A Neuroscientist Explains Why People Quickly Fall In Love on 'The Bachelor'
Skeptical that the show actually works? Science proves it does.
It's straight out of a fairy tale: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love in two months, boy proposes to girl. Oh, and meanwhile, boy is dating 30 other girls—and it's all being filmed for the world to watch. Since 2002, The Bachelor (and spin-offs like The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise) have been painting this romantic picture for millions of viewers. And while it's hard to believe that the lead and their many suitors/suitresses actually fall in love in just six to nine weeks, experts say it's often the real deal.
"The Bachelor is the wildest 'honeymoon phase' you can get," neuroscientist Dr. Kristen Willeumier tells HelloGiggles. "When you're on the show, it's a charged, highly emotional, intense, and surreal environment." Once they step inside of the Bachelor mansion, contestants and leads on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are completely cut off from the outside world—no phone, TV, internet, music, nothing. Season 13 Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay called it "the greatest psychological experiment."
Plus, Bachelor dates are elaborately planned and overly romantic: We're talking bungee jumping, skydiving, hot air balloon rides, candlelit dinners in caves—over-the-top activities no one would choose for a first date in the real world. This exciting atmosphere impacts contestants' desires and emotions. "It's science: studies find that adrenaline rushes can help spark sexual attraction," Dr. Willeumier says.
But the unique environment and high-stakes dates aren't the only aspects convincing Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants that they're falling in love on the show. As Dr. Willeumier explains, chemicals in their brains directly impact their feelings, too.
"When the lead begins his journey on The Bachelor, he is initially in the attraction phase of love, with a surge of testosterone driving the more physical aspects of love," Dr. Willeumier says. "There's also the release of dopamine in the pleasure centers of his brain. These neurochemicals provide the energy, focused attention, excitement, hope, motivation, goal-directed behavior, craving, and longing that drives the early stages of love and gives him the stamina required to court the ladies. Other neurochemicals related to stress and excitement (like norepinephrine and cortisol) are also released, while some of the more calming neurotransmitters (like serotonin) are lower."
So, when the current Bachelor Matt James met 32 women on the first night of his journey, he was truly amped up with different chemicals coursing through his brain—and thrown into the deep end of the attraction phase of love. "Over time, these neurotransmitter levels stabilize, allowing Matt to transition from the attraction phase to the attachment phase of love," Dr. Willeumier explains.
The process of falling in love is scientifically explained in three stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. In the attachment phase, couples grow bonds and feel connected to each other, which is when contestants on the show often confess their love for one another.
So, if participants on The Bachelor are actually feeling all the feelings, how come so many relationships from the show crash and burn quickly afterward? Dr. Willeumier has an explanation for that, too. "On the show, you're away from work and you're going on all of these wild dates, but what is your real world scenario?" she asks. "What do you and your new fiancé do individually on the weekends? What are you both like at home after work? After the show, you're back in the real world. How compatible are you, truly?"
Falling in love in such an unrealistic environment poses challenges for new couples once they're thrown back into reality, which is evident in how many engagements are broken off shortly after the show ends. However, next time you roll your eyes at starry-eyed contestants claiming they're falling head over heels after one date, think again; science proves that they're actually onto something.