Los Angeles- the center of celebrity living- is the backdrop for many reality TV dating shows. Regardless of where a reality dating show is located, there tends to be some commonalities in the psychological processes that transpire. One trick that reality dating shows often use to induce affection and bonding in their participants is creating a sense of fear. I’ve seen this strategy used frequently on the Bachelor and Bachelorette television shows. For example, in the last season of the Bachelor Jake and Vienna went bungee jumping on their first date. When people experience a sense of fear or extreme excitement, their body starts pumping adrenalin and other catecholamines, as well as the stress hormone, Cortisol, through the body in massive quantities. This pumping of catecholamines and stress hormones leads to romantic bonding.
Researchers have begun to find out exactly what happens in the body when people fall in love. Endocrinologists have cited these very chemicals as being responsible for the creation of romantic love between two people during normal courtship. If these chemicals are naturally produced during the normal period of romance between two people, imagine what happens when two people are put in a situation in which these chemicals are pumped into their bloodstream in exponential quantities. Engaging in extremely exciting and fearful situations sets the stage for romantic love between two people, even if they might not normally fall for each other (as in Jake and Vienna, possibly?). The Bachelor and Bachelorette television producers must be aware of this process because they seem to put their contestants into many fear-producing situations (the bungee jumping date is a common one).
This process that takes place in the human body to create a sense of bonding and romantic love also occurs in other situations in which people feel a sense of risk, excitement or fear. For example, when two people feel they must hide their relationship from others (work, family, etc.) these chemicals are released at an increased rate. Think about when people have affairs and hide their relationship from their partners- a similar process is occurring there, too.
Although fear can set the stage for an increased likelihood of romantic bonding between people, it does not ensure an ever-lasting relationship. Another aspect of romantic love that researchers have found out is that it lasts, on average, a year. So what does this all mean? Although being involved in fearful situations may increase the natural bonding process between two people, it takes much, much more to make a relationship last. So although Jake and Vienna got a boost in their initial romantic courtship, courtesy of the Bachelor producers, only time will tell if they have the other multitude of factors needed to make a long-lasting romantic relationship work.