12/02/2016 10:43 GMT | Updated 12/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Can You Really Experience Love at First Sight?


Love at first sight is a concept that has been written, sung, acted out and discussed in just about every medium possible. For centuries, people have talked about the instant attraction they felt the moment they met "the one". But is just a fleeting glance really enough to tell you that you want to spend the rest of your life with this person, or are we looking back with rose tinted glasses?

The look of love

Explaining that instant feeling of love is actually a lot more difficult than you might imagine, with many people arguing that the first step is nothing more than sexual attraction. After all, how can you really judge a person's honesty, sense of humour or true character before you have at least talked to them in a while? In an article in Psychology today, Aaron Ben-Zeev Ph.D. put forward his own answer to this question. Essentially he suggested that it all comes down to the basic stereotypes we apply to people.

Right or wrong, the first time we meet someone we make some assumptions about everything from the way might act in social situations, right down to the kind of music they might like. With that first initial look, just the fact you find someone attractive will lead you to think of them in a certain way. As Aaron Ben-Zeev puts it,

"Love at first sight can often mislead since it is based more on imagination than on sight; however, it can still be love, and is often very intense."

It's all in the eyes.

With that in mind maybe it is possible to fall madly in love right away, but it's important to make the distinction between love and simply finding someone attractive. That's where the eyes really become important.

In a famous 2014 study, led by John and Stephanie Cacioppo, researchers at the University of Chicago asked students to look at photographs of complete strangers in quick succession. As quickly as they could, and without hesitating, the participants were asked to indicate whether the photo elicited feelings of romantic love or sexual desire.

Participants had no trouble at all telling the difference, and never really took any longer to decide one way or the other. What they did find was a marked difference in the way people's eyes scanned over the photo.

If a subject reported feelings of desire, then their eyes tended to wander across the body in the photo. However, those who reported feelings of love would stay firmly fixated on the face, specifically looking into the eyes on the photo.

Windows to the soul

Whatever you believe, there's no questioning that most of us never forget the first time you had a "moment" with another person. Whether you spent that first moment nervously shaking hands, sipping a drink to hide that you're blushing or even arguing about movies or music, there is something to the idea that a quick glance into your partners eyes can stay with you forever.

As an Optometrist, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't mention just how important this makes looking after your eyes. Keeping regular check-ups with your optician can ensure you're always seeing clearly, and can even help to spot early warning signs that can be dealt with before they become problems. It's also worth checking your contact lens prescription, to ensure your eyes stay comfortable and relaxed throughout the day.

That being said I hope you do have a great Valentine's Day, however you're spending it this year.