Science behind love at first sight

man and woman meet

You’ve probably heard stories about couples saying they knew they were destined to be soul mates with just one glance. It’s love at first sight, but is this just some fairytale or is there any science behind it? As it turns out, there might be more to Romeo and Juliet than meets the eye. 


Neuroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo led a study designed to examine what occurs in the brain when humans fall in love or simply get smitten by lust. She and her team relied on neuroimaging to view how the brain functions when love strikes. The study’s findings show that twelve areas of the brain work together, releasing a mixture of hormones and chemicals that create the feeling of falling in love. 

It doesn’t take the brain long, either. In just a fifth of a second, your mind induces that euphoric feeling people equate with being lifted off their feet, swept away, or struck with Cupid’s arrow.  Those butterflies in your stomach are actually your brain working at hyper speed to get your heart beating for your new object of desire. 

What is Love? What is Lust? 

Haddaway’s burning question, “What is love?” finally has an answer. The first process that takes place is the conscious awareness of being in love, which is the butterflies and floating stage. Your brain creates an intense and longing desire to be with someone, which is scientifically defined as passionate love. 

Next comes desire, which is derived from an increased frequency in sexual thoughts and fantasies. That’s lust, and it’s every bit as important to love as companionship. In relation to love, however, lust must also be accompanied by the intention to be with one specific individual. Without that, those butterflies in your stomach probably just mean you’re horny. 

The fMRI studies show that passion and sexual desire both rely on your subcortical brain, which is linked to euphoria, reward, and motivation. They also need the cortical brain, which is in charge of self-representation and social cognition. The parts of the brain within these areas respond more intensely with feelings of love than they do lust, signifying that there is indeed a difference. 

Love’s Deception

While all of this brain activity is taking place, your feelings of love begin to make you giddy. Dopamine rushes occur, and you do things you might not normally consider to gain the attention of your crush. Acting on these impulses alone is what leads couples to needing a contested divorce lawyer

Love, as Cacioppo found, goes beyond those initial sensations and infatuations to create a complex network of reward expectancy, habit formation, and feature detection that humans continually build over the course of their lives. This is why love takes on different forms for different people. 

So, Is Love at First Sight Real? 

The short answer is no. That initial spark that can lead to marriage and children can also lead to skilled family law representation in a divorce. Love develops as couples nurture it, much like caring for a plant if you want it to blossom. That means it’s far more than an initial spark at first glance. 

When couples look back and say it was love at first sight, they’re just projecting their current feelings about their relationship onto their memories. While you can’t really love someone you’ve never met or talked to, those initial feelings of being smitten sure do make it feel like love at first sight exists.