Is It Really Love At First Sight?

by Nov 7, 2012 5:24 pm Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jordan Liffengren is a Spartan Daily senior staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @SD_jliffengren.

Have you ever met someone so attractive that you couldn't help but stare at them — the type of stare that you don't realize until later, made you look like you were going to abduct them and skin them so that you could use their dermis as a duvet cover?

You want to hate them because they are almost too beautiful, if that could even be possible.

Maybe you end up going on a date with this person, starting a relationship with them and marrying them.

That's the formula a whole lot of Nicholas Sparks novels follow, anyway.

It is said to be "love at first sight."

But is it really love in that moment of first laying eyes on someone?

I like to call it "lust at first sight", only because if you love someone the instant you meet them, you are probably just as creepy as Robin Williams' character in "One Hour Photo".

Using the term "love" in the phrase just seems to be an endearing and less raunchy way to say, "I really wanted to lay with you, in a biblical sense, when I first saw you."

This is because, love is something that grows with time, while physical attraction is instantaneous.

And that physical attraction is mandatory, before a person will consider anything romantic, in most cases.

It's really an instinctual process our brains go through, according to a study of Trinity Dublin College students in which researchers recruited 78 women and 73 men, all heterosexual and single, in a speed-dating event.

Before the speed dating event, 39 of the participants had their brains imaged. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, researchers recorded the volunteers' brain activity as they saw pictures of people they would soon meet at the event.

People turned out to be pretty good at knowing who interested them based on photographs alone. Their initial, photograph-based interest in dating a person was backed up by their real decision after their five-minute speed date 63 percent of the time.

Researchers found a link between one specific region of the medial prefrontal cortex called the paracingulate cortex, and people's ultimate decisions about dating. This region buzzed with increased activity when volunteers saw photographs of the people they'd later say "yes" to.

Meanwhile, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which sits closer to the front of the head, became especially active when participants looked at faces they thought were attractive. But there was a catch: This region was most active when looking at faces that most people agreed were "hot."

So biologically, we immediately evaluate physical attractiveness before anything else upon meeting someone new.

This proves that we are, indeed, shallow by nature.

But I like to look at it as unconsciously, yet instinctively, searching for a mate that will ensure strong and healthy offspring.

Of course, there is one more part of the brain that works its magic, just a few seconds after its douchebag counterparts: the rostromedial prefrontal cortex, a segment of the medial prefrontal cortex located in the lower region.

"That region in this moment may be doing something like evaluating not just 'Is this person a good catch?' but 'Is this person a good catch for me?'" said psychology researcher Jeffrey Cooper, who conducted the study.

This region is known to be very important in social decisions, and therefore leaves us all a little hope.

Since we definitely need it.

One thought on “Is It Really Love At First Sight?


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