"Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?" So asked poet Christopher Marlowe some 500 years ago, and now social scientists say they've got a scientific answer to the romantic notion that attraction is instant. It turns out that people who started dating within a month of meeting tend to be similarly attractive, while those who knew each other longer or were friends first tended to be less similar in their level of attraction, the researchers report this month in the journal Psychological Science. The 167 couples (100 of them married) had been together as little as three months and as long as 53 years, and attraction was assessed by a panel of judges watching video of participants being interviewed.
The conclusion is that the better we get to know someone, the better equipped we are to assess that person's desirability based on a range of features, not just physical ones, they report in a press release. This is called "mate value," and not surprisingly, it evolves over time and can lead to "slow love," as one researcher puts it. In fact, in a 2012 Match.com survey, a third of men and nearly half of women say they've fallen in love with someone they didn't first find attractive. "Everyone is terrified that online dating is reducing mate value to just a few superficial things like beauty—whether you swipe left or right on Tinder," an anthropologist tells the New York Times. "But that’s just the start of the process. Once you meet someone and get to know them, their mate value keeps changing." (One dating site attempts to take attraction to a genetic level.)