How to succeed on a first date: a scientific guide

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First dates are hard, especially when you think you might really like the person. There’s a lot at stake, and a lot of decisions to make. What should you wear? Where should you go? What should you talk about? Should you kiss?

Thankfully, science has the answers. From how to look, to how to smell, to what to eat: science can now offer a comprehensive guide to the Perfect First Date.

It’s vital to make a strong first impression. If you’re a woman, smile; if you’re a man, smoulder.

It’s vital to make a strong first impression. If you’re a woman, smile; if you’re a man, smoulder. Credit:Shutterstock

How to prepare

Do your best to look healthy for your date. Both men and women are attracted to physical indications of health, such as shiny hair, clear skin, bright eyes, and a fit body.

Try to have a symmetrical face. This can be hard to achieve at short notice, so it’s a good idea to have your face sorted before you’re asked out on a date. Having blue eyes also helps.

If you’re a man, consider acquiring a tasteful facial scar, as this has been proven to enhance a male’s attractiveness for short term relationships. (This does not work for females, so hold off.)

Choose your scent carefully, as certain scents are scientifically proven to make you more attractive. Rose oil, fruit scents, vanilla and vetiver are excellent choices. (Individually, that is. Not all together.)

Women, be aware that men are attracted to copulins, a pheromone that females produce during ovulation. If you want to reel him in, try scheduling your date to coincide with ovulation.

Wear something red, as it is the most attractive colour to both men and women. (Having said that, a touch of red is probably more effective than head to toe Santa Claus.)

What to do

It’s vital to make a strong first impression. If you’re a woman, smile; if you’re a man, smoulder. Men find women most attractive when they are smiling, but women find men most attractive when they present as brooding and mysterious. So brood.

Choose an exciting, thrilling or scary activity for your first date, like skydiving, or watching a horror movie, or sharing a dodgy shawarma. Adrenaline rushes are linked to arousal and can promote attraction.

Drink alcohol, but not too much alcohol. A mildly intoxicated person looks more attractive to other people, and perceives other people as more attractive. Win! But too much alcohol negates the effect (presumably because a vomiting person is never sexy).

And when you’re ordering drinks, ensure your date chooses a sweet cocktail, or eats a sweet dessert, as the taste of sugar predisposes people to find others more attractive.

How to behave

Use your body language to signal your availability, fertility, and interest in the other person. Men: stand up straight, square your shoulders and display your hands. Women: keep your hair down and display your wrists. Easy! And you should all should lean in, tilt your head, smile, uncross your limbs, and gaze upwards. But…

Don’t make too much eye contact! Too much eye contact has been shown to make people less persuasive, so look at your date’s mouth instead.

When talking, try to discover things you have in common. According to the similarity attraction hypothesis, sharing things with another person can create a sense of affection.

If you’re a man, avoid rehearsed lines or jokes, empty compliments or sexual references, as they’ll have a bad impact on your date.

Instead, ask Arthur Aron’s 36 questions, which have been scientifically proven to create instant intimacy. (My favourites are "Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?", "How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?" and "When did you last cry in front of another person?")

How to get intimate

Make the first kiss a good one. More than half of men and two thirds of women will end a new relationship because of a bad first kiss.

If you do attempt a kiss, there are some proven guidelines. If you’re kissing a woman, avoid jamming your tongue down her throat; if you’re kissing a man, make it wet with a lot of tongue action.

And finally, if the kiss goes well, science recommends having sex on the first date as it facilitates bonding.

As for the science behind good sex, well, that’s a whole different article.