Do men fall in love faster than women?

How and why do we fall in love? Up until fairly recently, it was thought that romantic love was a uniquely Western phenomenon, but we now know that the experience of love is universal, and has been documented across many distinct cultures. Because human children are born helpless and require many years of investment before they can achieve independence from their parents, the sensation of romantic love may make a couple’s bond more cohesive, helping them to cooperatively raise their offspring.

But do people differ in how frequently they fall in love, or how easily? And are they any differences between men and women?

Andrew Galperin and Martie Haselton of the University of California tested these questions using an online survey. They asked their sample of 191 women and 166 men a series of questions about their experience of love, such as how many times they had fallen in love, whether they fell in love with their partner before their partner fell in love with them, how many times they had experienced love at first sight, and whether they had experienced unrequited love.

They found that men reported experiencing more episodes of love at first sight than women, and also had a higher percentage of unreciprocated loves.

This might be because women have to be more cautious about forming relationships than men. Women can easily be abandoned and left to raise children on their own while men go off and seek new relationships with different women. Men, meanwhile, can be more reckless. If they fall in love with a woman and the relationship doesn’t work out, they have less to risk. Hence men’s hair trigger when it comes to falling in love.

Galperin, A., & Haselton, M. G. (2010). Predictors of how often and when people fall in love. Evolutionary Psychology, 8(1), 5–28. Read paper

The content of this post first appeared in the June 2010 episode of The Psychology of Attractiveness Podcast.

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