Love at first sight – a justification.

In keeping with my previous few contrarian posts, I write this, as a late V-Day special.

So everyone says love at first sight is one of those things which is totally inane and destined not to work out, for “looks can be deceptive”. I prefer my opinion on this to remain ambiguous, but here I argue about why it is possible.

The matter for this comes from some Miss Marple story, where Jane Marple is discussing someone’s suicide/murder attempt with someone else. This someone else says, she saw it coming. On the morning of the incident, when she saw the suicideVictim/murderAttempter enter church, she had a feeling all was not right. She calls it a premonition. Jane Marple promptly says it was not just an arbit feeling, but was probably spawned by the fact that the suicideVictim, who was normally careful about her clothes, had her hat on crooked, and her dress and hairdo were carelessly done.

Struck me, that has happened a lot to me. Sometimes, a dress someone is wearing seems such an assault on the senses for no tangible reason, but more often than not, the reason is intangible only because you are not able to express it appropriately, and not because the reason is invalid.

One of my friends says this is so because the mind works faster than you can think, and puts together things so fast you don’t realize how the final result came about. And that these quick computations are right often enough, and will be right even more often if only you train it the right way and trust it often enough for it to gain sufficient confidence to make decisions based only on the data it has and untainted by your external, seemingly practical views.

So occasionally, it apparently makes sense to throw all common sense to the winds, and follow what the heart says. Whoops, make that what the brain says.

(Aside: A closely related category is people finding answers to long-standing questions in their dreams – like the benzene ring structure.)

And… love at first sight is just one of the applications of this er.. ‘theory’. When you see someone, you perceive a lot about them; you even perceive a lot that you are not even aware that you’ve perceived. And hence the split-second decisions occur. Your mind gets made up even before you know it. Like… you keep hearing about some study which proved that people make their minds up about others in the first few seconds of meeting them… and that this first impression seldom changes.

It doesn’t make much sense to try and rationalize these split-second decisions. You don’t know what parameters your mind has used to judge. What combination of inherent looks, dressing styles, gestures and mannerisms…. and best of all, you don’t know what you like and what you don’t, that your mind decided things this way. It is highly dependent on the experiences you’ve had in the past, the sort of people you’ve met in the past and how they’ve made you feel. And it also depends on how much you perceive. Too many variables.

And how are you to know whether this is the mind’s informed decision or the sort of fancy a monkey has for a shiny trinket?

So you have one of two choices – Go with the thought, or dismiss it completely and base your decision on pure rationality and reason. With one being tangible and the other intangible, you don’t know what weightage to give each so as to be able to make an accurate sum.

What you choose depends a lot on your emotions, and what you want to believe. If you’re once-bitten-twice-shy, you’d want to play it safe and go with only what you can reason out to be a good bet. If you are the sorts who has a lot of confidence in your mind’s split-second decision making capabilities, you’d probably take the risk. There are a lot more scenarios where people will choose one or the other, but they are way too numerous to be listed here.

And the accuracy of your mind’s split-second judgements is something only time and experience will tell. So if you have a good track record of split-second judgements, chances are high even this will turn out good.

It might be an O(n) problem to bruteforce your way to the perfect someone, but the size of n is too large. Plus, your adoption of bruteforce as an algorithm tells a lot about your unsophistication. And… iterations shouldn’t ideally be speeded up.

So you optimize. Use filters. There are loads. While some of them might turn up false positives or false negatives, they give, on an average, an approximate solution. when used in judicious proportion.

And so far, this was a discussion on how appropriate LoveAtFirstSight is, as a filter (Yes, if you trust your er… ‘intuition’). And whether it can be used in combination with other filters (Nope, not at all. Though you might want to, at leisure, dispassionately, examine why your mind suggested what it suggested… to understand how it works).

If your world came crashing down at this dispassionate analysis of the most overrated emotion in the world (If you want, I’ll give a similar detailed analysis on this), I’ll just say the most beautiful things are those which are still beautiful, or even more beautiful after stringent overanalysis and microscopic scrutiny.

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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8 Responses to Love at first sight – a justification.

  1. Sunil Khajone says:

    Dispassionate analysis 🙂
    But use the heart to feel
    And the brain to think

    Nice blog 🙂

  2. Tuna Fish says:

    Supposedly, Love can be considered as an addiction to a person. The same pathways of the brain are extremely active in both people smitten by love and those addicted to drugs…

  3. V says:

    Love is overrated? I think it is wonderful.

  4. wanderlust says:

    Oh, no… it was driven by passion.
    it gets better with time. figures.
    i should have made my point better. love, or what is commonly supposed to be love, is overrated in the context of why two people should get together, or stay together. There are a lot of other filters which sometimes do the job better. like some singers say… sometimes love just ain’t enough.

  5. Shreevatsa says:

    That our split-second judgements can often be excellent, being the product of training and subtle cues, is essentially the thesis of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. (Great book, BTW, if you accept that he’s going to write in a journalistic anecdotal style.) Making such judgements might be all the more necessary because finding ‘your way to the perfect someone’ isn’t just an O(n) bruteforce (you’re usually restricted to one-pass algorithms); it’s more complicated.

    But all this is fine if you think of love as a system of evaluations for finding an optimal ‘soulmate’, but in reality love is a period of insanity that one often has no power over (it’s called “falling madly in love” for a reason), an affliction that often comes unbidden. (Jerome K. Jerome: “Love is like the measles; we all have to go through it.” And it seems you can build up immunity after the first attack, also it’s best to get it over with when you’re young and heal faster.)

    BTW, Helen Fisher has a fun talk[video] on romantic love and all that. (She’s one of the people who discovered how it’s similar to addiction, etc.)

  6. Shreevatsa says:

    Looks like I typed instead of by mistake; could you fix it and delete this comment? (Or delete that one too; the talk isn’t as good as I remembered it. :p)

  7. N says:


    Christie also uses the same argument in another novel when Poirot explains policemen’s ‘intuition’ of knowing that a person is a criminal the moment they sees him/her.

    There’s a Wodehouse book (the title slips the mind) narrated by a woman who falls in love at first sight. She describes her feelings in good detail and is quite clearly thrilled about it. Only later is it subtly revealed that she caught sight of just the back side of his head! 🙂

    I know a guy who fell in love with an unknown girl the day he read her blog. We called it ‘Love at first site.’

  8. wanderlust says:

    love at first site… good one.

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