One of these things is (not) like the other

Speed dating research is a bit of a hot topic in the relationship research literature these days. Why you ask? Well its kind-of a perfect blend of mimicking real-world situations where we make quick judgments potential dating partners. Researchers can re-create these situations and run multiple speed dating events. And bonus if you are a participant who leaves a research study with 8 phone numbers. Not bad, right?

What do we know about speed dating? Well we know it matters who sits and who moves seats – the person who moves seats takes on a more active role – even when they are women. We know that who else in the room matters – especially if you perceive your fellow same-sex speed daters as steep competition.

But what about the qualities of the actual speed daters themselves?

Well in this study 187 undergrads came in and took part in a speed dating event with 11-12 dates. Before the event, they filled out an online questionnaire assessing various personality measures such as religion, hobbies and interests, political background, how attractive someone would rate him/herself, etc.

So participants do the speed dating event and after each date, they take 2 min and fill out the same info about how they would rate their various dates, how similar they think they are to the partners, and how much they liked the partners.

And how does similarity measure up?

Well turns out….just thinking you are similar to your speed dating partner was a more legit predictor of participants matching (both partners listing each other at end of event) and partners reporting that they liked the other person.

So the people could actually be quite different (not share that much in common based on their separate questionnaire scores) but report that they think the person is similar and that they would like to meet the other person. Weird, right?

So…opposites don’t attract. Sharing interests matters. Buuuut…maybe that just matters to keep people together in the long-run. Appearing similar seems to get you into the first half of the game.

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