The Science of Falling in Love

Looking for love and want to ensure it’s everlasting? Throw on the lab coat and get your test tube ready: it’s time to join us in the love lab.

Seeking long-term love? The answer to your heart’s desires may be as easy as a calculated 1, 2, 3. While the wing-woman skills of your bestie and matchmaking skills of your mom may produce a
few successes, your true destiny may actually be in the scientific research. So if you’re out of apple pie and ice-cream, and looking for the next best way to a man’s heart, it turns out the colour of your clothes (and even your name) has a greater effect on the success of a relationship than you realised. Cosmo has pulled together research from around the world to ensure your next date has more spunk than flunk (no pun intended).

According to research published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, a person’s career choice is a statistical indicator of their relationship potential. The most reliable relationships are those with an agricultural engineer, with less than 2% of their marriages failing, an optometrist (4%), podiatrist (6.8%) or dentist (7.75%). In contrast, dancers, choreographers and bartenders have a 40% chance of going through a separation or divorce.

First Impressions
First impressions are important, and time is of the essence. Research by Princeton University, US, found that it takes just a tenth of a second to form a first impression.
What The Experts Say: “Both men and women want someone that looks good,” says Dr Barlow. “If we find someone attractive, then we tend to see them as smarter, funnier and kinder. It’s the halo effect. That can make us think they are more compatible with us than they actually are, though.”

The Algorithm Method
The Tinder-isation of the dating world means 50% of us have tried online dating. While each site comes with a different name—RSVP, eHarmony, Elite Singles—they all have one thing in common: algorithms. The site will match you with people who should be compatible. It’s all very mathematical. 

What The Experts Say: “In the real world, we match and pair up with people who share similar ideals to us, such as political values,” explains Dr Barlow. “These sites tend to put such types of  compatibility together. But the ‘spark’ is something that can only be found in person: so swipe first, and then date.” 

The ‘Cheerleader Effect’ Looking for your next profile pic on Facebook? Choose a pic of you with your squad. Apparently, female faces are 5.5% more attractive when pictured as part of a group.
What The Experts Say: “As humans, we are social creatures. We love to know that people that we like are liked by others,” says Dr Barlow. ‘It’s a sign of status, collegiality and respect that people are thought of well within a friendship circle. On your Tinder profile, try to feature more candid shots with your friends to show you’re a person that other people like.”

Researchers from Queen Mary University, UK, found your name could influence how quickly you find love online. People whose name starts with a letter in the first half of the alphabet fare better in love than those whose name starts with a letter in the second half of the alphabet.

While these types of research are great for consideration with your girlfriends over a glass of wine, Dr Pinkus warns against taking them as gospel. “Relationship science draws upon insights from fields like psychology, sociology, anthropology, communication studies and family studies to help us advance our understanding of relationships. However, in recent years, these types of studies have been called into question as other research labs have not found the same patterns of results,” says Dr Pinkus. “If you really want to find a successful relationship, it’s most important that you
remain true to yourself. It’s too hard to keep up a farce on something you’re not. Other factors for establishing a long-term relationship are active listening (put that phone away!) and always showing your gratitude and appreciation. That doesn’t have to mean grand gestures of flowers or hiring the top floor of a restaurant for a fancy dinner. it’s about the little things...it’s about thanking people.” Dr Barlow agrees. “Research only speaks the language of averages. One of the most important things for relationship longevity is communication and feeling valued; making sure you can talk about any issues you have openly and honestly.”

If shades of grey isn’t necessarily your thing, hopefully red is. Research shows men find women more attractive when they wear red. 
What The Experts Say: “Like humans, studies have shown that a lot of young non-human mammals like gibbons and chimpanzees are drawn to the colour red,” says Dr Barlow. “This is because when females of these species are fertile, their sex organs swell and become a pink or red. At times of ovulation, the skin may also flush. Some people propose that human men are also innately drawn to the colour red, but this is also possibly due to its societal association with love: sexy red dresses, red hearts, red roses...”

Turns out true love might be right next door! A classic US study demonstrated the importance of proximity on relationship formation. Researchers asked nearly 300 Massachusetts Institute of Technology dormitory residents to list their closest friends, then looked at where the listed friends lived in the dormitories. When someone lived one door away, there was a 41% likelihood they were listed as a close friend. As the number of doors increased, that likelihood decreased to as low as 10%. 
What The Experts Say: “Proximity affords people the opportunity to get to know one another; it sets the stage for people becoming familiar,” says Dr Pinkus. “The more we see and interact with  people, the more we like them.” Does this also explain the abundance of inter-office romances? We sense a link...