Brains in Fashion

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Love Island or Infatuation Island?

How Long Does it Take to Fall in Love?

18th July 2019

Watching Love Island has become a guilty pleasure for a lot of people. The thrill of watching new romance blossom, only for it to be destroyed by better-looking competition or an explosive argument…unbelievable scenes. Between the Amber and Michael drama and Tommy and Curtis’ bromance, we’ve had some solid 10/10 screen time.

Some couples can appear to be loved up within days (or even hours) of meeting each other, which is adorable to some, but to others it may be a bit of an eye-roll kind of situation. It’s like those couples on Facebook who won’t stop publicly announcing their love a week into their relationship… give it a rest. But is it scientifically possible to fall in love in such a short space of time or are they just in love with £50k… or could they just be confusing love with lust?


Amber, Love Island 2017

It may surprise you to know that love can actually show its face at the same rate it takes hormones to be released (0.2 secs). What a terrifying thought. Physiologically, love is a cocktail of hormones that gives you a deep feeling of affection for a person, but in action, it is a lot more complicated. A lot of this complication comes down to the fact that the feeling of love is subjective. So, while some people may feel sure they’re in love, others may need more time to understand their emotions and connect more deeply. No matter how you define love, there is a clear scientific difference between lust and long-lasting love.

Lust, or infatuation, is the first ‘stage’ of falling in love. This is when testosterone (in men) and oestrogen (in women) take the wheel, based on physical attraction or if they're your type on paper. The key difference between lust and love is wanting to kiss and be physically close to someone vs. wanting to take care of them and be emotionally close.

Beyond lust, severe sweaty-palmed crushing starts to take over. A drop in serotonin is linked to obsessively thinking about them throughout the day… to a distracting extent. Increased norepinephrine will give you an unusual boost of energy and cause your heart to skip a beat when you think about them. But most importantly, this stage is driven by dopamine, which is designed to heighten your mood when your needs are being met.

If love lasts beyond this, it can become a deeper long-term love. The time it takes to get to this stage can really vary from person to person, depending on their dating history, emotional availability, age and gender. This is where many couples will call it quits, as the initial excitement wears off and hormones rebalance themselves. If a deep attachment develops, oxytocin and vasopressin will be released, which are love hormones. These hormones give you the desire to bond and nurture each other, staying devoted to the relationship and building a future together.

But what about the Islanders?

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Molly-Mae and Tommy, Love Island 2019

While it may seem a little too soon for the Islanders to be deeply in love, we can’t rule it out completely, as it depends on their brain chemistry. I mean, unless they are good actors, it seems as though Molly-Mae and Tommy might be on the brink! However, it does make scientific sense, in many cases, that any signs of love are more likely to be infatuation than emotional attachment… this theory is only strengthened by the speed that many of them move onto the next target (*cough* Amber) and the poor ‘stay together rate’ from previous years.

It also has to be noted that the reason they go to the villa is to find love. They're encouraged to not put all their eggs in one basket. This means that they’ll always have their eyes open to other potential mates. The dopamine in the attraction phase will motivate them to satisfy needs that haven’t yet been met. If an islander feels they have additional needs that their current partner isn’t fulfilling or qualities they are lacking, they may feel the urge to chase the dopamine high elsewhere. This is typical of ‘the grass is greener’ mentality.

So, there you have it, whether or not the islanders truly fall in love on the show depends on whether you view love as the whole process from lust to deep attachment, or just simply deep attachment. If it’s the deeper, emotional love then perhaps Love Island may be best renamed Lust Island. 

Real love or not, who is your favourite couple, or who do you think should get together (besides Tommy and Curtis)?  Let us know on twitter (@wonkscience).