6 Scientifically Proven Tips on How to Have a Great First Date
First dates are generally terrible, but they don't have to be with these scientifically proven tips straight from Guerilla Science's Attraction Lab.
The smarties at Guerilla Science know your pain and have been hacking the dating game with science-based workshops since 2014. Onstage, scientists and comedians — to keep things lively, and because funny is sexy (read on to find out why!) — lead a night of playful activities like blindfolded dancing and whispering history’s greatest love poetry to each other all in the name of uncovering what will really turn you on.
“Everyone is always in a mindset of playfulness,” says Kyle Marian Viterbo, lead producer at Guerilla Science. “Their guards are down, they’re down to learn, play and hook up: ‘I am learning something new I can do tonight? Dope!’”
Their next Attraction Lab goes down (pun intended) this Sunday, April 29 at Caveat. As a preview, we got some science-backed tips on how to have a better first date.
At Attraction Lab, Guerilla Science pairs a comedian with their scientist to call out all the pseudoscience — and there’s a lot especially around relationships. But whether you’re telling a joke to an audience of 100 or one, it’s all about creating a connection.
“The power of comedy is really celebrating imperfectness, and humility and being human,” says Viterbo. Getting a laugh means you’ve connected on a personal level and shows that you’re being vulnerable, empathetic and, most importantly, you’re listening to them.
Out of all romantic tropes, love at first sight is the most oversold. “Hollywood banks on love at first sight scenarios,” Viterbo points out. In our instant gratification world, it’s become an expectation lurking in our subconscious. And that can lead to missing out on opportunities.
While the phenomenon is real enough, love at first sight tends to be based on beauty, is more likely to be experienced by men and is rarely mutual. “It has its values, absolutely,” says Viterbo, “but it’s overrated. We want to demonstrate how there’s a lot of subconscious things related to our senses that influence that ‘spark.’”
Think of an embarrassing story while chatting? Contrary to what you may think, impressing your date is not the best way to establish a rapport — getting them to empathize with you is a much better tactic (the technical term is conversational intimacy).
“There’s a reason why it’s more powerful if you share something vulnerable about yourself because it leads to a more profound connection,” says Viterbo. “But use that wisely — I wouldn’t necessarily go too intimate, because that could be a red flag in certain situations.”
“By the act of doing a common activity,” says Viterbo, “you’re building a connection much quicker than you would by putting yourself in an interview situation,” aka sitting across from each other in a restaurant. Instead of asking and answering a string of questions, doing an activity like karaoke or an escape room still gives you similar goals but without the usual pressures. “It takes away an added barrier in what a typical first date might feel like.”
There’s no piece of attraction myth more pervasive than aphrodisiacs, certain foods or drinks that are supposed to boost your sex drive. “Ask any scientist about aphrodisiacs, they’ll say it’s complete BS,” she says.
Your first clue should be how culturally specific such “sexy foods” are. In the U.S., it’s oysters and chocolate; in the Philippines, where Viterbo is from, balut (a fertilized duck egg that’s been boiled) is said to boost a man’s performance. A better bet? Listen to what your date’s favorite foods are and find a place you can both enjoy.
We like to think our big brains mean we’ve evolved beyond the apes we came from. But not listening to our bodies is one way to sabotage our romantic prospects.
“There’s a lot of subconscious things related to the senses that influence the attraction, the spark and even long-term relationships,” says Viterbo. “But they’re also things you don’t realize are always turned on because there’s so much going on with your brain. You don’t realize how much influence that can have on a particular experience.”
To hear what our senses are trying to tell us, you have to be ready to listen. That means setting side your phone and clearing your mind of the day’s stress to focus on presenting yourself in the best possible way — and getting a more holistic read on the person in front of you.