we Fall in Love?
Bowles Reyer, Ph.D.
is better to have loft and lost than to never have loft at
all." Groucho Marx
does it at one time or another but why? We're talking about
falling in love. Professor Arthur Aron from State University
of New York at Stonybrook, has been exploring the dynamics
of what exactly happens when two people are falling in love:
What motivates people to seek out love?
A: Our primary motivation as human
beings is to expand the self and to increase our abilities
and our effectiveness. One of the ways we accomplish this
is through our relationships with other people. We have learned
in our research that it is important to feel that you have
the ability to be an effective person, especially in our relationships.
How does this theory of self-expansion explain the process
of falling in love?
A: Usually, we fall in love with
a person that we find attractive and appropriate for us, but
also someone who demonstrates that they are attracted to us.
This creates a situation where a great opportunity is open
to us for self-expansion. The fact that they are attracted
to us offers a significant opportunity when we perceive this,
we feel a surge of exhilaration!
Does it always work this way?
A: No, an interesting exception
to this occurs if we feel badly about ourselves. The process
gets thrown off if we can't believe that another person finds
us attractive like the Groucho Marx joke where we don't want
to belong to a club that would have us for a member. We tend
to miss out on opportunities for falling in love if we don't
feel good about ourselves.
What conditions are best for meeting someone and falling in
A: When you meet someone under conditions
that are highly arousing, a political demonstration, turbulence
on a plane, a stimulating performance a time when the body
is stirred up and excited, we tend to experience attraction
at a heightened level. This effect is well documented but
the explanations for it are very controversial. I tend to
believe that we come to associate the arousal of the situation
with this person and our own self-expansion.
When do we fall in love?
A: Contrary to what most people
think, the statistics show that most people fall in love with
someone that they have known for a while. People only report
falling in love quickly about 1/3 to 40 percent of the time.
Of course, this varies from culture to culture. Falling in
love happens differently between cultures but it does occur
in most cultures.
How does our appearance factor into the equation of falling
A: This is interesting; we have
found that if you are very unattractive, it can hurt you a
lot in forming romantic relationships. However, being attractive
doesn't help that much.
How do you explain that?
A: We have found that two important
characteristics, kindness and intelligence, are extremely
important in the process of falling in love. And attractiveness
is not connected to these things. These two attributes are
things that people learn about someone from knowing them over
time. Intelligence is important in all aspects of life, especially
in love. But kindness is the strongest indicator for a successful