We’re often told that copying body language and mannerisms on a first date are surefire signs that your date is interested in you.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that in-sync heart rate and sweating are better indicators of romantic attraction.
Experts fitted male & female participants with eye-tracking devices and other devices in a blind date setting to measure their physiological and behavioral signals.
They found no significant link between physical attraction and copying body language — either smiling, laughing, direct eye contact, head nods or hand gestures.
The strongest indicator of attraction was “physiological synchrony’ — in-sync sweating and heart rates — which they say is ‘a precursor of deeper emotional understanding’.
Researchers believe these biological signals, which can be hidden, unconscious, and difficult to control, could help people “align emotionally” when they first meet.
Experts at Leiden University in the Netherlands say that heart rate and sync sweating are better indicators of attraction than copying body language or mannerisms on a blind date. (stock image).
The study was led by Eliska Prochazkova, a researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and published in Nature Human Behaviour.
Prochazkova and her colleagues write in the paper that “Humans are social animals” and that their well-being is affected by their ability to attract and connect with others.
“Here we measure the physiological dynamics of pairs of participants in real-life dating interactions.
“We found that overt signals like smiles, laughter or eye gaze were not significantly associated to attraction.
“Instead, attraction was predicted through synchrony between heart rate and skin conductance, which are covert and unconscious and difficult to control.
The paper’s graphic shows the experimental setup. There was a table inside the cabin with two chairs on each side. A barrier was placed at the center of the table to prevent couples from seeing each other. Participants were told to remain silent until they heard the instructions via a speaker.
“Our findings suggest that interdependent partners’ attraction increases/decreases as their subconscious arousal level rises/falls in synchrony.”
The researchers assert that in a world of online dating, it is now more relevant to ask what defines attraction.
What people really want in a partner is a gut feeling of connection’. This sensation is more likely to happen during face-toface interactions.
Researchers created a pop-up blind dating lab to determine what triggers feelings of attraction at various social events in the Netherlands.
Blind dates can be stressful and likely to cause strong physiological reactions. This is desirable for physiological synchrony.
140 single males (all between the ages 18 and 37) entered their specially-designed ‘dating room’. They sat at a large visual barrier, and 140 females (all single) entered.
Initially, the visual barrier was obstructive and blocked their view. However, it gradually opened for three second, allowing them to form an impression of each other.
The barrier was closed and participants rated their partner for attraction on a 0-9 point scale.
This was followed by one verbal interaction and one non-verbal interaction — where they were banned from talking — each lasting two minutes.
After each interaction, participants closed the barrier and rated their partners on the same scales.
Tobii eye tracking glasses monitored participants’ gaze fixations and expressions throughout the experiment.
Meanwhile, participants’ heart rate and electrodermal activity — changes in the resistance of the skin to a small electrical current based on sweat gland activity — was recorded with two BIOPACs.
Tobii eye-tracking sunglasses (pictured) were used to measure participants’ gaze fixations as well as expressions throughout the experiment. This was compared with heart rate and electrodermal activity — changes in the resistance of the skin to a small electrical current based on sweat gland activity
Participants could decide whether or not they wanted to go on another date after the experiment was over.
They discovered that attraction was tied to physiological synchrony between partners, regardless of whether they were allowed to speak or not.
Researchers stress that they are not suggesting in-sync smiling, laughing or face-to-face gazing does not play a role in attraction — just that physiological synchrony is more strongly linked.
These findings give a glimpse at the deep-seated biological responses that may occur during a face–to-face encounter.
Previous research has shown that visual or written stimuli (such personal ads or photos on an app) do not predict attraction.
The researchers conclude that the current findings are especially relevant in light of modern romantic landscapes where affective exchange is reduced between strangers.