Studies like the one at Ohio State University suggest that speed dating should, in theory, work. If we can determine whether another person is a good match for us in just a minute or two, then speed dating is an optimal approach to selecting a mate. Why waste time on some jerk when you've already decided that you'll most likely never speak to him again? Speed dating also offers a structure that -- in its brevity -- encourages polite behavior. And with the speed-dating service ringing a buzzer that signals the end of a couples' time together, participants can relax knowing that they can largely avoid any awkward end-of-date moments.
But do the rules of attraction still apply in speed dating? University of Pennsylvania psychologists examined more than 10,000 client responses from Hurry Date's database and found that in the context of a speed date, the usual rules of attraction go out the window. Factors like religious affiliation and earning potential -- usually viewed as very important in dating -- are replaced by behavioral cues. These cues provide the basis of attraction in a setting where time is of the essence and split-second decisions are made.
The University of Pennsylvania researchers determined that Hurry Date's three-minute format was longer than necessary -- three seconds is about all it takes, said one researcher [source: University of Pennsylvania].
Another study conducted by Stanford Business, Harvard and Columbia University researchers also found that women in the speed date setting throw out traditional requisites for a mate, like intelligence and sincerity, and go instead for physical attractiveness. So, too, do men, but this represents no change, as men traditionally report physical attractiveness at the top of their list of desirable qualities in a mate.
This same study also found that the smaller the pool of potential candidates, the more likely women were to want to see any of the given men. As the number of men at the speed date simulation increased, the number of men the women wanted to see decreased [source: Stanford Graduate School of Business].
Scientific study has come up with quantitative evidence that speed dating can work in the selection of a mate. But there's also plenty of qualitative evidence suggesting that speed dating can fail. Some speed daters report the scene is fraught with sleazy and insincere individuals. Others find the candidates somewhat lacking. "I've never seen so much desperation in one area," reported one college student who tried speed dating at an event at the University of Buffalo [source: Generation]. Speed dating, while comprised of brief, timed encounters, also generally requires that the dater sit through the entirety of a date, with little or no chance of escape usually found in other, less structured settings.
In stark contrast to these objections, speed-dating service Web sites are brimming with anecdotal evidence that the technique works. Most sites are long on success stories and display wedding photos of couples who met through their service's events. 8 Minute Dating boasts that 62 percent of its clients find a mutual interest with another speed dater. "Compare that to the bar scene!" the Web site dares.
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