Saturday, 23 March 2013

THE THINKER: The Science of "Love at First Sight"

With the romantic couple being the dominant media icon of our time (Dym & Glenn, 1993) and intimate relationships being the driving force of a large percentage of human behaviour, sociology & psychology have attempted to scientifically examine the phenomenon of attraction.

The theory of social homogamy explains that attraction occurs between people who are from similar social backgrounds (Holloway et al., 193).  Studies have shown the highest correlations of similarities in social factors are age, race, ethnic background, religion, socio-economic status, and political views (Holloway et al., 193); correlations for physical characteristics were also found, “suggesting that people find others with a similar appearance attractive” (Buss 1994). 

Ideal mate theory, on the other hand, suggests “that attraction is based on an individual’s unconscious image of the ideal mate formed from his or her perceptions of the meaning of certain characteristics” (Holloway et al., 193). 

Interestingly, both theories support the concept of “love at first sight” and both theories provide a psychological reason for its occurrence.  According to the ideal mate theory, every person’s “unconscious ideal” is constantly being utilized to compare and measure another person’s attractiveness (Holloway et al., 193).  The theory of social homogamy explains that perceptions of an ideal mate formed from positive childhood “experiences with other individuals”(such as a person’s family, people within the community, and media personalities who are similar) creates an ideal that is then used to compare against a potential romantic candidate (Holloway et al., 194).   In effect, and according to both theories, when the experimental comparison registers high in its measurement of similarity to one’s ideal mate, an instantaneous psychological reaction occurs and creates the perception of “love at first sight!”

Creating a mindset for your ideal mate is another way to look at it.  Perhaps, you have an unconscious memory of your mother leaning over the crib: you notice her blue eyes; she is singing to you; you feel safe; you feel comforted.  Later in your life, while at elementary school, you are helped by a teacher who has a certain demeanor and body type that you unconsciously remember.  Even later, in your pubescent years, you find yourself watching Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window; she stoops forward to kiss a sleeping James Stewart, white pearls glistening against her white neck; she moves closer, closer, even closer, her face suddenly filling the entire screen; you are struck by her blue eyes, her arched nose, her red lips….Now, as an adult, you enter a room full of people; you suddenly hear a soft voice in the corner, melodious, perhaps familiar; you look over; her frame is slight; she wears pearls, has blue eyes and there is just something, something, specifically, about her that especially attracts you…

Buss, D. M.  The Evolution of DesireNew York: Basic Books, 1994.

Dym, B., & Glenn, M.  “Forecast for Couples.” Psychology Today July/August 1993.

Holloway, Maureen, et al.  Individuals and Families in a Diverse SocietyToronto:
            McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 2003.

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