Speed Dating in the Nonverbal

Rapidly Recognizing Relationships: Observing Speed Dating in the South



By: Catherine Wood

From the flirty smiles to the nervous, sweaty palms, speed dating has allowed all kinds of people the opportunity to date, without actually having to go out on a date. Rabi Yaacov Deyo and his wife established the act of speed dating, back in 1998, for his fellow Jewish friends to meet others with the possibility of finding a mate to marry. Speed dating is conducted now days in a variety of bars, wine houses, and even some parties. Nonverbal cues or kinesics have a lot to do with speed dating. Some of the nonverbal kinesics that go into speed dating include, body movements, gestures, posture, facial expressions, and eye contact. Speed dating is all about the nonverbal communication, because it is the body’s way of speaking without actually having to say anything. And given the brief minutes allotted to speed date, a lot more will be nonverbal, than actually being verbal.

With this all being said, a recent study was performed, where middle-aged participants were put into a speed-dating event and judged on their nonverbal cues. On the day of the study, women showed up in business casual or highly fashionable attire with heavy make up, while the men showed up in either dark or light wash jeans and a dress shirt. In the study, researchers found that men had to be physically attracted to the person that they were paired with, while it was not as evident in the women. Researchers also found that “synchronization”, or the “movement echo or position mirroring and subjective experience of pleasure and interest in opposite-sex encounters”, was evident when the paired couple was experiencing pleasure with each others company.

Some of the past research that was used for this study was from a researcher named Gladwell, who conducted a study in 2005, on a couple at Columbia University. Gladwell describes the interactions between the couple while they were on a date. “John sat down at Mary’s table. Their eyes locked. She looked down shyly. She seemed a little nervous. She leaned forward in her chair. It seemed from the outside, like a perfectly straight forward case of instant attraction.” This study shows that a number of nonverbal cues were being used to show “synchronization”, such as eye contact and body movements.

I myself have never been speed dating, but just from the mass number of commercials from EHarmony, speed dating is becoming more and more popular. Speed dating is more prevalently used today, because it allows people to ease into the dating scene. Dating can sometimes be very intimidating or even down right disturbing to some people, so taking the close, one-on-one contact out of the equation can help ease the dating experience. Some people are newly divorced or just looking to start back up dating after a long time relationship that got broken off. Speed dating has been described as the “future of matchmaking”, because it’s so different that the old, mundane way of just asking someone out on a date and going through the motions of actually dating. The study of speed dating has been known to be an effective form of pairing couples up quickly for a quicker way of dating.


Deyo, J., Walt, P., & Davis, L. (2011). Rapidly Recognizing Relationships: Observing Speed Dating in the South. Qualitative Research Reports In Communication, 12(1), 71-78.

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York, NY:Back Bay Books


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