During a series of mini dates, each spanning no more than a couple of minutes, participants in a speed-dating event evaluate a succession of eligible singles. They make split-second decisions on matters of the heart, creating a pool of information on one of the more ineffable yet vital questions of our time—how we select our mates. The concept of rapid-fire dating has gained tremendous popularity, spreading to cities all over the world. One speed-dating company in New York City, for example, holds a gathering almost every day.
Start-up companies now meet with investors, pregnant couples interact with doulas, and homeless dogs court potential owners, all using the speed-dating format. Some years ago I caved to my curiosity and tried it out myself.
As it turns out, I like to talk—a lot. When the little buzzer went off after three minutes, I often found myself still trying to explain to my bedazzled dating partner why my last name has four syllables it is Dutch.
As you might imagine, I did not find the love of my life. Even if meet-and-greet matching events might seem like the most efficient way to comb through many options at once, a wealth of data reveals that the context Do you think speed dating is a good way of meeting which we make a choice weighs heavily on the outcome.
Speed-dating events can promote a particular decision-making style that might not always work in our favor.
Yet we need not be passive victims of our circumstances. Knowing how your environment influences your mind-set, a quality known as ecological rationality, Do you think speed dating is a good way of meeting help you make the choices that are best for you.
Decisions, Decisions Traditional dating can seem haphazard, contingent on seemingly minor details such as whether you signed up for the right yoga class or patronized the same bar as your future love interest. Online dating, too, has its drawbacks, requiring hours to sift through profiles and craft careful introductory e-mails before arranging to meet in person.
Speed dating, by comparison, offers the opportunity to chat up many eligible singles in rapid succession. In a typical speed-dating event, participants pair off at individual tables and chairs for a few minutes of conversation. When the buzzer sounds, half of the singles move to another chair and a different partner, in a kind of round robin.
In spite of maxims about so many fish in the sea, for example, recent research tells us that the heart prefers a smaller pond. Lenton and University of Essex economist Marco Francesconi analyzed more than 3, dating decisions across 84 speed-dating events. The authors found that when the available prospects varied more in attributes such as age, height, occupation and educational background, people made fewer dating proposals.
This effect was particularly strong when individuals were faced with a large number of partners.
Additionally, in speed-dating events where the characteristics of the daters varied much more, most participants did not follow up with any of their matches. Results observed in the world of online dating support this finding. A study in by Lenton and Barbara Fasolo of the London School of Economics and Political Science indicates that participants often misjudge how the number of options available to them will affect their feelings.
Participants presented with a broad array of potential partners more closely aligned with their anticipated ideal did not experience greater emotional satisfaction than when presented with fewer options.
Prior research by Lenton and Francesconi provides some insight into why people might struggle with speed dating. They found that when the number of participants in a speed-dating event increases, people lean more heavily on innate guidelines, known as heuristics, in their decision making.
In essence, heuristics are ingrained rules of thumb that allow us to save effort by ignoring some of the information available to us when we evaluate our options.
For example, in those events with a relatively large number of participants, the researchers discovered that people attend predominantly to easily accessible features, such as age, height, physical attractiveness, and so forth, rather than clues that are harder to observe, for example, occupation and educational achievement.
These rules of thumb are evolutionarily adaptive, however, and not necessarily a bad thing. Millions of years of experimentation with different heuristics, conducted in a range of environments, have led us to learn which ones are most effective.
Very generally speaking, good looks and youthful vigor are indeed useful metrics for mating because they signal health. Yet if lifelong love is what you are after, a smorgasbord of singles might propel you to make stereotypical selections.