We Turned To Science To Help You Create The Perfect First Date
Use some science to craft the perfect first date

March 13, 2013

girl and guy sitting in an outdoor bar chatting

Choosing to have your first date on Valentine’s Day takes balls. It can either turn out to be the start to a great story you tell your grandkids one day or it could end in her group-texting her girlfriends “Who takes someone on a first date on Valentine’s Day. So weird.”

And honestly, we’re not sure for certain how to make sure it doesn’t go the way of the latter. That’s why we turned to science, in the hope that the great minds of the world could help in the great game of love. After all, love is all about logic, numbers and calculated decisions, right?

Related: Here’s What You Need To Wear On Your Valentine’s Date

Here are 6 ways to ensure your first date goes smoother than Cupid’s arrow gliding straight into your love interest’s heart:

Get Things Heated

The Date

Taking a girl for coffee may have you checking your cellphone for a call from the Nineties, asking for its gameplan back, but it still is an effective first date. You want her to warm up to you and warming her physically will help a lot (it’s called priming).

Priming is a psychological technique that uses physical senses to influence a mental response, like associating one good thing with another – think Pavlov’s dogs. This response also works well with other stimuli; watching a comedy show might make her associate you with laughter.

The Science

A study by Yale University psychologist Dr John Bargh, who specialises in the effects of priming, had participants hold either warm beverages or cold beverages and indicate if they thought a person had a warm or cold personality.

He found that the participants who held warm beverages judged the person to have a warm personality while the participants who held cold beverages judged the person to have a cold personality. So the next time you go on a date, take her/him out for coffee instead of ice cream.

Related: Here Are 11 Reasons You Should Be Drinking Coffee Right Now And The Products You Should Be Using

It’s also the perfect first date for Valentine’s Day because it doesn’t have the same pressure as a date at a fancy restaurant surrounded by long-term couples who are all loved up. Nothing makes you feel more uncomfortable than Justin at the table next to you getting down on one knee as an entire choir of accapella singers slowly drifts into the restaurant at the same time as his date, Liezel, finds a diamond ring in her brownie.

Be Her Prey

The Date

Win her heart by letting her chase yours. While women want a confident decision-maker, there is nothing more seductive than a little competition. Play this one smart with an activity rather than standing at a bar. Think competitive games like paintballing or go-kart racing. Keep it tight and let her reel you in and win.

The Science

“The mere act of physically approaching a potential partner, versus being approached, seemed to increase desire for that partner,” says Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study.

“The research shows that our physical activity and psychological processes interface in ways that are outside our conscious awareness.” Also, high adrenaline activity lets you benefit from another response called “excitation transfer”. Research shows that exciting, even scary, activities have the power to boost romantic attraction between men and women who’ve just met.

Related: Five Date Ideas That Are Better Than Dinner

In such serious scenarios, we misattribute the reason for our thrill. “You think, ‘Why am I feeling like this? Well, it must be that I’m with this exciting person’,” says Dr Arthur Aron, head of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at New York’s Stony Brook University.

Party Hard

The Date

If you met her while riding the bus or train to work, a good idea is to kick off your relationship by taking her to a party. Not only will she feel honoured because you want to show her off, but she’ll also see you among your friends and gauge your social standing. Bonus points if you have friends with similar lifestyles, because chatting with their partners will give her some background knowledge.

The Science

“Humans don’t exist in a vacuum. From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense that we have evolved mechanisms that let us take advantage of the additional social information in our environment,” explains Skyler Place, an American researcher in Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

“We might think that searching for mates is a process best done individually, but humans, like many other animals, also pay attention to the preferences of others, to make for a more efficient search process. Who others like might also be a good choice for ourselves.”

Related: Drinking Wine May Actually Stop Your Brain Cells From Dying

“Of course people care about what friends and family think of their potential romantic partners,” he continues, “but the study showed that complete strangers also matter.”

Keep Her Guessing

The Date

You know that monthly poker game you have with your mates, well think that, but with her. Plan a chilled date with another fun couple and then bring out your cards for a low-stakes game. If she doesn’t know how to play, grab an extra deck or three and have a few rounds of Cheat (aka Bullshit). Combined with your enigmatic persona, you’ll compete the mysterious image by showing her how good you are at deception.

The Science

It turns out there may be something to “playing hard to get.” A study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that a woman is more attracted to a man when she is uncertain about how much he likes her.

Related: How To Host A Poker Game

“If we want to know how much Sarah likes Bob, a good predictor is how much she thinks Bob likes her,” write the authors of the paper, Erin R. Whitchurch and Timothy D. Wilson of the University of Virginia and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University.

“But what if Sarah is not sure how much Bob likes her?” This might lead Sarah to spend a lot of time thinking about Bob, wondering how he feels, and she might find him more attractive the more she dwells on him. Keeping people in the dark about how much we like them will increase how much they think about us and will pique their interest.”

Get Tipsy

The Date

The next time a girl you really like says she doesn’t dig beer, challenge her by offering to help find a beer that she likes at your favourite brewpub or at a beer festival. Not into beer? Try expanding her knowledge and palate with some wine tasting, or even hit the mampoer route. The emphasis should be on respectful (you shouldn’t be trying to get her drunk) and responsible fun (get a taxi), plus owning up to getting drunk on three draughts will build the trust.

The Science

“Although traditionally, men drink more than women, research has shown that women have steadily been drinking more and more over the last several decades,” says Dr Joseph LaBrie, associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University. “Our research suggests women believe men find excessive drinking sexually attractive and appealing.”

Related: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Curse of Whiskey Dick

“There is a great, and risky, disconnect here between the sexes,” continues LaBrie. “While not all women may be drinking simply to get a guy’s attention, this may help explain why more women are drinking at dangerous levels.”

Get A Girl Friend

The Date

Bro, you need a crew of girlfriends; but a sister and her friends will do, or your mom and her friends in a pinch. Meeting the girls for cocktails shows her your gender relations and let’s her weed out any misogynistic trends.

The Science

A University of Texas study revealed that the presence of other women who appear to be interested in a man may provide valuable information about that man’s quality and offer a more accurate indication of his real mate value than any one woman could make by herself. Women are more selective than men in their mate choices due to their heavier obligatory parental investment.

Related: Are You Dateable or Just a Fling?

If other women like you, it suggests that you at least tick some of the general boxes and then it leaves the details. Also, she’ll be in the hopes that some of your charm will rub off on your potential offspring, ensuring the future of her genes. Your entourage offers valuable, relatively honest information regarding the quality of an unknown man without incurring the costs associated with gaining the information firsthand.