The Psychology of Meet Cutes


When I’ve had a *trying* sort of day, my favourite thing to do is to dive into one of my favourite rom-coms and get lost in the story.  I’ve read some of my favourite series over and over again, but one of my very favourite books is Sophie Kinsella’s Confessions of a Shopaholic. It’s funny. Becky Bloomwood is the right amount of silly and sweet. Every time I read it, it feels like I’ve gone on a fabulous shopping spree without the credit card problems. The best part? The meet cute. Every time Becky Bloomwood meets Luke Brandon, I swoon. It doesn’t matter that I’ve read it a million times, because it’s kind of perfect.

What makes a good meet cute so damn satisfying?

Meet Cute Math

The science of love in real life boils down to this: your hypothalamus + dopamine = ALL THE FEELS. Yup. It’s that simple. As it turns out, whether or not you can feel the love tonight depends a lot on your friend, hormones. In real life, when Harry meets Sally that attraction is caused by the hypothalamus creating a whole lot of dopamine–that thing that wakes up the reward part of your brain–and makes you want to keep the love train going. But the truth of the matter is that we aren’t dealing with real life. We’re dealing with fiction. Why, then, is it possible for meet-cutes to trigger a similar response?

Your Brain on Books

A New York Times article a few years ago delved a little deeper into the whole what- happens-to-our-brains when we read thing. Newsflash: stories stimulate the brain. But you already knew that. In one 2006 study, participants were put into an fMRI and then told to read words like “lavender” and and “coffee.” The part of their brain that dealt with olfactory (smells) lit up. Similarly, when they were asked to read visceral metaphors like “his voice was velvet,” the sensory cortex lit up too.

Not that meet-cutes are all about the metaphors, or anything, but I find that the best ones have a lot of highly descriptive language. We don’t just read that Becky looked at Luke and they fell in love, she’s drawn to him by the way he looks and smells and acts around her and suddenly, we’re right there too. It would seem that the magic of descriptive language lies in its ability to trigger the sensory parts of our brains.

Who knew that words could be so sexy?

What’s your favourite meet-cute of all time? Share it in the comments below!

Bookishly Yours xx

The Novel Shrink


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s