Imagine you’re sitting in a café, walking down the street or standing in a crowd at a concert. You look up or turn your head and see a person you are instantly attracted to. Maybe it’s purely physical, or maybe it’s the way they’re dressed, smiling, or how they appear deeply involved in a book or music.
It feels unexplainable, but your gut is telling you to talk to this person. You might work up the courage to say hello, or you miss the connection. Either way, something has come over you and you simply cannot stop thinking about that person. Is it an unhealthy obsession? Or love at first sight?
Do Scientists Believe in Love at First Sight?
Many biologists believe that love is a biological construct because all human cultures have the capacity to love, as well as some animals that appear to express it. Moreover, scientists report that all humans are genetically wired to be able to fall in love at first sight–it just doesn’t happen for some people.
Looking at what other people think, a survey found that 60% of people believe in love at first sight and 41% of men or 29% of women have reported experiencing love at first sight.
Some scientists say love at first sight could be possible, especially considering that it’s possible for our brain to make a decision about attraction in one-tenth of a second.
What Happens to Your Brain When You’re in Love?
When you fall in love at first sight, you might feel the urge or a gut reaction to bond with that person. This is because our brain releases oxytocin–often referred to as the “love hormone”–during human contact and effects how you bond with that person. Since everyone responds differently, the association to the brain can either be good (love) or bad (hate).
A study published in Nature (2009) discovered two key parts of our brains that are activated when we encounter a new person in our life. One area of the brain is referred to as the “amygdala” (our emotions) and the other is the “posterior cingulate cortex” (autobiographical memory), which also helps our brain make decisions and determine the value of what we’re faced with.
Moreover, research reveals that different parts of your brain work together to release chemicals (dopamine, oxytocin, adrenalin and vasopressin) that give off an experience of euphoria, bonding and excitement. When you fall in love, your brain releases these chemicals from different parts of your brain.
Think about how you feel when you start a new relationship. Everything is exciting, fun and you feel addicted to the person you are dating. If you’re a chocolate lover, it’s kind of the same feeling you get when you eat chocolate because the same reward system in your brain activates.
When you fall in love, your brain releases the chemical dopamine, which is the chemical released when someone uses cocaine. When you fall in love at first sight, it would feel similar to taking a hit of cocaine–a quick rush that feels rewarding and that your brain becomes addicted to.
Similar to how addition works, your brain experiences cravings, motivations and withdrawals when it experiences passionate, deep feelings of love. Your brain can therefore view someone as “chemically rewarding” meaning that the brain is releasing all these chemicals–and since your body wants to continue feeling this way–it wants to keep the source around. This is why love at first sight could be possible if your brain is able to quickly generate this kind of long-term attachment, which, remember, we are able to make a decision within a fraction of a second about whether or not we are attracted to someone. If we our brain reacts quickly enough, its possible your feeling of “falling in love at first sight” could be real.