Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting a Date for Valentine’s Day: A Scientific Approach (Part 1)

Quite frankly, most years I feel like kicking Valentine’s Day in the truffles. Do I recognize this as a single woman’s reaction to a mushy, lovey, couples' holiday? Sure, but the urge to kick remains. This year, however, I’ve decided to take a more lighthearted, less violent approach. Part of this approach is to recognize, and even revel in, the more ridiculous aspects of commercialism and human relationships. As such, I found a selection of papers that, when put together, loosely instruct on how to get a date for Valentine’s Day (or any day really). As I started writing I realized that it would be just mean to make this a single post. I’d have people unsubscribing and falling asleep (not necessarily in that order) before they got through the second paper. So I’ve divided this “guide” into two parts.

1. Just Ask 

To get a date you must first find someone who is willing to date you. A paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2011 by Nicholas Guéguen takes a look at how gender plays a role in receptivity to sexual offers. Guéguen conducted his study in France, gathering male and female university students to act as confederates. These confederates were first rated on their attractiveness using a 9-point attractiveness scale. Then they were asked to approach potential partners of the opposite sex on the street and say “I find you very likeable and attractive.” After this, the confederate asked one of two randomly determined questions: “Will you come to my apartment to have a drink?” or “Would you go to bed with me?” This study found that “men were apparently more eager for sexual activity than women” and that they were more willing to go to an unfamiliar female’s apartment and bed than females were when asked the same questions. You are completely shocked, I can tell. Forty percent of females agreed to go to an unfamiliar male’s apartment, and only one agreed to the sexual offer. These were the same results found in a similar study in the United States, supporting the idea that these reactions aren’t just typical of Americans. The U.S. study, however, did not take attractiveness of the solicitor into account. Guéguen’s experiment found that the more attractive the solicitor the more likely they were to get a positive answer, and that solicitor attractiveness was more important for males than for females. Women were more likely to go for a drink with an attractive man, but that attractiveness had no impact on the sexual offer. The men were more likely to say yes in general and even more likely to say yes to an attractive woman. You’re shocked again I can see. The take home from part 1 of our Valentine’s Day Guide? Perhaps, it is that asking doesn’t hurt. They may say yes, especially if you’re hot.

ResearchBlogging.orgGuéguen, N. (2011). Effects of Solicitor Sex and Attractiveness on Receptivity to Sexual Offers: A Field Study Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40 (5), 915-919 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-011-9750-4
2. Get Your Foot in the Door 

We can’t argue that the first point/instruction was blunt. Very blunt. So then, let’s refine it a bit. Nicholas Guéguen’s group also published a paper in 2008 about the “foot-in-the-door technique.” In this study, once again conducted in France, male confederates first asked a woman one of two foot-in-the door questions: “Hello, I’m sorry to bother you but would you have a light for my cigarette?” (note: In France, the rate of female smokers is higher so this isn’t a weird question) or “Hello, I’m sorry to bother you but I am looking for the Place de Libération.” If she responded to his question he then said “Thank you very much. Are you busy now? If not, we could have a drink together, if you have some time.” Guéguen found the foot-in-the-door technique to be associated with a greater number of positive responses to the second, courtship-related question. I’ll also point out that the men did not ask the women to go back to a strange apartment and/or jump into bed with them. Probably also a plus. A new, similar study published in 2012 by Dariusz Dolinski, looked at that initial foot-in-the door request, asking if the type of foot to put in that door matters. Dolinski had male and female confederates assigned to three different conditions: no initial request, a typical initial request, or an unusual initial request. The results showed that the “uncommonness of the first, initial request may enhance the effectiveness of the foot-in-the-door technique.” The author suggests that an unusual request requires the respondent to think about why they are complying, looking at themselves and the solicitor more closely. If we put together the blunt, just-ask technique with this second technique then we can conclude that asking is better than not asking and that a unique (and I’ll add: not creepy) lead-in is beneficial in gaining a yes for a date.

ResearchBlogging.orgGueguen, N. (2008). Foot-in-the-door technique using a courtship request: a field experiment Psychological Reports, 103 (6) DOI: 10.2466/PR0.103.6.529-534
ResearchBlogging.orgDolinski, D. (2012). The Nature of the First Small Request as a Decisive Factor in the Effectiveness of the Foot-in-the-Door Technique Applied Psychology, 61 (3), 437-453 DOI: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2011.00477.x
3. Gaze Without Being Creepy

Eyes are small but important features. You can tell a lot from someone’s eyes. They guide our attention to objects that are important, have aesthetic value, or both. Did you know that attention strongly varies as a function of how attractive a person is? It’s true. It has been shown that both men and women gaze longer at more attractive opposite-sex faces. Now, that seems relatively common sense, but if you look at gazing as a signal of mate quality then you have a whole new pick-up technique in your repertoire. But your gender and how long you gaze matters. You don’t want to be the creepy-starey-person or the weird-shifty-eyed-person. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior by Ischa van Straaten et al. in 2009 investigates to what extent the length of people’s gazes during social interactions is affected by the attractiveness of the partner. They recruited University students, put them in a naturalistic bar-like environment, introduced confederates and participants, seated them face-to-face, and filmed them with hidden cameras. After a conversation, the participants were led to a different room, where they rated the confederate’s attractiveness and their own dating desire. The results of this study showed that “the expression of attraction through gazing in real-life interactions varies between men and women” with men gazing longer at attractive women than less attractive women and the length of women’s gazes to be unaffected by attractiveness. The authors suggest this is because “men engage in overt, proactive, mating strategies while women engage in more covert, cautions strategies.” Granted, this study just looks at gazing rather than making suggestions for dating. But if we use this knowledge to make conscious decisions about how we (literally) look at someone then the conclusion for this technique would be to look at someone (especially male to female) a little bit longer to show that you find them attractive. Practice with gaze length may be required so as not to squick her out.

ResearchBlogging.orgvan Straaten, I., Holland, R., Finkenauer, C., Hollenstein, T., & Engels, R. (2009). Gazing Behavior During Mixed-Sex Interactions: Sex and Attractiveness Effects Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39 (5), 1055-1062 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-009-9482-x

That's all for now. Look for a Part 2 on Wednesday!

(image from Arkadin blog)

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