our biological makeup. In a recent article published in Psychology Today; John R. Buri, Ph.D. describes that when we experience an “instant attraction” neurotransmitter chemicals are released into our nervous system stimulating a powerful “physiological arousal”. But how far does this stimulant take us?
We all know what it’s like to encounter a “hot” boy or girl on any regular day but this exciting meeting is usually easily forgotten and rarely affects us in any way besides providing topic of conversation among friends (“Have you seen that new cashier? He is fine! And he totally checked me out today”). Some may say that this brief glitch of pleasure is all that will ever result from a first meeting, but stories all around us attest to something greater. A submission to
the PBS segment “American Love Stories” reads “I met my husband in an emergency room while he was doing a medical school rotation. I was being treated for a migraine headache. From twenty-five feet away and despite numerous interruptions, including my pain, our eyes locked, and we married a little over a year later.” This is just one of the tales that pop-up all around us converting the emotionally willing to hopeless romance. The question we must ask, though, is how much of this phenomenon is rooted in fairytales and how much is it rooted in science?
In an experiment recently conducted by Cornell University on a sample of fruit flies, female fruit flies were able to sense, upon first encounter, males of the same species that were genetically capable of producing more offspring with them than other males that weren’t. The scientists explained this result by concluding that the female flies were innately “wired for love” and “the chemicals and proteins needed for their response [were] already in place, without the need for new genes to be activated”. Though there are differences between the genetics in humans and fruit flies, the same principles may apply. Clara Moskowitz, author of the article “Love at First Sight Might be Genetic”, refers to an experiment where humans were more attracted to the scents emitted from T-shirts that were not of those who were genetically related to them, proving that human bodies have a natural instinct that prevents inbreeding and is able to “sense” their better match.
It’s hard to imagine the amazing complexity of the human mind and feelings but a lot of people put all of their faith or belief into something they can’t even see or understand. In the article “Love at First sight” Psychology today reveals that approximately 60% of Americans believe in love at first sight. This might be due to the fact that over 50% said they have experienced it.
Whether or not one “believes” in love at first sight, it’s no question that humans are scientifically capable of it. Our culture is surrounded by the magical idea of true love and impossibly romantic fairytales that seem too good to be true; but maybe the reason these stories seem so out of reach is because they have an outrageous take on relationships and the circumstances in which they develop.
So what is love? A romantic duet in a pond under a star-sprinkled sky? A brave, handsome prince rescuing a gorgeous, innocent damsel in distress from a fire-breathing dragon? A happily ever after? Most would have a hard time defining something as mysterious as love, but with the burst of technology in the last decade, scientists have uncovered explanations for more than ever thought possible. Judith Newman investigates her heart out in the Parade Article “The Science of Love”, breaking down the concept into three chemicals in the brain that each contribute to a different piece of the love puzzle. The first, dopamine, is connected to the addictive feeling of pleasure one may feel around someone they love.
Norepinphrine, the second neurotransmitter released, causes the jitters and nerves that result from being in love. The third, Serotonin, balances out the norepinphrine by releasing a calming chemical into the brain. These three transmitters release enough “mix of emotions” into the body to cause the sensation we know as love. As scientists discover more and more about humans, more and more is revealed about how we were biologically constructed to find a life-long partner. And if love really is just a release of fancy brain chemicals, it’s likely that they can work fast enough to be triggered at first sight; we are pretty smart after all.
To make the claim that love is all mental is, well, plain mental; yet to say it is scientifically impossible is just as crazy. It’s plain to see that love happens all around us and most importantly when we’re not expecting it. Not everything can be explained by science, even
when it comes to biological instinct, but sometimes a simple meeting of the eyes or a flash of a genuine smile explains it all.
1. Love, Home /. “Love at First Sight, Blind to the Future.” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. .
2. Moskowitz, Clara. “Love at First Sight Might Be Genetic | LiveScience.”
Live Science. 08 Apr. 2009. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. .
3. Buri, Ph.D, John R. “Love At First Sight.” Psychology Today. 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. .
4. Newman, Judith. “The Science of Love.” Parade 12 Feb. 2012: 9+. Print