Love exists under a scientific definition, that it’s something biological and not simply a cultural construct. The idea then of being able to fall in love at first sight isn’t completely impossible. But what’s the science behind this love at first sight phenomenon? 

The idea that you can meet your destined love partner at a glance has been around for a long time. An example being Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers who fell in love instantly. However, many people believe that it’s not possible to fall in love with someone from only a look. Looks are shallow and love is considered much deeper.

Yet in the above poll, 55% of people believe in love at first sight. Less than a quarter don’t believe in it, and another 21% are unsure. Others believed that it’s possible to fall in lust at first sight, but not love.

Love vs Lust

The main argument against love at first sight is that you can not know the deeper attributes of a person simply from looking at them. Things such as intelligence, kindness and humour all play a large part in attraction.

It’s then argued that what we feel is not romantic attraction to the other person, but simply sexual attraction. Therefore you can feel lust at first sight, but not love.

However, this changes when you consider the definition of love. A mother, for instance, will feel love for her baby as soon as she sees them after giving birth. This is unconditional love and does not rely on the personality traits of the child.

Although maternal love and romantic love are very different, it does show that the brain is capable of feeling deep affection instantly.

Romantic love can also be described as “a state of intense longing for union with another” as seen in a study by Hatfield & Rapson from 1987. If upon meeting someone that you are extremely sexually attracted to, you can also argue that you are romantically attracted to straight away as well.

After all, we all meet people we think “I really want to be with them romantically” even before we get to know them better.

What is the point?

If love at first sight is something possible, the next question would be why. What is the point? Is there any biological advantage to falling in love at first sight? Some survival tactic? Other animals have been shown to also “fall in love at first sight” such as voles. If this phenomenon happens in other species, there must be some advantage.

Research has shown that people tend to choose partners who have similar DNA to them; a person’s genetic makeup and physical health can be identified visually, as well as through smell, sound, and taste.

Pheromones play a big part in attraction and on a subconscious level, your body might be able to conclude that this person is a good genetic match for you. Your brain thinks “They have DNA that will make good offspring” and pushes you then to become sexually and romantically interested in the other person.

The actual science

In neurological studies, it’s been shown that different parts of your brain are activated by feelings of love rather than sexual desire.

When you fall in love your brain releases chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria, bonding and excitement. These include dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin.

Instant love gives your brain the same reward/feelings that cocaine does. That’s why at the start of a relationship love can be like an addiction, making your heart race, making you obsessively compulsive. In long term love these feelings reduce, but the brain is still rewarded with feelings of euphoria, they just come from slightly different parts.


It appears that love at first sight can happen. It would be a way for your body to recognise someone else as a fantastic potential partner, and push you towards being with them. Your brain releases lots of chemicals that give you a rush.

Long term love can then develop as you build a relationship and get to know the person better. This love that replaced the initial intense love is what most people consider “real love”.

So whilst you might not feel that long term stable love at first sight, you are able to feel intense feelings of wanting to be with someone both romantically and sexually straight away. It is however extremely rare. It probably doesn’t happen as often as people believe it does.

  • neilw

    I’m a great believer in love, but I don’t for an instant think it is tidy enough to be capable of scientific quantification – it’s a different thing for everyone, for a startoff, so how can you arrive at a general quantification model?

    Can you love more than one person at once?

    And as for initial visual attraction, well of course, but it’s not love, is it? It might not even be lust.

    The brain chemistry and neurology is interesting and worthy of study, but we’re edging perilously close to tabloid journalism with attaching the “love at first sight” label – good article heading, though! :D

    Best not to overthink it, and just enjoy it, I reckon!

    • You just said you think love is different for everyone, but then you go on to say it’s not possible to be in love at first sight. I think that’s a bit contradictory. What you’re saying is you don’t believe love at first sight is possible under what YOU specifically define as love. But under your own argument, you should agree that since love is so broad and varied, it’s entirely possible for other people.

      But if we had to define love as a singular thing, then yes, we would probably use the scientific definition, which tries to define it based on the both biological and psychological reactions inside us – under which case, then yes, love at first sight is indeed possible, if not improbable.

      I’m slightly offended that just because the article is on a subject you don’t believe in that you would label it tabloid journalism.

      • Mac Te

        I am not sure if you want to include the spiritual side of things, third eye, aura sense or not.
        Because sometimes you may can fall in love with them on first sight, because of their aura, which basically says alot about them.

        But then again thats the more spiritual side of things

        • Actually I wonder if there’s scientific ways of looking at aura when it comes to attraction – for instance the mention of pheromones and compatible DNA. How much is it your biology saying “this person will be a great genetic match!” do we perceive as a good aura or feeling?

          • Mac Te

            I would agree to a certain point that pheromones could be a scientific way to compare to aura, however in that case, Aura is not looked at but rather whiffed through the nose as pheromones than makes your genetics in side your body goes crazy for that specific match. Do you Harriet, personally believe in the Aura glow spiritually?

        • formyems

          The love of my life, I “saw” her before I met her. They experienced something similar. There’s more to it but it’s complex. But, we were star-crossed from the start. For years we fought it and made it work as best we could. Finally as we get ready to get married, trying to please everyone around us even those who wanted us apart, so they could be with us at our wedding, it became too overwhelming and they turned on us. Now I don’t know what will happen. It’s not good now.

          • Mac Te

            Was that in a dream, or vision that you first “saw” her? Sorry to have it hear so, I dont know what to say man, but for that time period that worked out for you and her it felt good real as can be right? I hope things flow better for you

          • formyems

            Thank you, I’m trying to be hopeful things will work out for us. It was both in dreams and waking vision during meditation. This began in the summer of 10 years ago. The waking vision itself was so precise, literally her and a sibling in the home they lived in at the time. Never anything like that before or since. It was also great times of change in my life in many areas, which may have been connected. I found her several months later, I went back to school, signed up for what was one of the only open classes late in the semester, and there she was. I found sneaky ways to talk with her and got to know her and we went on some dates but didn’t form a relationship right away. Her family was in the way then, and in some ways still are. We started our relationship the following summer, it’s been intense since the beginning though we’ve had our times apart too. Things are precarious now so all well wishing is welcome.

      • neilw

        “Edging perilously close to…” :-D
        More of a (possibly) backhanded compliment, because you are very clever at coming up with a tabloid-type banner and then using it to badge a serious, well-researched and well-thought out article. Like this one.

        I stand by my uncertainty, though. I know what love is by my definition, and it doesn’t include lust, although the two are certainly inter-related. I don’t think my uncertainties mean I disagree with you, I think they mean that I neither agree nor disagree because I’m too uncertain!