The ‘spark’ is in the heart: Couples whose pulses synchronise when they meet are more likely to fancy one another, study finds
- Researchers in the Netherlands measured pulse rates and body language
- They did the tests on 140 people at a music festival by arranging speed-dating
- Body language was not a reliable sign of who would say they fancied each other
- But heartbeats and skin conductivity synchronised in couples who hit it off
The ‘spark’ people feel when meeting someone with relationship potential could be a real biological experience, a study has suggested.
Researchers who measured people’s vital signs when they met people in a speed-dating situation found their heart rates and sweating synchronised in some cases.
They said watching someone’s body language was not a reliable indicator of whether they were attracted to the other person.
But their heart rate told a different story, and the more the couple’s pulses matched up while they were together the more likely they were to hit it off.
The researchers found that, although typically thought of as tell-tale signs, body language such as eye contact and touching was not a reliable indicator of whether people would say they fancied each other or not (stock image)
Scientists from Leiden University in the Netherlands tested their theory on 140 people at a music festival, the New Scientist reported.
They set up a walk-up cabin where people were brought together in a makeshift speed-dating situation in which they could spend two minutes looking at their partner and another two minutes talking to them.
During this time they wore sensors which measured their heart rates and the conductivity of their skin – a measure of how well it could transmit electricity.
They also wore glasses which tracked where their eyes looked and had all their body movements recorded.
‘You hear about people who are well suited to each other in theory but there is no spark,’ said Dr Mariska Kret, the leader of the study.
‘We wanted to know if you can quantify the spark.’
The participants were asked at the end of the meeting whether they would like to go on a real date and what they thought the other person would say to that question.
Only 16 per cent of the couples – who were all straight – both said they would like to go on a date, so the scientists gave them each other’s phone numbers.
Men were more likely to say yes – 53 per cent of them said they would go on a date but only 34 per cent of women did.
The Leiden University researchers conducted their study using walk-up participants in a speed-dating situation at a music festival (stock image)
Dr Kret’s team found people’s heart rates and skin conductance were the best predictors of how much a couple liked one another.
Body language did not appear to relate to the person’s answer, even if the couple had been giving similar body language such as touching their faces or nodding.
PhD researcher Eliska Prochazkova told the New Scientist: ‘There was no body language to tell you if your partner was interested – physiology is where we found much better estimates.’
Dr Kret and Ms Prochazkova also found that people’s ideas of how well suited they were to the other person were clouded by their own feelings.
People who fancied their partner were more likely to think they fancied them back, but this was not borne out by the truth – in fact, people were no more accurate than random guesses when trying to work out what their partner had said.
The research was published on the pre-publication site bioRxiv.
WHAT IS LOVE?
The science of love is somewhat of a mystery to many, but scientists have attempted to scientifically define the phenomena.
Many studies from various different institutions has found that there are certain neurological and biochemical clues that come with falling in love.
Numerous brain regions, particularly those associated with reward and motivation, are activated by the thought or presence of a romantic partner.
These include the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and anterior cingulated cortex regions of the brain.
It is thought that by firing up these areas of the brain, it can help to lower a person’s walls.
These areas, when activated, serve to inhibit defensive behaviour, reduce anxiety and increase trust in a new romantic partner.
Biochemical responses to love include oxytocin and vasopressin which are produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituaitary gland.
This gland is associated with many chemicals which have a range of functions in the human body.
These chemicals serve to increase the most intense stages of love.
They can also stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, a chemical associated with happiness.