I get heart eyes for anyone who buys me a strong cup of coffee with a splash of oat milk. Maybe it’s the rich, luscious aroma. Maybe it’s the heady taste that signals my brain to leap into a brand-new day ahead. Or maybe, as Scientific American argues, I’m really experiencing a “misattribution of arousal,” a term in psychology for confusing which part of a given interaction is appealing to you.
“Most of the time what we feel is not really ‘anger’ or ‘happiness‘ but simply arousal, a word that tends to take on a sexual connotation yet really just means an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and sensory alertness,” reports Scientific American. When your brain scans your emotions for the source of these physiological responses, it may attribute your racing heart beat to attraction rather than the onslaught of caffeine.
The same goes for fear, according to the “love bridge” study, which was conducted in 1974 on heteronormative test subjects. In a scenario that could be straight out of an Alfred Hitchcock film, researchers asked 85 male participants to walk across two different bridges. One was suspended 230 feet off the ground; one was only 10 feet off the ground. Once they’d made their way across their respective surfaces, each man was approached by an “attractive” woman who asked them to fill out a questionnaire and write a story about an image she provided for them. She then gave them permission to call her later to follow-up on the experiment.
The men asked to take the more perilous route tended to write more sexual narratives and 50 percent of them called the woman later (compared to 12.5 percent in the other group). Meaning, many of them likely conflated the horror of their treacherous commute with feelings of love. The opposite is also true. If you initially find someone unattractive, then a frightening situation or a cup of coffee could actually amplify your disinterest. There’s no grey area in sight, people.
If you ask me, we can apply this psychological phenomena in many ways. Say we’re really hoping a certain someone will fall head-over-heels for us. Asking them to meet you for a bone-chilling flick with you or booking it to the nearest coffeeshop might give you an advantage in winning them over. (Hey, Noah Centineo, what are your plans on Saturday?) On the opposite side of the coin, you can remind yourself on your own first dates that maybe it’s love or maybe it’s just a good brew. Either way, psychology has your back.
Other info to file away before striking out on your date: How to tell if someone’s flirting with you and what secrets not to spill on your first rendez-vous.
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