How to Land That Second Date!
Does it seem like you can never land a second date? Maybe you’re looking for the totally wrong kind of person … or maybe you’re just going on the totally wrong kind of date.
Fortunately, there’s a simple trick to make yourself seem more romantically exciting. I don’t mean “trick” as in something sleazily deceptive — that kind of dishonest shortcut doesn’t work long-term — but just a quick way of letting someone know you’re thrilling to be with. It’s a psychological principle, discovered 40 years ago, called the misattribution of arousal.
In short, our emotional responses are linked to our physical responses.
Let’s say you’re on a roller coaster with a friend. It’s super scary, but you have a great time. Now whenever you look back on that day, you view that fun-loving friend in a positive light — not because of anything they specifically did, but because of the exciting situation itself.
It works the same way for attraction.
For the original 1974 University of British Columbia study on misattribution of arousal, titled “Some Evidence For Heightened Sexual Attraction Under Conditions Of High Anxiety,” an “attractive female interviewer” asked random guys to fill out a questionnaire while they were standing on either a narrow, fear-provoking suspension bridge or a wider, non-fear-provoking bridge.
After filling out the questionnaire, the interviewer gave each man her phone number. Can you guess what happened next? The men who’d been on the fear-provoking bridge called the interviewer back much more often than those who filled out the survey while on the non-fear-provoking bridge.
So, what explains this phenomenon?
When you see someone attractive — I’m talking, like, realllly jaw-dropping attractive — your heartbeat increases and your palms start to sweat. These very same reactions occur when you experience fear or excitement, like when skydiving or going on a roller coaster.
Thus, if you do those activities with someone, your brain has a difficult time deciphering the source of your emotions. Cognitively, you may think your date is super hot when in actuality your positive feelings are merely rooted in the activity you just participated in — and you don’t even know it. #Sorry
When we’re in a “highly emotional” situation together, the researchers concluded, “[t]he results of these studies would seem to provide a basis of support for an emotion-sexual attraction link.” This may explain why contestants on reality TV dating shows have such chemistry, according to UCLA’s blog Psychology in Action.
(BTW, when the bridge experiment was gender-reversed, it didn’t affect women’s behavior nearly as much as it had the men’s.)
Wait, am I supposed to suggest skydiving for every first date?!
You could, but it doesn’t even need to be that extreme. Merely drinking coffee increases your heartbeat for a certain amount of time, which means you may associate that feeling with the environment and people around you, explains Dr. Ira E. Hyman, Jr., in Psychology Today.
“Going out for coffee [on a date] may be better than drinking other beverages,” Dr. Hyman writes. “Going dancing or participating in some other aerobic activity might be more advantageous than sitting quietly in a dark, calm movie theater (of course horror films that raise anxiety levels and heart rate may also get misinterpreted as love).”
Congrats! The misattribution of arousal is your newest wingman/wingwoman. Maybe the perfect non-extreme date is a coffee shop followed by a scary movie? Although, hey, my heart was beating pretty damn fast throughout “Frozen.”
But really, isn’t this all common sense?
We crave excitement. We remember spontaneity. While I can’t guarantee that having your first date at a carnival or live concert will equate to true love in the long run, it certainly couldn’t hurt to make an exhilarating first impression … but don’t take my word for it. Just ask science.