Are you a good judge of character after meeting someone only once? For first dates, this question’s more important than “what should I wear?”
First impressions determine the fate of future dates, and sometimes you can let a great match go, just because you misjudged.
Once you know you like your date, there’s a whole new question: Do they like you?
No need for flower plucking, a Magic 8-ball or your best friend’s guesswork—speed dating studies offer some answers. Lasting about three minutes each “date,” speed dating gives a glimpse into the real dating world.
We round up findings from three speeding date studies, with a final thought to ponder: Do other people influence who you’re attracted to? Let the dates begin!
1. Are first impressions accurate?
After mere minutes of meeting someone we already start to form an impression. Though it seems superficial to judge someone in such a short time, there might be some truth behind “going with your gut.” So, how right are we when we make a first impression?
Speed date case study: College students had a round robin of three-minute chats, until everyone met one another. After the meetings, subjects rated the personality of each “date partner” and indicated how well they thought their impression “would agree with someone who knows the person very well.” The researchers did just that—found how well the subjects’ personality ratings agreed with the personality ratings made by the date partner, as well as their family and close friends.
Finding in a flash: Subjects who were confident that they judged their date partner’s personality correctly were more correct than those who didn’t think they were right. It’s not that some subjects were better at judging everyone well. But when subjects thought they were judging someone’s character accurately, they usually were!
Relationship takeaway: When it comes to guessing what someone else is really like, trust your gut. The more confident you are about your intuition, the more likely it is that you’re right.
2. Can we guess if someone likes us?
After you first meet someone, you may spend hours wondering how much that person liked you. We’re not always right at predicting this, but your personality may make it more likely that you’ll know if you and your date are a good match.
Speed date case study: One hundred ninety-two women and 190 men had three-minute dates. After the date, each subject answered if they would like to see that person again, and if they think that person would like to meet them again, too. Researchers also collected background information on the subjects’ personalities.
Finding in a flash: Certain traits were associated with how accurate a subject was at guessing if that person would want another date. Women who were “very agreeable” were better than less agreeable women at guessing if a man would want to see them again. Men who had a more “promiscuous orientation” were also better at predicting if a woman would want to see them again.
Agreeable women and promiscuous men may evoke more flirtation from their dates, making it easier to determine if their date is interested or not in dating them. (Think: a guy interested in a casual fling may drop hints that the woman will clearly either pick up on, or reject. Pretty easy to read how that date goes.)
Relationship takeaway: Opening up will make you easier to talk to, so you’ll learn more about your date, show what you’re all about and see if there’s a match between the two. Whatever you’re like, going into the date with a positive mindset will help make that personality shine. Previous research has shown that believing someone else likes you can help make it true.
3. Can strangers influence our judgments?
In high school you may have fallen for that person who everyone thought was the hottest of the hot. Like a domino effect, people fall for the one who’s in high demand. When we’re older and wiser, do we still let complete strangers influence who we’re attracted to?
Speed date case study: Forty women and 40 men watched videos of eight three-minute long dates between a woman and a man. Subjects rated the chemistry of the couple in the video. They also rated how interested they’d be in dating the person in the video.
Finding in a flash: Women’s interest in the man in the video increased if the woman in the video appeared interested. If the woman in the video appeared uninterested, the subject’s interest in meeting the man in the video decreased.
When strangers like someone, it signals that person may be a good choice for us as well. Attraction to people that others also like is called “mate choice copying,” which is a way of narrowing down our search for love, making it more efficient.
Relationship takeaway: If your sister keeps bugging you to go on a blind date with the guy from her office that everyone likes so much, it just might be worth your while to give it a shot.
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