60-Second Science

Speed Dating Study Yields Conversation Keys

A study analyzed nearly 1,000 speed dates and their aftermaths to find out what conversational cues work best for people to click. Amy Kraft reports.

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Speed dating is a popular way to find love. But how can you make a good impression in just a few minutes?

With scientific analysis, of course. Because a study finds that people can form meaningful relationships quickly as long as they say the right thing and in the right way. The study is in the American Journal of Sociology. [Daniel McFarland, Dan Jurafsky, and Craig M. Rawlings, in press, Making the Connection: Social Bonding in Courtship Situations]

Researchers listened to audio from speed dates and reviewed results from nearly 1,000 dates.

Women reported a connection with men who used language to indicate that what she was saying was interesting. For example:

FEMALE: I played in the orchestra.
MALE: Oh that’s cool.

Daters also clicked if one interrupted the other to convey enthusiasm or interest in what was being said. For example:

FEMALE: They ought to just regulate at some point.
MALE:  Exactly.

But things went sour if one participant asked a lot of questions, which women did to keep a lagging conversation going and men used when they had nothing to say.

The study confirms that people can hit it off with one another in a short amount of time. Just make sure you say all the right things before that buzzer sounds.

—Amy Kraft

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast]


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  1. 1. ultimobo 06:27 PM 5/14/13

    one observation is that people have already made up their mind about attractiveness in the first fraction of a second they see a stranger - in that case conversation becomes merely a tick the box confirmation exercise - unless the gorgeous person says something so amazing that they break the pre-formed assumption

    there's also the pheromone factor - get close to someone with too-similar genes and feel repelled

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