What Determines the Success of First Dates? Psycho-Social Factors that Impact Mate Choice in Pre-Mating Encounters

By Lukas Holschuh
2014, Vol. 6 No. 12 | pg. 2/3 |

Results

We identified two categories of themes, inner world, that is all factors that are within the individual, and outer world, that is all external factors.

Inner World Factors and the First Date

We identified the following themes of codes to be about internal factors: Aims, that is expectations, goals and outcomes of first dates. What represents success? Showing positive personality characteristics, that is showing attentiveness, as well as having positive personality traits. How should you portray yourself?

Aims. First dates were described as important because there was no second chance (MetroReporter, n.d.). Factors were impressing the partner using creativity (Greene, n.d.) and making a good impression (MetroReporter, n.d.). One of the goals was to leave the other wanting (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011).

Possible outcomes included a kiss (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011), but not necessarily more; and feeling the ‘chemistry’ (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011), that is, having met one’s soul mate or the love of one’s life (Arianna & Doc, 2013).

This is similar to what Mongeau et. al. (2004) found in their study. The primary goal seems to be to investigate if there is romantic potential. It also maps onto the findings (Mongeau et al., 2007) that adult’s dating goals, as compared to college students’ (2004), are more directed towards commitment.

That is to say, we can see first dates as serving the purpose of testing if a romantic relationship would be possible and desired with the other person. A date is successful, however not only, when it ‘clicks’ and one is left with the desire to see the person again.

Table 1: Aims as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, nor do you get a first chance to erase the memory

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

The key is creativity – she’ll be impressed if you’ve shown that [...] you thought about her

(Greene, n.d.)

If your good date’s going well you want it to end early and leave the other person wanting more.

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

A really good, deep goodnight kiss is all you really need.

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

If the date went well, try setting up the next date. If it didn’t go well, [...] just tell me you’re not feeling it

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

Too many people approach online dating with the attitude that they will probably meet the love of their lives within the first date or two.

(Arianna & Doc, 2013)

Another thing we see a lot is people getting super-excited before a first date, […] convinced that they are about to meet their soul-mate.

(Arianna & Doc, 2013)

Showing positive personality characteristics. Three accounts mentioned that it should be taken care to show a positive personality. This advice was mainly for men though.

Attentiveness. First of all, it was talked about being attentive to the woman and making her feel important (Greene, n.d.) (this goes back to aims and making a good impression). Not only should men use their imagination and creativity, but also their knowledge about the woman to show her that he cares about her (Greene, n.d.). It was also important to be polite, i.e. opening the door for her, and giving compliments (Greene, n.d.; s.e.Jones, n.d.).

This may link to behavioural scripts and social roles. It does indeed make sense to show interest in the other person since this is what the first date is about. Being attentive would also be the logical consequence of first date aims and goals, such as reducing uncertainty and investigating romantic potential (Mongeau et al., 2004).

Table 2: Attentiveness as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

The key is creativity – she’ll be impressed if you’ve shown that you not only got her something, but that you thought about her while doing it.

(Greene, n.d.)

If you greet her with a red rose and a smile, you’re sure to get a warm response [...] If you already know some details about this woman, use the information to your advantage. [...] Otherwise, use your imagination.

(Greene, n.d.)

Be polite, not pushy

(Greene, n.d.)

Do offer to open the door for her

(Greene, n.d.)

Be complimentary

(Greene, n.d.)

Many men forget to notice and compliment their date’s appearance. [...] it’s important that you acknowledge her efforts.

(Greene, n.d.)

[Talk about] Something you notice about the other person.

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

Try to keep any observations positive and innocent;

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

Personality traits. Readers were advised to show that they are assertive, however not aggressive (Greene, n.d.). This includes showing a polite character and a “willingness to forgive” (Greene, n.d.). It is important to find the right balance between ‘playing cool’ and being too keen (MetroReporter, n.d.).

This maps onto assortative mating in that women seem to prefer men with socially desirable personality characteristics (Botwin et al., 1997).

 

Table 3: Personality Traits as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

Be assertive, not aggressive

(Greene, n.d.)

It's important that you show her you're confident.

(Greene, n.d.)

she'd prefer you be courteous than cantankerous. [...] A polite smile and a simple assertion that your order has been confused is the perfect time for you to show your willingness to forgive

(Greene, n.d.)

[Do not] Come over too keen [or] Come over too aloof

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

If you find yourself looking at your watch during the date, or saying, ‘Meh, if you want,’ when the subject of a second meeting comes up, you’re probably playing it too cool.

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

Outer World Factors and the First Date

We identified the following themes of codes to be about external factors: Communicating interest, that is factors concerning conversation, including conversation topics and how to make conversation. How to be interesting? Not being awkward, that is social norms, scripts and . How to behave correctly? Situational factors, that is duration and location of the date.

Communicating interest. This theme is about the conversation on a first date. The data emphasised being able to keep the conversation going, talking about topics that interest both partners and being interesting.

Conversation topics. A number of different appropriate conversation topics were proposed in the data, mostly by one source (s.e.Jones, n.d.). These included focusing on oneself and the partner. You should talk about your and your dates personality, opinions and worldview, your history, interests, likes and dislikes. The surroundings can also serve as a good conversation topic. It should however be avoided to talk about awkward topics (s.e.Jones, n.d.), such as sex or relationships (MetroReporter, n.d.).

Notable here is the focus on topics that have been shown to be factors for assortative mating, such as attitudes, personality and worldview.

Table 4: Conversation Topics as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

It's almost always a good idea to talk about yourself, so long as you allow them to talk about themselves as well. Tell them a little bit about where you are in life, a little of your past, and where you hope to be in the future.

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

Try to come up with something that will not only be interesting but will say something about who you are and how you see life in general.

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

give them an idea of how you came to be the person sitting before them today

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

Talk about the things you like, and/or the things you like to do.

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

Likes and dislikes. List 'em off

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

wandering into inappropriate subject areas or worse

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

[Do not] Talk about your ex [...] Or anyone you’ve slept with. Just don’t go there under any circumstances.

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

[Do not] Talk about sex [...] The old rules that stipulate you mustn’t talk about politics and are out, but you should still avoid talking about sex.

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

How to make conversation. Three sources advised on conversational skills (Greene, n.d.; MetroReporter, n.d.; s.e.Jones, n.d.). Silence should be avoided (s.e.Jones, n.d.), but the conversation should also not be one-sided, that is no monologue (Greene, n.d.) and no interview (Greene, n.d.; MetroReporter, n.d.). You should further choose topics that interest both of you (s.e.Jones, n.d.) and not be boring (Greene, n.d.). You should show interest, however balanced (Greene, n.d.).

Clearly, social skills are required for a successful first date, especially as it is potentially the most important part of the behavioural scripts for first dates found by Serewicz and Gale (2008). This also maps onto the reasons for breakup found by Hill et al. (1976): Becoming bored with the relationship and differences in interest.

Table 5: How to Make Conversation as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

falling into long stretches of awkward silence

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

Your intentions might be to keep the conversation flowing, but a monologue actually makes for a more uncomfortable evening than a few awkward pauses. So be sure to ask her about herself; just don't turn it into an interview.

(Greene, n.d.)

Please don’t ask your date where they see themselves in five years’ time, or what motivates them.

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

what happens is people wind up talking about things that might not be of interest to the other

(s.e.Jones, n.d.)

It doesn't have to be overly extravagant, just make sure you have some other ideas in the event the night doesn't come together exactly as planned. From ice skating to salsa dancing to coffee drinking - any backup option is better than no option at all.

(Greene, n.d.)

The result can often be you talking about all the things you've accomplished while neglecting to ask her about her interests

(Greene, n.d.)

Not being awkward. This theme is about the role of social norms, behavioural scripts and gender roles on a first date. In order not to be awkward, you should comply with what is socially accepted behaviour (Greene, n.d.).

Looking good is also important in this regard (MetroReporter, n.d.). When it comes to gender roles, the man should set up the first date and at least split the bill equally (MetroReporter, n.d.) or pay for it (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011). However, the girl should offer to pay her part (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011).

This supports Serewicz and Gale’s (2008) findings that first dates come with fairly conservative gender roles.

Table 6: Not Being Awkward as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

She may not tell you that etiquette is a priority, but be sure that she's keeping an eye on what you are, and perhaps more importantly, what you aren't doing.

(Greene, n.d.)

Men, don’t wear anything that could p[o]tentially embarrass your date, like scruffy trainers or an offensive t-shirt. And ladies, this applies to you too.

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

As a guy I can tell you it’s a lot to always be the one setting up dates

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

There’s no way he should allow you to pay, but offering is key. I would never let a girl pay on the first date

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

Let this be the bill that sets the tone for the relationship and let this relationship be an equal one.

(MetroReporter, n.d.)

Situational factors. Finally, there are those factors that keep the date within reasonable bounds. The location should be chosen wisely to offer a relaxing atmosphere that takes away the pressure (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011). It should not be too loud, nor too quiet (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011).

Also, you should have a time constraint for your date and not stretch it out too long - at least if your aim is to make the other person want you (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011).

This supports Serewicz and Gale’s (2008) findings that expectations of communicative intimacy vary depending on the date location.

Table 7: Situational Factors as Described by Data

Quotation

Source

First dates are pressure enough, a relaxed environment will make you both more comfortable and you’ll get to know each other better.

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

Bars are too loud and all you can do is drink, movies are too quiet and awkward

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

If your good date’s going well you want it to end early and leave the other person wanting more.

(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011)

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