We have all seen it in movies. A man and a woman happen to glance at each other, and at that moment he feels a rush of love, and stops in his track, just staring and smiling. Everything slows down and all noise is muffled as he marvels at the woman who just stole his heart. If he was Asian, probably some background music and wind would be present to heighten the drama even more. We all can agree that this portrayal of love at first sight in entertainment is overly dramatised, due to screenplays and storylines. However, many of us actually believe in love at first sight. A poll done by the dating site Elite Singles in 2017 actually showed that 61% of women and 72% of men believed in it, which is astonishing considering we grew up in a society that placed more emphasis on education and career choices. This then raises the question, does love at first sight really exist? Can you just fall in love without knowing anything about someone, without assessing compatibility or even similar interests?
Love at first sight is a romantic ideal construct, a certain belief that after one meeting, a romantic relationship is sure to blossom (Bell, 1975). It is also categorised as an elaborately passionate and fast-paced relation (Sprecher & Metts, 1989). This points to the notion that we just look at someone for the first time and decide that we want to spend the rest of our lives with them. Normally, when we search for a partner, we look for people who share the same level of extraversion and agreeableness as us (Markey & Markey, 2007). This is a common way, where you spend some significant time with them, to make decisions on compatibility. But, not in love at first sight. We take just one look and we focus on favourable physical traits such as height, weight, and age (Buss & Barnes, 1986). These are more easily noticeable, and once someone fits your expectation of an ideal partner, they automatically seem more attractive to you. One study noted that those who believe in love at first sight “ think that it is perfectly acceptable for physical intimacy and long-term commitment to happen sooner than what might be considered socially normative or appropriate ” (Hefner, 2011, p. 33). So, this means that it is possible to get attracted and ‘fall’ in love at first sight. But, is it as simple as just a physical attraction or an idea of a soulmate that causes us to fall head over heels over someone?
Several studies have been conducted to assess media’s influence on youths having specific romantic ideals, such as love at first sight. In these studies, the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) is prevalent. The SCT is, simply put, the theory that individuals learn by watching other people’s actions and behaviours (Bandura, 1986). This usually meant face-to-face interactions, however, it can also take place in the context of media. One study conducted by Bachen & Illouz (1996) saw 90% of youths concluding that they learned about love through media. Another study showed that those who preferred to watch media that predominantly focused in the genre of romance, tend to have the “idealistic belief in the existence of predestined soulmates” (Holmes, 2007). This shows that everything we know about love today, is deeply rooted in what we are and were exposed to via the various media forms. In fact, another study concluded that not only does the media influence our normal beliefs on love in general, heavy exposures to media also cultivate unrealistic beliefs, such as thinking that disagreements are destructive for a relationship (Shapiro & Kroeger, 1991). Sounds familiar? A lot of us would have met or at least seen such people with unrealistic expectations for their relationship. We may have berated them for having high standards, but, now we know that they, perhaps, have been heavily influenced by media.
Based on the research available to us today, we can conclude that love at first sight is possible and should not be deemed a myth. Those who refute this strongly could have been influenced by media as well. Love at first sight is real, however, we need to understand that there is a science behind why some people actually fall in love in one glance. Preferences of physical characteristics and influence of media on your idea of love and perfect soulmate are two of the many reasons that this happens. However, those who are more religiously inclined or those who believe in a connection with the universe, would beg to differ, instead citing God or the universe sending that person at that specific timing to enter your life. This points back to the idealistic belief concluded by Holmes (2007), that soulmates are predestined for us. And that is perfectly fine, as long as everyone lives happily ever after. So, if you are single, head out after the Covid-19 pandemic and see if you can find the love of your life in one glance.
- Bachen, C.M., & Illouz, E. (1996). Imagining romance: Young people‘s cultural models of romance and love. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 13, 279-308. doi : https://doi.org/10.1080/15295039609366983
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. The Health Psychology Reader, 94 – 106.
- Bell, R. R. (1975). Marriage and family interaction (4 th Ed.). Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.
- Buss, D. M., & Barnes, M. (1986). Preferences in human mate selection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(3), 559–570.
- Hefner, V. (2011). From love at first sight to soul mate : romantic ideals in popular films and their association with young people’s beliefs about relationships. 1-228.
- Holmes, B.M. (2007). In search of my “one and only”: Romance-oriented media and beliefs in romantic relationships destiny. Electronic Journal of Communication, 17(3), 1-18.
- Markey, P. M., & Markey, C. N. (2007). Romantic ideals, romantic obtainment, and relationship experiences: The complementarity of interpersonal traits among romantic partners. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 24, 517-533. doi: 10.1177/0265407507079241
- Shapiro, J. & Kroeger, L. (1991). Is life just a romantic novel? The relationship between attitudes about intimate relationships and the popular media. American Journal of Family Therapy, 19, 226-236. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/01926189108250854
- Sprecher, S., & Metts, S. (1989). Development of the ‘Romantic Beliefs Scale‘ and examination of the effects of gender and gender-role orientation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 6, 387-411. doi : https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0265407589064001
Contributed by: R Santosh
Santosh is an undergraduate student with Murdoch University, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Criminology. He is sporty, caring and loves a good conversation. His life experiences has taught him to not judge or label others. His greatest asset is his ability to empathise with others and he uses that to help people to change their lives for the better.