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With Valentine’s day quickly approaching, what better way to celebrate than with a study on romantic interests? Researchers have found that when it comes to observing two people on a first date, it may be easy to tell whether or not they are interested in each other.
“The hardest-to-read women were being misperceived at a much higher rate than the hardest-to-read men. Those women were being flirtatious, but it turned out they weren't interested at all,” said lead author Skyler Place, a doctoral student in Indiana University's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “Nobody could really read what these deceptive females were doing, including other women.”
This study focused on an observer’s ability to judge whether there is a romantic interest in two people, because of the evolutionary benefits this has in finding a mate.
“So, if you walk into a room and there's 20 people you've never met before, being able to know which individuals might be available and which are clearly smitten by others can make you more efficient in finding your own romantic interest to pursue,” he said.
The researchers gathered 28 women and 26 men all of college age, and had them watch videos of people doing speed dating. If you aren’t familiar with speed dating, it’s a popular form of dating these days, where you interact with someone, usually for about 8-10 minutes, and ask them simple, yet to-the-point questions. After the time is up, places are switched and you are then speaking to the next person in line. You keep this up until you’ve gone through everyone that is involved in speed dating for the night. At the end of the night, you usually let the date coordinators know if you’d like to get to know one or more of those people better.
For this study, the men and women watched 24 videos, and after each one rated whether the man seemed interested in the woman or vice versa. The people in the speed dating videos were all in Germany, while the men and women rating them were in Indiana.
Despite the language difference, the observers were still able to judge romantic interest through body language, eye contact, and tone of voice.
The observers of the videos were pretty much able to accurately judge interest in the speed dating couples whether they had seen 10 seconds of the date compared to watching 30 seconds of it. This showed the researchers that the observers could make quick, accurate judgements using “thin slices” of behavior.
However, there was a big difference in the observers being able to judge an individual’s interest in their date, ranging from 90 percent accuracy down to 10 percent. In five of the videos watched, 80 percent of the observers thought that some of the women shown were interested in their date. They were wrong, as the women were just acting friendly because they had no interest in the men.
“In a speed dating environment, you would expect to see these effects dramatically, with the women trying to get the men to be more straightforward, while they themselves remain more coy,” Place said. “Though the pace is faster than a typical first date, the strategy remains the same.”
This study was published in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science.
Thanks to Boomer Babe for the tip!