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You had me at ‘hello:’ The science behind love at first sight

Feeling an instant spark with a stranger could be your instincts kicking in.
Feeling an instant spark with a stranger could be your instincts kicking in.
Karla Portch

According to the research of Dr. Earl Naumann two-thirds of all Americans believe in love at first sight. In Dr. Naumann’s survey of 1,500 Americans, more than half of those who believed in love at first sight reported that they had experienced it, and one-half of those people went on to marry the person who stole their heart after just one glance. The most intriguing aspect of the survey is that at the time it was taken, three out of four couples who reported experiencing love at first sight were still married. So why would people who fall in love at first sight stay married longer than couples who have not experienced instant love?

It’s all about the face
Numerous studies have found that couples who are in love tend to physically resemble each other. In one study researchers cut pictures of couples in half and invited neutral judges to pair the individuals based only on photographs of their faces. The judges were able to successfully pair romantic partners 30% of the time, a rate which was double the rate of random chance. Other studies show that people are more likely to trust individuals whose face most closely resembles their own, and that people are most attracted to others whose facial shape is similar to their own. Additionally, over time the faces of married couples grow to look increasingly alike as they start to share the same facial expressions.

Or, is it all about mom and dad?
From studying the habits of newly hatched goslings and ducks, scientists discovered that infant animals develop a strong attachment to whomever, or whatever, happens to be the first thing that they see after they are born. This first visual sighting creates a mental “imprint” that helps young animals identify their care-giver. There is also evidence that in humans at least, imprinting influences their choice of mate later in life.

Studies have shown that heterosexual humans have a tendency to select a mate that physically resembles their opposite sex parents, particularly when it comes to hair and eye color. Daughters born to older parents are more likely to be attracted to older men, and sons born to older parents show a preference for older women. According to this theory, when people encounter potential mates who visually resemble their opposite sex parents, they automatically feel the same sense of comfort, trust, and nurturing that they associate with their parents.

If you find your pulse racing, your heart pounding, and your stomach fluttering upon first seeing someone, you might call it “love,” but it just may be an instinctual response. Whether or not you believe in love at first sight, trust your instincts. They just might lead you to the love of a lifetime.

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