We've all seen that scene in movies when two complete strangers see one another and are suddenly overcome with a feeling that they're meant to be — a feeling that many are quick to label "love."
But that special, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling isn't really love, says Florian Zsok, a lead researcher investigating the phenomenon. According to Zsok, that instant spark has more to do with lust than anything else and, adding insult to injury, he also found that the feeling is rarely reciprocated. (womp, womp)
The study, which was published in the Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research, detailed three stages of data collection — an online survey, a lab study and two dating events that lasted 20 and 90 minutes, respectively.
Participants included a total of 396 Dutch and German students, of which roughly 60 percent were women and most were heterosexual.
The last two experiments involved speed dating exercises that had potential partners meet for 20 minutes in one scenario and 90 in another. Just like in the online and lab study, participants were asked after the meetings to answer questions about their attraction toward their date, experience of love at first sight, and any other feelings of love.
Overall, a mere 34 participants (mostly men) described 49 experiences of love at first sight, either toward their potential partner or a person they'd met during the speed dating experiment. (Yes, people experienced love at first sight more than once.)
"Experiences of [love at first sight] were marked neither by high passion, nor by intimacy, nor by commitment," researchers concluded in their study. "Physical attraction was highly predictive of reporting [love at first sight]."
"We therefore suggest that [love at first sight] is not a distinct form of love, but rather a strong initial attraction that some label as [love at first sight], either in the moment of first sight or retrospectively."
Though the study did set up an artificial and (somewhat) unrealistic environment, it's unlikely it will officially put an end to the nauseating love at first sight stories family members are forced to listen to during the holidays.