The phenomenon involves a person getting aroused, but not from what they think they are aroused of.
The “Suspension Bridge Effect” describes it like this:
- You are crossing a suspension bridge
- There you see a very pretty woman/man on the other side of the bridge. You get nervous, butterflies, start sweating and your heart rate goes up.
- You believe these are the physical side effects of arousal, while actually, they are caused because you are on a scary suspension bridge high above the ground.
Hence, you associate the feelings of stress and anxiety with arousal, while it’s simply just the natural fear of heights.
“Suspension Bridge Effect” was first coined in 1974, by psychologists Donald Dutton and Arthur Aron, who did an experiment on a suspension bridge to prove the theory of misattribution of arousal.
They asked a man how attractive they perceived a particular woman first on a sturdy bridge, then on the suspension bridge.
The results showed that the woman appeared as more attractive when the men were on the suspension bridge, because of the additional excitement.
People have adopted the use of the “Suspension Bridge Effect” to improve their love life, or to increase their chance of attracting a partner, by exposing them to unrelated exciting stimuli. Some relationship advisors have also recommended couples who have lost the “spark” to do more exciting activities together, based on this principle.
Alternatively, the expression also lives on in pop culture, appearing in series and movies, often discussed by fandoms on Reddit and other social media sites.