We're often told the narrative that having sex on a first date could squander your chances of it turning into a serious relationship.

But according to a new study, getting intimate at an early stage could actually help to jump-start a relationship between prospective partners.

A team of psychologists from the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the University of Rochester's Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology conclude that sexual desire may play a major role in attracting potential partners to each other.

But crucially, sexual desire also plays an important part in encouraging the formation of an attachment between people.

"Sex may set the stage for deepening the emotional connection between strangers," the study's lead author Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the IDC Herzliya, said.

 "This holds true for both men and women. Sex motivates human beings to connect, regardless of gender."

 The study was of heterosexual relationships, and found men and women both trying to connect with partners when sexually aroused.

Groups of men and women were put in four different interrelated studies where their behavior towards each other was analyzed by the psychologists. The scientists found that sexual desire triggers "emotional bonding" between people.

Prof Birnbaum said: "Sexual desire may play a causally important role in the development of relationships.

"It's the magnetism that holds partners together long enough for an attachment bond to form."

In the first study, 36 women and 22 men who lip-synched to pre-recorded music with an attractive, opposite-sex study insider and then rated their desire for their partner.

In the second study, 38 women and 42 men who were asked to slow dance with an attractive, opposite-sex insider.

In both studies, scientists found a correlation between "synchronization" and desire for the other person.

Studies three and four, of 42 women and 42 men and 50 women and 50 men respectively, tested behaviors of groups subliminally flashed an erotic, non-pornographic image for 30 milliseconds on a screen, and those who weren't.

Those whose sexual systems were "activated" displayed more "caring" and "helpful" behaviors in tasks.

So why does this happen?

According to the researchers, on a subconscious level it could be down to evolution - to ensure reproduction.

"Throughout human history, parents' bonding greatly increased the children's survival chances," Birnbaum explained.

Prior research has shown that similar brain regions are activated when a person experiences either sexual desire or romantic love.

The researchers believe this pattern hints at a neurological pathway that causes sexual activation to affect emotional bonding.

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