Many times we forget to study what processes make us fall in love. We usually assume that falling in love is caused by a matter of physical attraction or common ground between two people. However, there are many other factors that make us feel that we have found our better half.
The attributes of passion, according to Aron (expert psychologist in the study of relationships), are the following:
- Similarity. If we think similarly to the other person, we have similar personality traits and we share a similar value system we will feel more attracted to them. A study carried out by Zeki in his article “The Neurobiology of Love” shows that low levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter of happiness) in our brain, are counteracted by the similarity and familiarity we feel towards a person. In addition, it has been shown that if these levels of serotonin increase during the beginning of a romantic relationship,which encourages romantic attachment and bonding in the couple.
- Closeness or affinity. There is an effect called “mere exposure” that shows that we feel more closeness and positive affect towards a person or object as we spend time with them. This happens for example with the songs on the radio. Maybe at first you do not like a song, but after listening to it twenty times on the radio, you want to sing it along and you even know the lyrics. With people the effect of “mere exposure” occurs when we spend time together, live close, work together and cross each other frequently, so that the presence of the other becomes pleasant and familiar. In addition, another interesting feature of love is that a felt closeness to a new lover creates higher levels of the reward and chemical motivation of dopamine, while the distance can lead to them being reduced.
- Appearance and qualities that are desirable. The physical attraction is very important, especially if the person has qualities that we find especially attractive. This point is the most influential when it comes to feel physical attraction to someone, but we must not forget that it is not the only responsible for us to feel passion towards that person.
- Mutual attraction. Feeling that the other person is attracted to you makes you unconsciously like them more. That is to say, the reciprocity of the experienced emotions makes us feel more intensely our attraction towards the other person. Do not forget that sometimes we confuse passion with other strong emotions that have an activating effect on our brain such as anxiety or fear. For example, the feeling of increased levels of adrenaline is sometimes confused with a feeling of being in love with a person. In his famous experiment Dutton and Aron (1974) discovered that more men fell in love with an attractive interviewer when asked questions in situations of anxiety (a suspension bridge that aroused fear) compared to quiet situations. Therefore, even in the absence of most other factors of the appearance of passion, finding someone in a situation of anxiety can cause us to fall in love with that person. In addition to feeling passion, in the long term there are other factors that influence that the attraction to go further, making us fall in love with that person. These factors are the following:
- Social influence. A potential union that satisfies the general social norms, as well as the acceptance of the possible union within the social network, can contribute to people falling in love. On the contrary, a union that does not meet general social norms or that is not accepted by the social network, can result in people falling for love.
- Satisfaction of needs. If a person can meet the needs of companionship, love, or sex there is a greater chance that the other person will fall in love with him or her.
These factors influence the strength of our relationship. Entering into a committed relationship requires giving up part of our personal autonomy including the other person in our life. If the other person has desirable characteristics, their presence in our life can be perceived as a part that makes us feel more complete, instead of feeling it as a loss of freedom (Aron & Aron, 1996).
Acevedo, B P.; Aron, A. (2009). Does a long-term relationship kill romantic love? Review of General Psychology, Vol 13(1), 59-65.
Aron, A & Aron, EN. (1986). Love and the Expansion of Self: Understanding Attraction and Satisfaction, New York, NY, US: Hemisphere Publishing Corp/Harper & Row.
Aron, EN & Aron, A. (1996) “Love and Expansion of the Self: The State of the Model”, Personal Relationships 3, 1: 45–58
Dutton, D. G., Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 30, No. 4, 510-517. doi : 10.1037/h0037031
Zeki S. “The Neurobilogy of Love” (2007) Jun 12;581(14):2575-9. Epub 2007 May 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/175319