'The Bachelorette's Andi and Marcus Rappelled Down a Building, And There's Science Behind Why
I don’t watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette ; something about the idea of a whole bunch of men and women throwing themselves at each other allegedly for “romance,” but really for fame, just doesn’t do it for me. (Besides, how many of the Bachelorette couples stay together? Almost none of them, so what’s the point?). That aside, though, I do find it interesting the producers of both those shows usually make sure there’s at least one high-octane-activity date in every season. The obvious reason is that stuff like rappelling down a monstrously tall building makes for great television; however, there’s also a second, less obvious reason for it: Science.
In the wake of Monday’s episode, TIME spoke to Dr. Diana Kirschner, psychology and CEO of Lovein90Days.com, about Andi and Marcus’ adrenaline rush of a date. “Doing very, very high-octane kinds of dates definitely can bond you together more than a mundane, run-of-the-mill one,” she said. “What happens is that adrenaline is released that mimics the feelings of falling in love.” Furthermore, Kirschner added, “If a person is frightened and literally clinging to a protector, a knight, they actually have the experience of being saved by this person. Certainly it’s not going to make for lasting love, which is a whole other ball of wax, but at that moment you are bonded together and will associate a scary-turned-pleasurable high and relief and excitement with the other person.” I guess that explains why so many damsels in distress end up marrying the dashing young prince who saves them in all those fairytales, too.
It’s also, by the way, the reason things like roller coasters, scary movies, and, as The Date Report once noted, haunted houses make great first dates. In 1974, Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron conducted a study involving pretty people and freaky bridges that showed being in frightening situations often results in misattributed arousal. First, an attractive woman was positioned at one end of either a “fear-arousing suspension bridge” or a “non-fear-arousing bridge.” Then, men were instructed to cross one of the bridges. The men who crossed the wobbly bridge ended up rating the women waiting for them at the other than as significantly more attractive than the men who crossed the stable bridge. I couldn’t find any studies that show the same phenomenon happening in reverse, or with gay couples, but I would imagine it would be pretty much the same. So, y’know… keep that in mind when Halloween comes round.
Of course, addressing huge fears on dates may not actually be the best way to a woman’s or a man’s heart; noted Dr. Elizabeth Saenger to TIME, “Dealing with phobias on a date is, to use a favorite word of psychologists, ‘inappropriate.’ It is also plain stupid, and can be unethical.” No one has ever accused reality TV of being overly concerned with ethics, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette make it a point to exploit this kind of thing; but when it comes to dating in the real world? Maybe save the dangerous activities for a little later on in the relationship.