Have you ever wondered what behaviors people use to make a first impression on reality dating TV shows? A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships studies 7 years of Bachelor Nation footage to see what verbal and nonverbal behavior each gender utilizes.
Reality dating shows have become increasingly popular, with spots on “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” transforming people into celebrities and influencers. The franchise begins each season the same way, with quick first impression meetings for each contestant with the show’s lead. Reality dating shows can be broken down into sexual scripts, which may be used to guide individual’s behaviors within their own romantic lives. These first impression meetings also lend themselves to “immediacy behaviors” which can take verbal or nonverbal forms to signal attraction and emotion. Immediacy behaviors show gender differences, as they’re influenced by societal norms.
The authors of the new study collected data from 331 couples on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” from 2012 to 2019. The “first impression” for men to speak to the bachelorette lasts from 10 to 86 seconds and for women to speak to the bachelor lasts from 5 to 58 seconds. The ages of contestants ranged from 21 to 41 years old. Coders manually coded the samples to sort out initial interactions and identify the verbal and nonverbal immediacy behavior.
Three types of communication tactics arose for verbal immediacy behavior: small talk, self-disclosure, and emotional adjustment. For small talk, contestants used simple greetings, introduced themselves, or expressed their feeling such as happiness, excitement, or nerves. Self-disclosure involved sharing where they are from, what they do for a living, their hobbies, or even a compliment about themselves.
Emotional adjustment is attempts to arouse interest or curiosity and examples of that can include giving compliments or saying to find them later. Nonverbal immediacy behavior includes speech-related gestures (such as head tilt, waving, or hair tossing), eye behavior (such as wink, gaze down, or eyebrow flashes), other person focused touching behavior (such as kissing or hand-in-hand), self-focused touching behavior (such as clothes straitening), posture, and facial expressions.
Men and women showed some similarities, such as preference for small talk, emotional adjustment, and self-disclosure. They also shared similar likelihood to engage in nonverbal cues such as speech-related gestures, eye behavior, touching behavior, posture, and facial expressions. Gender differences arose only in nonverbal communication. Specifically, hand kissing was a male-only gesture, while females solely engaged in hair tossing, wink, face covering, breast touching, and more. This is consistent with previous research that men and women are similar in verbal gestures but differ in nonverbal gestures.
This study took a comprehensive look at reality dating TV over multiple seasons to study the immediacy behaviors. Despite this, it has some limitations. Firstly, reality TV is often edited and it is not possible to know which interactions were rehearsed, edited, or filmed multiple times. Additionally, newer seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are incorporating more diverse contestants, which could be considered in future research.
The study, “First impression sexual scripts of romantic encounters: Effect of gender on verbal and non verbal immediacy behaviors in American media dating culture“, was authored by Oleksandra Romaniuk and Larissa Terán.