Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First Dates - This is How They Work: Cliches, Prejudices & Scientifically Verified Dating Scripts

Holding each other's hand is part of the dating scripts of both men and women.
No, you did not enter the wrong URL - this is  the SuppVersity! And yes, I know this does not sound like a SuppVersity topic, but let's be honest: a satisfactory love-life (spiritual and physical) is in as much part of a healthy lifestyle and as a healthy diet and a reasonable amount of exercise. Against that background I thought it's warranted to write an article about the Rules of Engagement and what men and women expect from a first date - and yes, I willingly admit I was sort of fed up with "diabesity", muscle and performance "gainz" and wanted to write about something else, today.

The corresponding research is unfortunately already 5 years old, but I guess most of it is still valid (although there is no information about Facebook, Twitter and general smartphone use on the first date included - for me, personally, a total turnoff, by the way). That being said, the Mary Claire Morr Serewicz and Elaine Gale did a pretty decent job, when they analyzed the first-date scripts of  209 college students in the Midwestern United States.
Don't forget: Dating is an art! I truly believe in science, but when it comes to interpersonal relationships and love, all the science in world can - at best - prepare you for what's going to happen. So don't take this as a blueprint and rather trust your instincts than the stats, when you stand in front of your date's door and think about what today's SuppVersity post taught you about "polite leave-taking" ;-)
You have no idea what kinds of results this research could possible deliver? Well, here are a couple of examples:
  • Women are more creative than men: Men’s scripts will show greater redundancy than will women’s scripts.
  • Men are wired to think about how to score with their dating partner: Men’s scripts will include more sexual behavior than women’s scripts.
  • Women know what they want: Female-initiated dates will include more sexual behavior than male-initiated dates.
All these are actually prognoses the researchers formed based on results from previous studies. The same goes for the hypotheses that
  • keg parties a good place to date if you want to get down and dirty after your date, while
  • coffee-shops are the right locations for intimate communication
I guess all that is not actually surprising to you - unless you have been spending most of your live on Facebook and don't even know what a keg party is, obviously. That's you? Well, the following information may be particularly valuable for you; that is if you ever plan to leave the secure and cosy light / dark blue world of fake friends and faked profile pictures and go on a real date.

So let's see what men and women have on their minds when they're dating

The first-date script the Mary Claire Morr Serewicz and Elaine Gale constructed based on their interviews and questionnaires contained 23 actions, 20 of which were unique actions. Two actions, get ready and talk, were repeated. Ten actions were mentioned by at least 50% of participants: get ready, pick up date, go to movie, pay, talk, go to café/party, talk(2), walk/drive home, kiss, and future plans.

Included in the following list are all items that were mentioned by at least 25% of the study participants. Practically speaking, this means for example that whenever you go on four subsequent dates (at least) one of your dating partners will have "holding hands" on his / her mind.

MaleFemale
GET READY
PICK UP DATE (M)
Feel nervous
GO TO MOVIE
Pay (M)
TALK
Get something to eat
Flirt
Hold hands
GO TO CAFÉ/PARTY
TALK
Touch/hug (M)
Drink alcohol
Deep conversation
Evaluate relationship (M)
Talk
Leave party
Invite the other in
More than kissing
WALK/DRIVE HOME (M)
KISS
FUTURE PLANS (M)
Walk/drive home (M)
GET READY
PICK UP DATE (M)
Feel nervous
Talk to friends (W)
GO TO MOVIE
PAY (M)
TALK
Pay (M)
Hold hands
GO TO CAFÉ/PARTY
Smile/joke/laugh
Nonverbal closeness
TALK
Drink alcohol
Touch/hug
Mingle with others
Deep conversation
Talk
Leave party
WALK/DRIVE HOME (M)
Polite leave-taking
KISS
FUTURE PLANS
Part for the night (M)
Ok, I see you are (rightly) confused; and honestly, I did feel the same, when I saw this table. Let's first get the meaning of the CAPITAL and bold items straight. As I already mentioned, the table lists only those items that have been mentioned by at least 25% of the respondents. The items in CAPITAL LETTERS were even more frequent. They have been mentioned By at least 50% of the participants. Actions in bold, on the other hand, are sex specific that means they were mentioned only by men or women, but not by both sexes.

Some things you would, some things you wouldn't expect

12 Things Everyone Should Know Before His / Her Next Date
  • He should not buy new clothes for a date, woman don't expects that.
  • Ladies & gents, you better shave / use make-up! Your date expects you to do so.
  • The car is his job. The same goes for making sure it does not break down!
  • He pays! And ladies, don't take that away from him: He actually wants to pay!
  • She loves flowers. 79% of the women wouldn't mind a long-stemmed rose.
  • He picks her up. That's something men and women agree upon.
  • Be prepared to meet the parents guys, 58% of the ladies expect that of him.
  • He opens the door for her. Well, unless she is one of the 11% of the women who do not expect that.
  • He takes the first step. More than 50% of both men and women agree even initiating a hug is his job.
  • She loves "deep conversations". They are in the toplists of 50% of the women but only 43% of the men know that.
  • It's his duty to take her home. 88% of the ladies and 90% gents believe that.
  • Women will call a friend after the date.  54% of the guys know that.
These "facts" are based on a study by Laner & Ventrone from 2000.
I guess few of you will be surprised that "get something to eat" is a male exclusive, right? I mean that's caveman speaking here ;-) What may be more surprising is that "evaluate relationship" is likewise a male exclusive. With the (M) signalling that the men expected of themselves to do that, it would appear that a statement like "I just wanted to see where we are at" is rather to come from the male date partner than from his female counterpart who will be less concerned about "being invited in" and "receiving more than a kiss" (yes, I know ladies, we are Neanderthals ;-) than about a possibility to "tell her friends about the date".

Apropos women, the results Mary Claire Morr Serewicz & Elaine Gale present in their paper do not suggest that you must sit 10 meters apart from your date, guys. Quite the opposite, as long as you "smile, joke and laugh" you are welcome to "keep eye contact" and even "sit close" to your inamorata (both "keeping eye contact" and "sitting close to each other" belong to the nonverbal closeness category). In most cases you may also take and hold her hand, but you should be aware that your are not only expected to "pay the bill", but also to "drive her home" and once you are there you  may - if you are lucky - "kiss her" before you "leave politely" and "part for the night".

I hope this short tale of the all-American standard date (as Sereictz' and Gale's subjects see it) did promote your understanding of how you can read the results in the tabular overview. Before I leave you to your own interpretation, I do however want to take a departing look at the difference between male vs. female initiated dates.

Influence of the gender of date initiator

Traditionally it's up to us (men) to ask you (ladies) out and, as we have already seen, to pay for the bills. With the emancipation, though, things have changed... well, at least as far as the initiation of the date goes (not so sure about paying the bills, to be honest). From a 'date-scientific-perspective' it's thus important to understand the difference between male and female initiated scripts. And I bet you will be surprised what the researchers found ... no, the guy is still expected to pay the bill, so that's not the surprise!

While the male initiator scripts follow the classic "smile, laugh, joke"-"go to the cinema"-"talk"-"take her home and leave"-script, a female initiated date is much more laden with Neanderthal expectations: Aside from "getting something to eat" and "drinking alcohol", female-initiated dates are way more often expected to end on "invite the other in" and "more than kissing" than male-initiator scripts... hmm, I guess my grandma was right, then: "You better beware of those women" ;-)
What's the use of all this? In case this is what you are just asking yourself, it probably did not hurt you that you've just been thinking about something else but optimal protein intakes, macronutrient ratios and ergogenic supplements.

Believe it or not: There is a world out there, where looking good naked may come very handy and is still not all that counts. Don't forget that!
References:
  • Laner MR, Ventrone NA. Dating Scripts Revisited. Journal of Family Issues. 2000; 21:488.
  • Serewicz, MCM, Gale E. First-date scripts: Gender roles, context, and relationship. Sex Roles. 2008; 58(3-4): 149-164.