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