New research published in Sexuality & Culture suggests there are certain behaviors that can increase the likelihood of securing a second date for both men and women. Men who demonstrate better etiquette, which includes being kind and showing good manners, might be more likely to be successful in getting second dates. On the other hand, women who demonstrate greater involvement, via eye contact and laughing, might improve their chances of securing a second date.
The researchers were motivated to study the topic of first dates and behaviors associated with securing follow-up dates because a significant portion of the American population is single, and many individuals go on first dates with the hope of forming long-term romantic relationships. But it is unclear what types of behaviors most consistently lead to a second date.
“I became interested in this topic from observing a really bad date at a bar while I was out with my friends,” explained Jimmy Moran, a behavioral scientist at Johnson & Johnson who conducted the research while he was a masters student at Bucknell University and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida.
“The man on the date was acting so weird and aggressive toward the woman on the date that she got up and left, and he was flabbergasted. I was a master’s student at the time and studying relationship science and was curious whether anyone had investigated behaviors that are more successful on a first date.”
Moran and his colleagues conducted a series of three studies to better understand successful first date behaviors.
In Study 1, the researchers aimed to gather and categorize a list of behaviors that men and women believe are effective in securing a second date. They recruited 100 participants, primarily from a private northeastern university and Facebook, who provided their demographic information and listed five behaviors that someone of their gender could perform on a first date to increase the chances of a second date. The responses were analyzed and collapsed into unique act nominations, providing researchers with a range of tactics associated with a successful first date.
The top four tactics nominated by men were having a deep conversation, paying for the date, using humor, and maintaining eye contact. The top four tactics nominated by women were telling jokes or being funny, asking questions, being polite and respectful, and dressing well and wearing makeup.
“We were surprised about the degree of similarity in the overlap among the behaviors nominated,” Moran told PsyPost. “For example, ‘paying for the date’ and ‘holding the door’ was nominated for both men and women to have a successful first date.”
In Study 2, the researchers aimed to assess the effectiveness of these nominated acts and examine gender differences. They recruited 131 participants primarily from a private northeastern university and Reddit. Participants rated the nominated acts from Study 1 in terms of their effectiveness using a 7-point scale. The results revealed that men and women had different perceptions of which acts were effective for successful first dates.
The acts were categorized into three broad categories: Etiquette, Involvement, and Behavior. Men believed women who engaged in behaviors categorized as “Involvement” (such as having eye contact, good body language, smiling, and asking good questions) are more successful in obtaining second dates. On the other hand, women perceived men who displayed “Etiquette” behaviors (such as being kind, caring, and listening) as more likely to secure second dates. Essentially, men valued women who show interest and engage in physical and flirtatious behaviors, while women valued men who demonstrate kindness and display appropriate social behavior.
“The average person should understand that there are similar overlaps in behaviors that men and women use on a first date, but men and women perceive behaviors to be different,” Moran explained. “Men prefer when women are more involved on dates, but women prefer men who are more polite on a first date. The behaviors seem to map onto the mate preferences and sexual strategies among men and women.”
In Study 3, the researchers used 12 episodes of the Netflix show “Dating Around” to assess whether individuals who received second dates actually used the acts identified as effective in the previous studies. The show follows an individual who goes on a series of blind dates with different potential partners. Each episode focuses on one person who goes on five separate dates, and at the end, they choose one person they would like to go on a second date with.
“It was also surprising to find out that there was a TV show on Netflix that focused on first dates that allowed us to code dating interaction behavior,” Moran said.
Research assistants coded the episodes to track specific behaviors, such as being polite, telling jokes, asking questions, kissing, and more. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine the effects of these behaviors on securing a second date. But the results showed no significant effects of the nominated acts on landing a second date for both male and female participants.
In other words, the findings from Study 3 showed no significant effects of the behaviors identified in Studies 1 and 2 on landing a second date. But why? The researchers said that this could be because reality shows like “Dating Around” are often heavily edited to create entertaining content. Therefore, the show may not accurately reflect real-life dating experiences. It is also possible that the lack of significant findings in Study 3 indicate a disconnect between what people believe are effective behaviors on first dates and what actually works to secure a second date.
“The biggest caveat of this work is that it is all hypothetical, and we would love for future research to take the nominations and behaviors out into the real world and see if they hold up on actual first dates,” Moran said. “We would also love to see how individual differences like sociosexuality or extraversion might predict engaging in more or less of these dating behaviors.”
“Another thing that should be of focus is that this research followed straight men’s and women’s dating behaviors, and future research should focus on other sexual and gender identities!”
The study, “Dating Around: Investigating Gender Differences in First Date Behavior Using Self‑Report and Content Analyses from Netflix“, was authored by James B. Moran, Courtney L. Crosby, Taylor Himes, and T. Joel Wade.