Is Love at First Sight Real? How Sex and Lust Confuse Your Brain

A couple walking through England. Many people believe in love at first sight, but a new study says it doesn't exist. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Love at first sight is often the backbone of romantic tales, most likely because many are enchanted by the idea. A survey of more than 1,000 adults in 2013 revealed that 56 percent believed in the phenomenon, Reuters reported at the time. However, a new piece of research is here to dash your romantic notions.

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Scientists from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that what many believe to be love at first sight is really nothing more than intense physical attraction, according to a story in the British Psychological Society's Research Digest. Adding to that blow is the finding that the feelings are rarely reciprocated.

These soul-crushing results were found through a collection of studies that included 396 Dutch and German students. Roughly 60 percent were women and most were straight.

In an online survey, the men and women looked at photos of potential mates, who were strangers, and ranked how attractive they were. They also rated whether they experienced any feelings of intimacy, passion and commitment toward the people in the images by answering questions like, "I feel that the person and I were meant for each other." These three components make up what's known as the Triangular Theory of Love, coined by psychologist Robert Sternberg. As he believes, love is based on those three areas, and greatly impacts how we experience the emotion.

Participants also answered whether they experienced love at first sight simply from viewing the photos, or believed they were meant to be with a particular person. The researchers repeated this experiment during a laboratory session where people looked at photos in person. In two other tests, the students met people in real life for either 90 or 20 minutes, before completing the questionnaires.

While 32 people, mostly men, experienced love at first sight 49 times (yes, for some it happened more than once), the components of Sternberg's theory of love weren't present. Instead, the researchers found that love at first sight was most strongly linked to physical attraction. During the dating events, none of the "love" was mutual.

The team also analyzed everyone's love lives (the students completed questionnaires about their personal lives) and found that people who believed their relationships were a result of love at first sight talked about their partner more passionately. This led the researchers to believe that people were projecting their current feelings onto how they initially felt, intensifying that first meeting.

Sorry, romantics. It looks like love at first sight really is something out of fairy tales. But if you do believe you've experienced it, you can at least take solace in knowing that the object of your affections is probably hot.