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Love at first sight … is it real?

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Is love at first sight real? 

Love at first sight has been proclaimed and celebrated throughout history and in countless poems, songs, stories and (of course) wedding toasts. How many of us have dreamed of falling in love with one blissful glance?

An attractive stranger walks through the door. Your eyes meet. Your heart races. Your cheeks flush. And something deep inside declares… this is it.

True love.

… But will it last?

As popular and hopeful as the notion is, very little has been done to study what it means to fall in love at first sight.

In 2017, researchers in the Netherlands found that love at first sight (LAFS) is not love… not exactly. “Rather, it is a strong initial attraction that some label as LAFS, either in the moment of first sight or retrospectively.”

Sight is unquestionably important to how we process what and who we come into contact with (like that beautiful stranger across the room). For example, when you find yourself attracted to someone, your pupils dilate.

Thus, it makes sense to consider vision when it comes to instant attraction and, dare we say it, love.

Scientifically speaking, what is love at first sight?

The visual cortex is one of the largest and most important structures within the human brain. 

Tissues used to process visual information take up nearly half of the cortex’s total area. And these tissues are exceptionally rich with interconnections, which help us to observe and remember what (and who) we see. 

Plus, as many as 80% of us are visual learners. Our ability to recall visual images usually far exceeds our ability to memorize words or facts. We’re much more likely to remember (and even dwell upon) that beautiful stranger’s hair color or facial features than anything else about them. 

And that can lead to the belief that this powerful attraction upon first laying eyes on a new romantic interest is actually love at first sight.

Does love at first sight last?

Surprisingly, the odds are in your favor. Relationships born out of love at first sight actually do work out more often than you might think.

Rutgers University visiting research associate Helen E. Fisher says that all relationships may begin with attraction. But not all attraction leads to lasting romance. 

Fisher breaks down romantic relationships into three distinct phases. Each phase is characterized by a unique neurochemical signature. 

LUST: The first phase, “lust,” is marked by the production of testosterone and estrogen. Lust at first sight perhaps more accurately describes that sudden heart-pounding, blood-rushing feeling.

ATTRACTION: Things slow down a bit in the “attraction” phase, during which dopamine and norepinephrine levels peak, and serotonin is reduced. 

ATTACHMENT: Over time, long-term relationships settle into what’s known as the “attachment” phase. This is when we come back to our senses. Or, to put it scientifically, when the hormones associated with friendship, closeness and enduring intimacy settle in.

Who falls in love at first sight?

Based on the research in the Netherlands (mentioned above), it was determined that men proclaim “love at first sight” more often than women. The study found no distinct explanation for this. Plus, there was no evidence demonstrating whether these proclamations progressed into long-term commitment. 

This study also concluded that we are more likely to fall in love at first sight with objectively “beautiful” people. In fact, the research established that you are nine times more likely to feel that electricity (which some may call love at first sight) with a physically attractive individual.

Lastly, the research showed that love at first sight was rarely mutual. Still, it seems, when love at first sight results in a relationship, the intense feelings of the initial admirer can reshape the admired’s memory of that first glance. In other words, while love at first sight may not have been mutual in reality, the couple may look back together and fondly “remember” that it was.

How do you fall in love at first sight?

If so many long-lasting romantic relationships begin with some form of love at first sight, it might be worth it to try to stand out from the crowd. Put yourself out there with your best foot forward (so to speak) when you’re out on the town. 

Since we’re talking about sight, consider some eye-catching eyewear — or even some striking color contact lenses. Maybe they’ll help you become the object of someone else’s affection.

Or maybe you should just be yourself.

Will you fall in love at first sight, though? That rests entirely in the eye of the beholder.

READ MORE: Eye anatomy: A closer look at parts of the eye

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