When you meet someone you’re attracted to, a lot of wheels are put into motion. You experience a rush of dopamine and norepinephrine, two hormones that make us feel happy, energetic, and giddy, and can also lead to a decrease in appetite and even keep us wide awake at night, feeling lovesick. Your brain processes attraction in an interesting way, picking up biological signals and responding with hormones. Women and men process attraction differently. Men process attraction in a very physical way (they tend to be easily attracted to potential mates on physical aspects alone), but women tend to process a more even amount of physical and non-physical (intelligence, mannerisms, and character traits) when first meeting someone.
Because women and men process attraction differently, an interesting side effect has been observed by a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology : when on a first date with someone they find attractive, their time perception differs.
In the study, researchers observed almost 40 first dates with men and women who reported being attracted to each-other afterward. When asked to say how much time had passed during the date, women more often overestimated how long the date was, while men consistently underestimated. For women, time slowed down when they were on a good first date. For men, time seemed to fly.
The study’s researchers say that the differences in how men and women process attraction can account for this. For women, who processes more characteristics than men, the use of more cognitive resources to process their attraction would make time seem slower. To men, who use less, time would seem to speed up. According to the team: “When a woman perceives a potential partner as physically attractive she pays attention to several other characteristics of that man in order to make a reasoned choice, allocating many mental resources in that assessment. The use of these cognitive resources would make the perceived duration of the date longer. Males tend to be less selective than women and they may feel attracted to potential partners based mostly on their physical attractiveness.”