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What Determines the Success of First Dates? Psycho-Social Factors that Impact Mate Choice in Pre-Mating Encounters

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First dates are social phenomena of sexual selection. Successful mating depends not only on assortative mating, but also on interpersonal and situational factors that lead to a positive result in pre-mating encounters. To examine the factors that influence the success of pre-mating encounters, this study analyzes public texts on the success of first dates. Themes were identified in five accounts of ordinary people found online using keywords. This and other research reveals that first dates seem to serve the purpose of testing if a particular romantic relationship is both possible and desirable with another person. The success of first dates is determined by a variety of psycho-social factors, rather than phenotype similarity. An interplay of an individual’s inner and outer worlds, that is intrapersonal factors (mate selection, mate choice, goals, personality) and interpersonal and situational factors (communication, behavioural scripts, location, time frame) is primarily resposible for determining the success or failure of a first date. This research therefore supports the intuitively apparent conclusion that mate choice is in large part socially constructed.
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PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 1
OntheSuccessofFirstDates.
PsychoSocialFactorsofMateChoiceinPreMatingEncounters.
LukasHolschuh
UniversityofEastAnglia
 
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 2
Abstract
Firstdatesaresocialphenomenaofsexualselection.Successfulmatingdoestherebynot
onlydependonassortativemating,butalsooninterpersonalandsituationalfactors,thatisa
positiveoutcomeofprematingencounters.Toexaminethefactorsthatinfluencethesuccessof
prematingencounters,thecurrentstudyusedaqualitativeapproachtothematicallyanalyse
publictextsonthesuccessoffirstdates.Themeswereidentifiedinfiveaccountsofordinary
peoplefoundonlineusingkeywords.Firstdatesseemtoservethepurposeoftestingifa
romanticrelationshipwouldbepossibleanddesiredwiththeotherperson.Findingssuggestthat
successisdeterminedbyavarietyofpsychosocialfactors,ratherthanphenotypesimilarity.Itis
therebyaninterplayofanindividual’sinnerandouterworlds,thatisintrapersonalfactors(mate
selection,matechoice,goals,personality)andinterpersonalandsituationalfactors
(communication,behaviouralscripts,location,timeframe),thatdeterminethesuccessorfailure
ofafirstdate.Matechoiceissociallyconstructed.
Keywords:firstdatesuccess,matechoice,assortativemating,socialnorms,behaviouralscripts
 
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 3
OntheSuccessofFirstDates.
PsychoSocialFactorsofMateChoiceinPreMatingEncounters.
Introduction
Heterosexual dating can be seen as a social phenomenon of sexual selection. First dates
enable possible mating partners to assess their compatibility and to select. How we choose
mating partners may be largely determined by assortative mating, that is a tendency to choose
partners with similar genotypes or phenotypes rather than random mating (Botwin, Buss, &
Shackelford, 1997; Buss & Barnes, 1986; Thiessen & Gregg, 1980; Vandenburg, 1972).
However, while assortative mating may be able to explain initial attraction, successful mating
does also depend on interpersonal and situational factors, that is a positive outcome of
premating encounters. Additionally, phenotype preferences may be culturally influenced or
entirely socially constructed. The current study therefore aimed to research individual’s
perceptions of premating encounters using a qualitative approach, focusing on which factors
they found important for the success of a first date. At first, in a theoretical chapter, internal and
external factors of mate selection will be explored. The theory of assortative mating, studies on
first date goals and behavioural scripts will be discussed. This is then followed by a description
and discussion of the study we conducted. We identified factors of the inner and outer worlds,
that is internal and external factors, ranging from aims and personality to communication, social
norms and surroundings. The study concludes with an evaluation of the effects of assortative
matingcomparedtootherfactorsonfirstdates.
LiteratureReview
Factors that influence dating behaviour and mate selection can be divided into two broad
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 4
categories (a variation of the four levels of analysis in social psychology (Doise, 1980)):
intrapersonal, that is what is going on inside of the individual (goals, assortative mating),
including the individual’s belief systems, and interpersonal and situational, that is the interaction    
between individuals (scripts, social roles) and their societal positions, as well as factors in the
external environment (location). It is thus an interaction of an individual’s inner and outer worlds
thatdeterminestheoutcomeofafirstdate.
Intrapersonal.
Assortative mating. Possibly the best documented theory on human mating is assortative  
mating (Botwin et al., 1997). Similarity plays a key role in mate choice. Individuals choose other
individuals that show more similar characteristics to their own over individuals with less similar
characteristics (Botwin et al., 1997; Buss & Barnes, 1986; 1976; Thiessen & Gregg, 1980;
Vandenburg, 1972). We tend to choose partners with similar genotypes or phenotypes rather than
to mate randomly. Previous studies have shown positive correlations between partners’
phenotypes. We tend to choose mates with similar attitudes, age, socioeconomic status, religion,
ethnicity, intelligence and personality (Botwin et al., 1997; Buss & Barnes, 1986; Thiessen &
Gregg, 1980; Vandenburg, 1972). We also prefer mates with similar physical traits (1976;
Thiessen & Gregg, 1980; Vandenburg, 1972), such as height, hair colour and eye colour
(Vandenburg, 1972). Men thereby weigh beauty more than women, while women weigh
psychological and social characteristics more than do men (Vandenburg, 1972). Women prefer
mates with higher levels of socially desirable personality characteristics (Botwin et al., 1997). A
study by Hill et al. (1976) found college couples that had been dating for several months to be
more likely to stay together if they were of similar age, had likeminded educational plans and
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 5
were similarly physically attractive and intelligent. However, they did not find this to be true for
other characteristics, such as social class, religion, sexrole traditionalism, religiosity, or desired
family size, suggesting that filtering of these characteristics occurred at an earlier stage.
Becoming bored with the relationship and differences in interest were thereby important factors        
forbreakup.
First date goals. Going on a first date does however not have to be solely motivated by       
mating considerations. A study by Mongeau et. al. (2004) surveyed undergraduate students about
their goals to go on a first date. They identified three categories: relational, social and personal
goals. Having fun,reducing uncertainty,investigating romantic potential,creating or   
strengthening a friendship and, however less, having sex, were identified as primary goals for the      
outcome of first dates. Findings did also suggest that a first date stands before a possible
romantic interest and is rather used to test for and create the basis for romantic potential. The
authorssuggestthatsuccessofadatedependsonthecompatibilityofpartner’sgoals.
A later study found similar results (Mongeau, Jacobsen, & Donnerstein, 2007). It
however suggested that single adults’ goals differ from college students’ goals in that they
emphasisemorecommitmentasapossibledatingoutcome,suchasfindingapartnerforlife.
Interpersonalandsituational.
Behavioural scripts. Out of a behaviourist perspective, people store scripts of how to  
behave and what to expect in specific situations. Differences in these scripts represent different
expectations which influences mate selection. If partners’ scripts differ considerably, they may
not be compatible. An otherwise successful date may fail because the conflicting expectations
are not met sufficiently. A study conducted by Serewicz and Gale (2008) examined the
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 6
behavioural scripts of young adults for first dates. The authors identified an overall script based
on the actions participants’ expected to occur on a first date. Actions expected by at least 50
percent of participants were get ready,pick up date (by man), go to movie,pay (by man), talk,go     
to a cafe/party,talk,walk/drive home (by man), kiss,future plans. Bartoli and Diane Clark         
(2006) found going to a movie or dinner and taking the woman home with a goodnight kiss to be
scripted by college students across sexes and age groups. Sexual expectations and the variety of
scriptedeventsincreasedbyage.
Social roles. Serewicz and Gale’s (2008) findings showed that participants had fairly   
conservative views of gender roles. Eightyeight percent of participants expected the man to
pick up the woman, and 68 percent expected the man to walk or drive the woman home.
Participants also expected the man to pay for the date. Notably, men were more likely to expect
sexual activity than women while women were more likely to expect a kiss than men. There were    
also different expectations depending on who initiated the date. Men were more likely to expect
more than kissing on a femaleinitiated date than on a maleinitiated date, while women were     
morelikelytoexpectakissonamaleinitiateddatethanafemaleinitiateddate.
Location. Serewicz and Gale (2008) also found variations in scripts depending on where  
the date took place. On a party date, more sexual behaviour but less communicative intimacy
wereexpectedthanonacoffeeshopdate.
Discussion
Studies on assortative mating have primarily focused on relationships between couples or
spouses (Botwin et al., 1997; Buss & Barnes, 1986; 1976; Thiessen & Gregg, 1980; Vandenburg,
1972). However, there is little known about how sexual selection works in the event of a first
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 7
date. Little research has been done on when exactly assortative mating takes place. That is to say,
we could select possible mating partners before, after or during a first date. It could also be a
gradual process happening over time in longer term relationships. That is, there could be a
difference between mate selection and choice. Do we select before we choose? Or do we choose
beforeweselect?
It has also not been addressed how goals and behavioural scripts relate to sexual
selection. There seem to be more than mating goals involved in first dates, and failure to adhere
to behavioural scripts may disrupt the whole mating process. Success could thus be a question of
compatibility of goals and behavioural scripts rather than similarity. Also, goals and scripts, as
wellasphenotypepreferencesmaybesubjecttoindividualandculturalvariation.
To examine these factors, that is individual’s own initial selection criteria  the factors
that are decisive for the success of a first date , a thematic analysis was necessary to best capture
individual variations. We sought to explore the inner and outer worlds of normal (nonacademic)
people in their everyday explanations on first dates. In particular, the aim of this study was to
identify themes in people’s accounts that are important factors for the success of a first date.
sucessdeterminedsolelybyphenotype
Is assortative mating, that is phenotype similarity, an important factor for the success of
premating encounters, or is it rather a variety of psychosocial factors that determine mate
choice?
Method
DataCollection
In a small group of four other researchers, we developed the research question. We then
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 8
identified data sources. Using Google’s search engine, we looked for public texts talking about
first dates. We used keywords like “first date expectations”, “first date good”, “expectations for
first dates” and “first date mistakes”. We thereby included texts that we found interesting and
that appeared on the first two result pages. After reading the texts, we then either decided to use
them for our analysis or not. The only criteria was that the texts had to be interesting and were
accounts of ordinary people. Originally, we also included articles that summarised research
findings in an informal way but these were omitted by me later. We decided to use five texts
(Arianna & Doc, 2013; Great(ish)Expectations, 2011; Greene, n.d.; MetroReporter, n.d.;
s.e.Jones,n.d.)forouranalysis(plustheonesomittedbyme).
Implementation
We then analysed the texts using thematic analysis, as outlined by Braun and Clarke
(2006). We first read the texts and highlighted everything that seemed interesting with regard to
first dates. We summarised relevant sections with codes and looked for connections, that is
similar or contrasting information. During and after coding, we developed overarching themes to
include the identified codes. We used a whiteboard to organise codes into themes. I later
transcribed these codes and themes into a digital mindmap where they could be rearranged. I  
also reread all texts and identified additional codes. I continued to arrange codes into themes
whilestartingtowritethereportandreviewingresearchliterature.
Findings
We identified two categories of themes, inner world, that is all factors that are within the    
individual,andouterworld,thatisallexternalfactors.
InnerWorld
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 9
We identified the following themes of codes to be about internal factors: Aims, that is    
expectations, goals and outcomes of first dates. What represents success? Showing positive    
personality characteristics, that is showing attentiveness, as well as having positive personality  
traits.Howshouldyouportrayyourself?
Aims. First dates were described as important because there was no second chance  
(MetroReporter, n.d.). Factors were impressing the partner using creativity (Greene, n.d.) and
making a good impression (MetroReporter, n.d.). One of the goals was to leave the other wanting
(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011). Possible outcomes included a kiss (Great(ish)Expectations,
2011), but not necessarily more; and feeling the ‘chemistry’ (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011), that
is,havingmetone’ssoulmateortheloveofone’slife(Arianna&Doc,2013).
This is similar to what Mongeau et. al. (2004) found in their study. The primary goal
seems to be to investigate if there is romantic potential. It also maps onto the findings (Mongeau
et al., 2007) that adult’s dating goals, as compared to college students’ (2004), are more directed
towards commitment. That is to say, we can see first dates as serving the purpose of testing if a
romantic relationship would be possible and desired with the other person. A date is successful,
howevernotonly,whenit‘clicks’andoneisleftwiththedesiretoseethepersonagain.
(Seetable1forrelevantquotations.)
 
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 10
Table1
AimsasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
Youdon’tgetasecondchancetomakeafirstimpression,nordo
yougetafirstchancetoerasethememory
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
Thekeyiscreativity–she’llbeimpressedifyou’veshownthat
[...]youthoughtabouther
(Greene,n.d.)
Ifyourgooddate’sgoingwellyouwantittoendearlyandleave
theotherpersonwantingmore.
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Areallygood,deepgoodnightkissisallyoureallyneed.
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Ifthedatewentwell,trysettingupthenextdate.Ifitdidn’tgo
well,[...]justtellmeyou’renotfeelingit
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Toomanypeopleapproachonlinedatingwiththeattitudethat
theywillprobablymeettheloveoftheirliveswithinthefirstdate
ortwo.
(Arianna&Doc,2013)
Anotherthingweseealotispeoplegettingsuperexcitedbefore
afirstdate,[…]convincedthattheyareabouttomeettheir
soulmate.
(Arianna&Doc,2013)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
Showing positive personality characteristics. Three accounts mentioned that it should  
betakencaretoshowapositivepersonality.Thisadvicewasmainlyformenthough.
Attentiveness. First of all, it was talked about being attentive to the woman and making    
her feel important (Greene, n.d.) (this goes back to aims and making a good impression). Not
only should men use their imagination and creativity, but also their knowledge about the woman
to show her that he cares about her (Greene, n.d.). It was also important to be polite, i.e. opening
thedoorforher,andgivingcompliments(Greene,n.d.;s.e.Jones,n.d.).
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 11
This may link to behavioural scripts and social roles. It does indeed make sense to show
interest in the other person since this is what the first date is about. Being attentive would also be
the logical consequence of first date aims and goals, such as reducing uncertainty and      
investigatingromanticpotential(Mongeauetal.,2004).
(SeeTable2forrelevantquotations.)
Table2
AttentivenessasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
Thekeyiscreativity–she’llbeimpressedifyou’veshownthat
younotonlygothersomething,butthatyouthoughtabouther
whiledoingit.
(Greene,n.d.)
Ifyougreetherwitharedroseandasmile,you’resuretogeta
warmresponse[...]Ifyoualreadyknowsomedetailsaboutthis
woman,usetheinformationtoyouradvantage.[...]Otherwise,
useyourimagination.
(Greene,n.d.)
Bepolite,notpushy
(Greene,n.d.)
Dooffertoopenthedoorforher
(Greene,n.d.)
Becomplimentary
(Greene,n.d.)
Manymenforgettonoticeandcomplimenttheirdate’s
appearance.[...]it’simportantthatyouacknowledgeherefforts.
(Greene,n.d.)
[Talkabout]Somethingyounoticeabouttheotherperson.
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Trytokeepanyobservationspositiveandinnocent;
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
Personality traits. Readers were advised to show that they are assertive, however not   
aggressive (Greene, n.d.). This includes showing a polite character and a “willingness to forgive”
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 12
(Greene, n.d.). It is important to find the right balance between ‘playing cool’ and being too keen
(MetroReporter,n.d.).
This maps onto assortative mating in that women seem to prefer men with socially
desirablepersonalitycharacteristics(Botwinetal.,1997).
(SeeTable3forrelevantquotations.)
Table3
PersonalityTraitsasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
Beassertive,notaggressive
(Greene,n.d.)
It'simportantthatyoushowheryou'reconfident.
(Greene,n.d.)
she'dpreferyoubecourteousthancantankerous.[...]Apolite
smileandasimpleassertionthatyourorderhasbeenconfused
istheperfecttimeforyoutoshowyourwillingnesstoforgive
(Greene,n.d.)
[Donot]Comeovertookeen[or]Comeovertooaloof
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
Ifyoufindyourselflookingatyourwatchduringthedate,or
saying,‘Meh,ifyouwant,’whenthesubjectofasecondmeeting
comesup,you’reprobablyplayingittoocool.
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
OuterWorld
We identified the following themes of codes to be about external factors: Communicating    
interest, that is factors concerning conversation, including conversation topics and how to make      
conversation. How to be interesting? Not being awkward, that is social norms, scripts and gender      
roles.Howtobehavecorrectly?Situationalfactors,thatisdurationandlocationofthedate.
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 13
Communicating interest. This theme is about the conversation on a first date. The data    
emphasised being able to keep the conversation going, talking about topics that interest both
partnersandbeinginteresting.
Conversation topics. A number of different appropriate conversation topics were  
proposed in the data, mostly by one source (s.e.Jones, n.d.). These included focusing on oneself
and the partner. You should talk about your and your dates personality, opinions and worldview,
your history, interests, likes and dislikes. The surroundings can also serve as a good conversation
topic. It should however be avoided to talk about awkward topics (s.e.Jones, n.d.), such as sex or
relationships(MetroReporter,n.d.). 
Notable here is the focus on topics that have been shown to be factors for assortative
mating,suchasattitudes,personalityandworldview.
(SeeTable4forrelevantquotations.)
 
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 14
Table4
ConversationTopicsasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
It'salmostalwaysagoodideatotalkaboutyourself,solongas
youallowthemtotalkaboutthemselvesaswell.Tellthemalittle
bitaboutwhereyouareinlife,alittleofyourpast,andwhere
youhopetobeinthefuture.
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Trytocomeupwithsomethingthatwillnotonlybeinteresting
butwillsaysomethingaboutwhoyouareandhowyouseelifein
general.
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
givethemanideaofhowyoucametobethepersonsitting
beforethemtoday
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Talkaboutthethingsyoulike,and/orthethingsyouliketodo.
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Likesanddislikes.List'emo
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
wanderingintoinappropriatesubjectareasorworse
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
[Donot]Talkaboutyourex[...]Oranyoneyou’vesleptwith.Just
don’tgothereunderanycircumstances.
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
[Donot]Talkaboutsex[...]Theoldrulesthatstipulateyou
mustn’ttalkaboutpoliticsandreligionareout,butyoushouldstill
avoidtalkingaboutsex.
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
How to make conversation. Three sources advised on conversational skills (Greene, n.d.;   
MetroReporter, n.d.; s.e.Jones, n.d.). Silence should be avoided (s.e.Jones, n.d.), but the
conversation should also not be onesided, that is no monologue (Greene, n.d.) and no interview
(Greene, n.d.; MetroReporter, n.d.). You should further choose topics that interest both of you
(s.e.Jones, n.d.) and not be boring (Greene, n.d.). You should show interest, however balanced
(Greene,n.d.).
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 15
Clearly, social skills are required for a successful first date, especially as it is potentially
the most important part of the behavioural scripts for first dates found by Serewicz and Gale
(2008). This also maps onto the reasons for breakup found by Hill et al. (1976): Becoming bored     
withtherelationshipanddifferencesininterest.
(SeeTable5forrelevantquotations.)
Table5
HowtoMakeConversationasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
fallingintolongstretchesofawkwardsilence
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Yourintentionsmightbetokeeptheconversationflowing,buta
monologueactuallymakesforamoreuncomfortableevening
thanafewawkwardpauses.Sobesuretoaskheraboutherself;
justdon'tturnitintoaninterview.
(Greene,n.d.)
Pleasedon’taskyourdatewheretheyseethemselvesinfive
years’time,orwhatmotivatesthem.
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
whathappensispeoplewinduptalkingaboutthingsthatmight
notbeofinteresttotheother
(s.e.Jones,n.d.)
Itdoesn'thavetobeoverlyextravagant,justmakesureyou
havesomeotherideasintheeventthenightdoesn'tcome
togetherexactlyasplanned.Fromiceskatingtosalsadancingto
coffee
drinkinganybackupoptionisbetterthannooptionatall.
(Greene,n.d.)
Theresultcanoftenbeyoutalkingaboutallthethingsyou've
accomplishedwhileneglectingtoaskheraboutherinterests
(Greene,n.d.)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
Not being awkward. This theme is about the role of social norms, behavioural scripts  
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 16
and gender roles on a first date. In order not to be awkward, you should comply with what is
socially accepted behaviour (Greene, n.d.). Looking good is also important in this regard
(MetroReporter, n.d.). When it comes to gender roles, the man should set up the first date and at
least split the bill equally (MetroReporter, n.d.) or pay for it (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011).
However,thegirlshouldoffertopayherpart(Great(ish)Expectations,2011).
This supports Serewicz and Gale’s (2008) findings that first dates come with fairly
conservativegenderroles.
(SeeTable6forrelevantquotations.)
Table6
NotBeingAwkwardasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
Shemaynottellyouthatetiquetteisapriority,butbesurethat
she'skeepinganeyeonwhatyouare,andperhapsmore
importantly,whatyouaren'tdoing.
(Greene,n.d.)
Men,don’twearanythingthatcouldp[o]tentiallyembarrassyour
date,likescruytrainersoranoensivetshirt.Andladies,this
appliestoyoutoo.
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
AsaguyIcantellyouit’salottoalwaysbetheonesettingup
dates
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
There’snowayheshouldallowyoutopay,butoeringiskey.I
wouldneverletagirlpayonthefirstdate
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Letthisbethebillthatsetsthetonefortherelationshipandlet
thisrelationshipbeanequalone.
(MetroReporter,n.d.)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 17
Situational factors. Finally, there are those factors that keep the date within reasonable    
bounds. The location should be chosen wisely to offer a relaxing atmosphere that takes away the
pressure (Great(ish)Expectations, 2011). It should not be too loud, nor too quiet
(Great(ish)Expectations, 2011). Also, you should have a time constraint for your date and not
stretch it out too long  at least if your aim is to make the other person want you
(Great(ish)Expectations,2011).
This supports Serewicz and Gale’s (2008) findings that expectations of communicative
intimacyvarydependingonthedatelocation.
(SeeTable7forrelevantquotations.)
Table7
SituationalFactorsasDescribedbyData
Quotation
Source
Firstdatesarepressureenough,arelaxedenvironmentwill
makeyoubothmorecomfortableandyou’llgettoknoweach
otherbetter.
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Barsaretooloudandallyoucandoisdrink,moviesaretoo
quietandawkward
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Ifyourgooddate’sgoingwellyouwantittoendearlyandleave
theotherpersonwantingmore.
(Great(ish)Expectations,
2011)
Note.Quotationsinordermentioned.
GeneralDiscussion
As our findings suggest, the personal accounts analysed show links to the research
literature. Even though our findings are limited in regards to generalisability as we have only
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 18
selected a relatively small sample of the multiplicity of accounts available, they testify to the
variety of individual differences. There may be additional differences for age and gender which
our study has not been able to account for. Future research would thus need to consider a more
varied sample, including accounts from a wider spectrum of age and socioeconomic status.
Especially gender differences may prove to be interesting for further analysis as our findings
suggest that first dates are still subject to conservative gender roles. Additionally, since we used
a qualitative approach, our findings are of a very subjective nature. What qualitative approaches
fail to provide are the effect sizes of identified factors. Our findings are thus lacking
generalisability as it is unclear in how far the identified factors account for other’s experiences in
similar situations. While qualitative approaches may be useful to uncover individuals’ perception
of first date factors, it cannot uncover factors that we are not cognitively aware of, i.e. assortative
mating effects. Future research would thus need to study biological factors on first dates using
quantitativemethods.
Concerning assortative mating, in line with our findings, it seems to occur over longer
periods of time that different characteristics are being filtered at different times, as suggested by
Hill et al. (1976). Dissimilar characteristics may over time threaten the stability of a relationship
and thus lead to statistical correlations (1976). That is to say, the concept of assortative mating
may be fairly unrelated to initial mate choice, maybe apart from physical attractiveness. In other
words, there seems to be a difference between mate selection and mate choice. While selection    
may occur automatically over time, choice may be a cognitive decision influenced by other  
factors. These may well be considered as two different processes acting simultaneously. While
mate selection does indeed favour similarities, mate choice is socially constructed. Phenotype    
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 19
preferences, that is those preferences that are conscious and lead to a conscious decision, are
constructed by the belief systems of the society that a person lives in and thus subject to
individual and cultural differences. Our findings suggest that preferences for personality
characteristicsarelinkedtosocialrolesandbehaviouralscriptsandarethussociallyconditioned.
Since the goals for a first date vary (Mongeau et al., 2007, 2004), there are also multiple
successful outcomes. Our findings suggest that a successful date does not need to lead to a
longtermrelationshipormating.Thusassortativematingfactorsmayyethavelittleinfluence.
To conclude, first dates seem to serve the purpose of testing if a romantic relationship
would be possible and desired with the other person. If a first date is successful or not, first of all
depends on a compatibility of goals and if the other person meets the desired personality,      
attitudes and interests. It however also needs an ability to communicate these factors effectively.    
Communication mainly happens in conversation, which is why it is so important to know how to      
make conversation. Eventually sticking to behavioural scripts and gender roles, as well as        
choosing the right location and time frame ensures that communication can take place    
effectively. It is an interplay of an individual’s inner and outer worlds, that is intrapersonal
factors (mate selection, mate choice, goals, personality) and interpersonal and situational factors
(communication, behavioural scripts, location, time frame), that determine the success or failure
ofafirstdate.
 
Thismanuscripthasbeenpublishedas:
Holschuh,L.(2014).WhatDeterminestheSuccessofFirstDates?PsychoSocialFactorsthatImpactMateChoicein
PreMatingEncounters.StudentPulse,6(12).Retrievedfromhttp://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=944
PSYCHOSOCIALFACTORSFORSUCCESSOFFIRSTDATES 20
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