UC psychology expert studying origins of
November 3, 2013
A University of
Canterbury (UC) psychology expert is trying to understand
the origins of personal attraction by studying changes in
UC psychology researcher Dr Joana
Arantes received $300,000 in Marsden funding this week and
wants to know whether changes in time perception occur when
seeing an attractive potential mate for the first time,
which could be explained by evolutionary pressures our
ancestors faced in the past.
``The initial idea for our
research came from the popular belief that time seems to
slow down or even stop when falling in love at first
sight,’’ Dr Arantes says.
``This can be seen depicted
in films such as the Tim Burton movie Big Fish and in
Taylor Swift’s song Time Slows Down Whenever You’re
``We know from previous research that
perceived time can slow down in real-life situations that
are threatening, such as car crashes, bungee jumping, or to
take a less extreme example that’s been studied in the
laboratory, viewing photos of snakes. These changes in time
perception, which can be subtle, are mediated by changes in
arousal, and have evolved because they increased the
likelihood of survival.
“From an evolutionary
perspective, it makes sense that similar changes in time
perception would occur in situations related to reproductive
fitness, such as unexpectedly seeing an attractive potential
mate for the first time.
``Of course, this is
consistent with the saying about: love at first sight. But
when we looked in the scientific literature we found there
had been no prior research.
``In our first study, which
was recently published in the journal Evolutionary
Psychology, female participants viewed photos of attractive
and unattractive males and females that were briefly
presented on a computer and had to estimate their duration
by pressing a mouse button.
``We found that the estimated
durations of attractive males were longer than for
unattractive males, whereas there was no difference in the
estimated durations of attractive and unattractive females.
This result supported our prediction that the timing system
is sensitive to reproductive fitness.’’
says the Marsden grant will allow her research team to
follow up the initial findings and systematically study the
role of time perception in interpersonal attraction. She
will use laboratory and realistic methods to explore what
happens automatically and instinctively in the cognitive
system during interpersonal attraction.
are not expected until the end of next