Scientists Studied Speed-Dating First Impressions—This Is What They Found

The first impression you give to a potential romantic partner is significant in whether they will want to date you.

According to research published on October 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, an individual's first impressions of compatibility and popularity play an important role in someone's attraction to another person.

speed dating man and woman
Stock image of a man and a woman speed dating. Researchers have found that first impressions of compatibility and popularity are important for bagging another date. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Alexander Baxter, co-author of the paper and neurobiologist at the University of California, Davis, told Newsweek: "In this study, we asked participants at speed-dating events to rate their initial desire for each potential partner that they met.

"We then surveyed the participants for the next three months to assess whether they dated any of the potential partners that they met and how their romantic feelings changed over time."

According to data from Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan Washington D.C. think tank, nearly half of U.S. adults say that dating has gotten more difficult in the last decade, with 50 percent of single adults saying they are not looking for a relationship or dates.

The field of dating and attraction psychology has made some other fascinating discoveries in 2022, with one paper from October published in the journal PLOS One finding that people with more original dating profiles, avoiding clichés and overused tropes in the text, are perceived as more attractive and intelligent.

The researchers found that across several different measures of romantic pursuit, people were between 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to go on dates with and have romantic feelings towards people that were popular at speed-dating, and also people they were compatible with.

Popularity and compatibility were the strongest predictors of later romantic pursuit, meaning that you will be considered more as a future date if your partner not only finds you attractive at the first impression, but also recognizes that others present do. People want an individual more if they know that others will be interested in that person, too.

"Consistent with evolutionary models of human pair-bonding, these findings suggest that both consensually desirable traits and unique impressions of compatibility have lingering effects on relationship development, even from the moment that two potential partners meet," wrote the authors in the paper.

The researchers' speed-dating experiments involved 559 participants across college and community samples, and also included a sample of men who date men.

"We also found that selectivity played a relatively small role in romantic pursuit, with more romantically outgoing individuals being slightly more likely than less outgoing people to pursue their speed-dating matches," Baxter said.

However, the researchers recognized that their study examined only the effects of these first impressions on the likelihood of going on a date or messaging a match after the speed-dating session, not the development of a relationship.

"Future studies should incorporate how impressions change during relationship initiation," the researchers wrote in the paper.

They also say that, in future studies, they wish to investigate how this differs if the two individuals have an established platonic relationship, and how factors such as age and culture come into play.