Forget Valentine’s Day. Halloween is the real festival of love and I can guarantee that more people will hook up this weekend than on February 14th.
Why? Well it’s all down to the science of fear. There is fairly good evidence that feeling afraid can trigger the same emotions as sexual arousal.
It’s why taking a date to a horror movie is so popular. Not only is it more acceptable to snuggle into a prospective partner under the guise of shielding your eyes from a bloody on-screen onslaught, but feeling afraid heightens the senses and increases attractiveness and attraction.
It is why so many holidaymakers fall for their ski-instructors or mountain guides. It is virtually impossible to separate feelings of sexual attraction from feelings of fear. And if there is a hunky ski bunny ready to help you down that terrifying black run, so much the better.
The sex hormone oestrogen plays a crucial role in both processes, generating feelings of sexual desire but also producing alertness and fear. Oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, is also linked to feeling afraid.
In fact many of the physical changes which take place when you see a prospective partner, also happen during the ‘flight or fight’ response – when we are at our most afraid.
Heart rate and blood pressure increase in both, pupils dilate and you have trouble focussing on anything else.
“It’s a good idea to take someone to a scary movie,” says Dr Viren Swami, a psychologist from the University of Westminster, who has found that people are more attracted to each other while watching horror films.
“This may be because they misinterpret fear as sexual arousal.
In 2009 Psychologist Arthur Aron conducted a study using the very common fear of heights.
Aron had one group of men walk across a wobbly bridge which was 450-foot-long and suspended over a 230-foot drop, while a second group walked across a perfectly stable-feeling bridge over the same height.
At the end of each bridge, the men met Aron’s very beautiful female assistant. She asked each subject a set of questions related to an imaginary study and then gave him her phone number in case he wanted more information.
Of the 33 men who’d walked across the stable bridge, two called the assistant. Of the 33 who’d walked across the wobbly bridge, nine called.
Realistically, anything that sets the pulse racing is likely to spark romance. I recently asked a friend where she met her fiancée and she told me that is was during ‘Hostile Environment Training’- a course for journalists where ex-Army types teach hacks how to behave in war zones.
The BBC newsreader Kate Silverton met her husband Mike Heron, a former Royal Marine turned security consultant, on a similar course.
Life coaches will tell you that it is important to do something that scares you every day to grow and feel fulfilled. But that is likely to help your love life too.