Somehow, even with my reality TV addiction, I was able to evade the Bachelor for the past 19 seasons, Bachelor Pad, and one season of Bachelor in Paradise. However, this summer, at the request of a friend, I sat down to watch the second season of Bachelor in Paradise. I was immediately sucked in. A revolving door of men and women moved into a villa in Vallarta-Nayarit, Mexico, all with the hopes of finding love. Each week a few cast members would be given date cards by the host of the show, instructing them to pick partners to accompany them on various excursions. While some of the date cards cast members were given led to private dinners and fantasy suites (think rose petals, champagne, and private hotel rooms), a large number of the dates involved more active plans, such as wrestling matches, bungee jumping, dancing at a club, and jet skiing. People seemed to be really into each other on the dates, but would often question their feelings shortly after when back on the serene beach. Was the post-date letdown because there were so many good looking unattached people around to pull their attention away from the partner they just went on a date with? Or was it something more — perhaps something physiological?
You may be familiar with the Dutton and Aron1 bridge study which tested the idea of misattribution of arousal, in which the arousal experienced in a particular setting (e.g., while on a shaky bridge) is mislabeled and associated with something else.2 Other studies have replicated the arousal-attraction link finding that couples want to be near each other more after watching a high arousal movie, compared to a low arousal movie.3 In another study, participants were approached as they were waiting on the line for a roller coaster ride or after they had just gotten off. They were asked to rate the attractiveness of an average, opposite gendered picture of a person and the person they were planning to sit with or had sat next to on the ride. Results demonstrated that for those who weren’t with a romantic partner, attractiveness ratings for both the seat mate and picture increased for those who had just gotten off the ride.4
Returning to the Bachelor in Paradise, the show began with Ashley I. and Jared riding ATVs through the jungle and forming a connection with one another. By the end of the season, however, Jared didn’t feel a connection with Ashley I. and opted to leave paradise without giving her a rose during one of the final ceremonies. This rejection occurred despite her pouring her heart out to him and multiple attempts to prove that they were meant for one another. But the initial connection they felt to one another may never have happened without the potential effects of misattribution of arousal. And once the thrill of riding ATVs wore off, it was splitsville. One can only hope that the relationship formed between Tanner and Jade, the couple who left Mexico engaged, was real rather than the result of the increased arousal experienced in paradise. If not, I suggest they go on a lot of rollercoaster rides in the near future to keep the momentum going.
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1Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 510–517.
2Baumeister, R. F., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Social Psychology & Human Nature. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
3Cohen, B., Waugh, G., & Place, K. (1989). At the movies: An unobtrusive study of arousal-attraction. The Journal of Social Psychology, 129, 691-693.
4Meston, C.M. & Frohlich, P.F. (2003). Love at first fright: Partner salience moderates roller-coaster-induced excitation transfer. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 6, 537-544.
Dr. Marisa Cohen
Marisa, along with a colleague at St. Francis College, founded the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab (SABL) in Fall 2014. Research has focused on the development of relationships throughout the life span, including factors influencing mate choice and peoples’ perceptions of what makes relationships survive and thrive. Her specific focus is on how various relationship configurations impact the satisfaction derived from them.