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5 ways to have a great first date, according to science

First dates don't have to be awkward

1. Talk about travel

In a study by Richard Wiseman, less than 9 percent of couples that talked movies wanted a second date vs 18 percent of couples that talked about travel.

Via Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things.

The conversations about travel tended to revolve around great holidays and dream destinations, and that makes people feel good and so appear more attractive to one another. [Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things]

2. It's not just what you talk about, it's how you talk

Add to what they say and bounce the ball back. This is how to have smooth first date conversation. Avoid extremes in autonomy. Don't dominate, but don't be a non-contributor either.

Via Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Reveal Lab-Tested Secrets to Surfing, Dating, Dieting, Gambling, Growing Man-Eating Plants, and More!: "Accept your date's pass, redirect it slightly, and then return the ball— all with warmth and genuine interest in his or her responses. This acceptance and redirection is the push and pull that creates smoothness."

3. Share secrets

Emotional, personal information exchange during first date conversation promotes powerful feelings of connection.

Via Sam Gosling's book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You:

Arthur Aron, a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, is interested in how people form romantic relationships, and he's come up with an ingenious way of taking men and women who have never met before and making them feel close to one another. Given that he has just an hour or so to create the intimacy levels that typically take weeks, months, or years to form, he accelerated the getting-to-know-you process through a set of 36 questions crafted to take the participants rapidly from level one in McAdams's system to level two. [Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You]

But how effective can this be, really? In under an hour it can create a connection stronger than a lifelong friendship. Via Click: The Magic of Instant Connections:

The intensity of the dialogue partners' bond at the end of the 45-minute vulnerability interaction was rated as closer than the closest relationship in the lives of 30 percent of similar students. In other words, the instant connections were more powerful than many long-term, even lifelong relationships. [Click: The Magic of Instant Connections]

Read Aron's most effective questions here.

4. Choose controversial over dull every time

If all else fails, talk about abortions and STDs. Yeah, you heard me. Forcing people to discuss interesting but more controversial topics made for more enjoyable first date conversation.

Via Dan Ariely:

We limited the type of discussions that online daters could engage in by eliminating their ability to ask anything that they wanted and giving them a preset list of questions and allowing them to ask only these questions. The questions we chose had nothing to do with the weather and how many brothers and sisters they have, and instead all the questions were interesting and personally revealing (ie., "how many romantic partners did you have?", "When was your last breakup?", "Do you have any STDs?", "Have you ever broken someone's heart?", "How do you feel about abortion?")… Instead of talking about the World Cup or their favorite desserts, they shared their innermost fears or told the story of losing their virginity. Everyone, both sender and replier, was happier with the interaction…What we learned from this little experiment is that when people are free to choose what type of discussions they want to have, they often gravitate toward an equilibrium that is easy to maintain but one that no one really enjoys or benefits from. [Dan Ariely]

5. Ask about beer

Dating site OkCupid found one question that was the single best predictor of whether men or women would have sex on the first date:

“Do you like the taste of beer?”

Via OkCupid:

Among all our casual topics, whether someone likes the taste of beer is the single best predictor of if he or she has sex on the first date… No matter their gender or orientation, beer-lovers are 60 percent more likely to be okay with sleeping with someone they've just met. Sadly, this is the only question with a meaningful correlation for women. [OkCupid]

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