Neither artistic masterpieces nor great cities are created in a single day. So, why would love spring up during the brief seconds of a first glance? There is nothing wrong with trusting an instinct or a first impression, but that visceral feeling experienced at first sight of another is not love, it is just attraction.
According to an article in Psychology Today from Feb. 2010, what we call “love at first sight” is the process of singling-out potential partners from the rest of the herd. It is based largely on physical appearance. The article refers to it as “physiological arousal.”
This concept is well-documented in literature, where the term originates. Romeo “fell in love” with Juliet upon catching a brief glimpse of her. As a teenager who sees another teen around his age, this attraction is natural and most likely accompanied by other signals of attraction. That he unconsciously selects a peer, Juliet, from the crowded room further proves the thesis above. This is the only logical explanation for the events that follow in the weeklong timeline of the play. It was mutual attraction, not love, that led to the marriage and suicides of the protagonists in the tragedy.
Love is a concept that is deeply rooted in all cultures of the world. It is discussed in the philosophy of the ancient Greeks and of Confucius, the Bible and other sacred books, and in countless works of literature. It is studied in the fields of philosophy, theology, psychology, sociology and other academic fields. Despite thousands of years of awareness, we still do not understand love. We only have the sensation of feeling some sort of emotion.
Perhaps it is the fact that in modern American English we use the same word to describe the feelings of a parent for a child, those that exist between best friends and the relations between two lovers. This clumsy use of the same word is most likely a contributing factor to the reason why 60 percent of Americans believe in love at first sight and 50 percent of the same pool also believe they have experienced it.
In the tradition of the Greek philosophers, love is divided into three subcategories from least to greatest: eros, philia and agape. Eros, the root of the word “erotic,” is defined in the “Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy” as a lesser type of love associated with an idealized beauty and the search for it. If love at first sight is based upon physical appearance, then it is nothing more than a contemporary explanation of eros, rooted in literature.
There is nothing wrong with an initial attraction to someone. To condemn being attracted to someone is like denying oneself air; it only harms the one in denial. However, to say that this attraction is love at first sight is wrong. To confuse the two is like saying an apple is an orange, misidentifying two related emotions. These may sound like the words of a cynic, but to quote the Australian rock band Sick Puppies, “I don’t like illusions I can’t see.”
– Jess Scanlon
Junior journalism major