Speed dating psychology

Now imagine a situation that throws these feelings into hyper speed—namely, speed dating. In a typical speed dating event, single adults go on.
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Is this difference a vestige of our early ancestry?

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Or might it be totally unrelated to reproductive risk, something more modern and mundane? A couple of Northwestern University psychologists, Eli Finkel and Paul Eastwick, decided to explore this question in an unusual laboratory: For the uninitiated, speed dating is an increasingly popular way for men and women to meet and find potential partners.

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Typically, the women sit scattered around a room, and the men make the rounds. Afterward, both men and women indicate to the sponsor if they would be interested in seeing any of the others again.

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Perhaps it could be explained by the simple convention of men standing and approaching—and women sitting passively. There has been a lot of recent work on the mutual influence of body and mind--how we embody our thoughts and emotions—and the psychologists speculated that physically approaching someone might be enough to make the potential date more appealing romantically—and thus to make the men less choosy overall. They tested this in a series of 15 heterosexual speed dating events, involving young men and women. Each participant went on about 12 dates, but the researchers changed the rules: In these events, the women and men approached each other about equally.

Following each date, each participant rated the other for romantic desire and romantic chemistry.


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They also rated their own sense of self-confidence on the date. Specifically, these researchers investigated whether the results were a result of women sitting in one place, while men circulated around the room.

To test this, they had more than undergraduates participate in speed-dating events. In half of those events, participants engaged in the standard speed-dating procedure of men circulating while women stayed in one place. For the other events, men and women performed a Sadie Hawkins-like role reversal: When women were forced to go from man to man during the speed-dating event, they debunked the gender stereotype by showing an interest in more of the potential partners. Men may be less picky not because they are men, but because societal norms require them to do the majority of the approaching in dating scenarios.

An interesting speed dating study

In other words, when lots of potential suitors are approaching you, it makes sense to be picky. This brings up a much broader point: Research like this shows how careful we must be to avoid assumptions about gender difference, and how we may not need to look far for other potential explanations. This is an edited version of a post that appeared on Science of Relationships.

Exhibition curators' tour — Egham, Surrey.

Thursday December 13, 2012

The life of Bohuslav Martinu — Egham, Surrey. In Conversation — Manchester, Manchester.

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