The Science Of Speed Dating

Speed Dating
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If you'd asked me about speed dating a few weeks ago, I probably would have responded with a blank stare. Speed dating? Does anyone even do that anymore? Haven't those people heard of the Internet? It seemed like a completely outdated approach to finding love.

Then along came not one, not two, but three friends who had all taken a chance on speed dating in recent months. One even involved a boat. Apparently I didn't have my finger on the pulse of the dating industry as much as I thought I did...speed dating is still alive and well, and it's definitely not just for people who haven't heard of the Internet yet.

Curious about what seemed like a very retro way to date, I started to research speed dating. Ok, so people were doing it, but does it work? Is there any way it could possibly be better than the online dating sites I'd come to know and love?

Two researchers at Stanford University in California were just as intrigued by speed dating as I was. They found that there are a few key factors of the standard four-minute speed date that predict whether two people are likely to hit it off. They rounded up students to take part in a series of recorded speed dating sessions, then analyzed 1,100 transcripts of the subjects' dates.

According to the study, men and women most often said they clicked when their conversation focused mainly on the women. Women were more likely to report connecting with men who used appreciative language (like "That's great!"). Women also reported greater levels of connection with men who interrupted them - but only when they did so to show understanding and engagement (like "Exactly").

Counterintuitively, asking questions was not necessarily a hallmark of a good dating conversation. Asking questions actually signals a lack of connection, most likely because it indicates that the participants feel the need to put effort into keeping a boring conversation going. Signs of a good conversation are much more subtle, like the variation in speech volume.

While some previous research on speed dating has found that physical attractiveness is the most powerful force determining whether two people are initially attracted to each other, the Stanford study proves there's more going on. Another study found that speed-dating couples with similar speaking styles were more likely to report a mutual connection.

Speed dating still seems like a thing of the past to me, but if science thinks there's something to it, who am I to argue? Studies have proved that people are shockingly quick to determine whether or not they're interested in seeing someone again and though swift, it appears their decisions are based on more than just a pretty face.

For some sites that offer this type of service you can check out our speed dating category.