What people notice first and how they tell if someone is interested
“Speed dating is a very good context to study dating behavior,” says Mitja Back of the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. “It’s almost like psychologists could have invented this.”
Back and her colleagues, Lars Penke of the University of Edinburgh, Stefan Schmukle of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, and Jens Asendorpf of Humboldt University Berlin, just published a new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finding part of what determines how much success you will have in the dating world is whether you have a good sense of whether people find you attractive.
The problem, of course, is that what people say they like—honesty, humor, and so on—may have little to do with what they actually like—for example, hotness. In 17 groups, a total of 190 men and 192 women met members of the opposite sex—basically the standard speed dating routine, but this time, with psychologists collecting a lot of data. Among that data was personality information and the all-important question after each three-minute date: for each person you talk to, do you want to see that person again? They were also asked if they thought the other person would want to meet them.
On the whole, people are very bad at guessing how many of the other persons will want to meet them. Success was correlated with particular traits that are stereotypically associated with the sexes: men who have a more promiscuous orientation were better at guessing if a woman would want to meet them, and women whose personality was very agreeable were better at guessing if a man would meet them.
Back thinks men who are inclined toward casual sex are displaying behavior that’s very stereotypically associated with their sex; this may in turn evoke more typical behavior in the woman they’re talking to, which could make them more accurate at predicting whether the woman will be interested. Women who are agreeable, on the other hand, might make men more comfortable and more willing to flirt—which could make it easier to judge whether the man will want to meet them again.
The implications for your dating life? You might be terrible at guessing if someone likes you, so you might as well just be yourself and go for what you want!