We Can Smell Your Desperation!

Oct 20, 2009 • News, Research

Back in the day, when we still lived in caves, we were pretty good at getting an idea of what an approaching human was all about just by looking at them. The process of inferring things about others from a small number of cues is still with us today.

Psychology Today‘s Andrew Galperin wrote this week about a 2007 study on these thin slices of behavior as they relate to speed dating.

The study by Paul Eastwick and his colleagues first appeared in Psychological Science and answered the question of whether we can tell when someone we meet is desperate. Prepare to have your fears confirmed: yes, people can tell when you’re desperate.

The experiment went like this: people came in for a speed-dating session and talked to each of their dates for four minutes. After the event, they rated each partner in terms of romantic/sexual attraction, interpersonal chemistry, and desire for another date. Participants were also asked to estimate how selective they felt each partner was.

Results showed that people can apparently smell desperation from miles away.

People who are not selective (i.e., have low standards, are desperate) could not hide this from the others, which makes them undesirable to others.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that if a participant showed a unique desire toward another, the desired person was more likely to reciprocate that desire. Sadly, the team did not cover the response to those who expressed no desire (because God knows I’m a sucker for men who seem like they could care less).

“So what have we learned?” asks Galperin. “As usual, the lesson is that liking people is bad. You hear that, boys and girls? At speed dating events, don’t go around smiling at everyone–just be nice to a few people and treat everyone else like crap. That will get you a bunch of follow-up dates in no time, where you will be able to assess a thicker slice of behavior.”

Juicy. And tell me how that works out for you.

Thumbnail image by AV Flox.