Over the years, The Bachelorette has evolved into a Fear Factor–meets–Days of Our Lives television mashup that features just as much cliff diving as it does actual dating. But an old psychology study from 1974, recently uncovered by New York Magazine's Cari Romm, may inadvertently explain why contestants are constantly bungee jumping and mountain climbing.
Authored by psychologists Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron, the study concludes that romance is more likely to blossom under high-pressure conditions of anxiety. Dutton and Aron had an attractive female research stand on two different suspension bridges—one that was high and shaky and another that was stable and low to the ground. The researcher approached 85 heterosexual males crossing each bridge, asking them to fill out a questionnaire and write a short story regarding their experience. Time and time again, the men on the shakier bridge provided more sexually charged questionnaire responses, which the researchers interpreted as an "emotion-sexual attraction link."
While this connection may seem tenuous, research from the 21st century elaborates on this claim. "What psychologists think is going on is that people are misattributing their physiological arousal to the person instead of to the situation," wrote Justin Lehmiller on the blog Sex and Psychology. While we doubt that The Bachelorette producers referenced the 1974 study before developing episode plots, they may be exploiting the fact that humans misinterpret their anxiety before riding a roller coaster as romantic feelings for the person strapped into the seat next to them.
Bachelorette fans: Do you believe this to be true? Share your thoughts with us, and then catch up on season 12.