Does 'love at first sight' really exist?

First impressions are a real thing. The moment you lay eyes on someone, you make a judgment about them. Their face. Their clothes. Their posture. Research has shown that these first impressions do tell us a lot – but does it mean that people can instantly fall in love?


Put simply, yes. But that answer comes with some caveats.

Research supports the idea that first impressions are made quickly and tend to stick. Psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov published research in 2006 that found that people form an impression after seeing a stranger’s face for only one tenth of a second. And, while continuing to see the person often reinforced that impression, it did not change it. Other studies have shown that in just a few seconds, people make initial judgments about traits such as a person being social, accepting, competent, and confident.

When applied to your love life, if you and a potential love interest immediately find each other irresistible, that attraction is initially likely to grow. But that doesn’t mean that your first impressions gave you both the full story about each other. With time, you’ll come to see facets of each other’s personalities that could not possibly all have been conveyed in those first few seconds. So, your initial reactions may give way to real experiences that dampen your excitement.

Bottom line is, if love seems to hit you like a bolt of lightning, proceed with caution. While you can tell a lot about someone from your initial gut reaction, that assessment might be wrong, or at least incomplete. Consider “love at first sight” as the way you are feeling in the moment. Enjoy the excitement, but be sure to pay attention to who the person reveals himself to be – and remember, this happens over time, not in an instant.

If you’re lucky, that "love at first sight" feeling will grow into a deep, "forever" kind of love.

Source: Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

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