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Scientists reveal how to make sure your first date is a success

First dates are a nightmare in a lot of ways. While there are some people out there who love the experience of meeting new people so much they don't get nervous (how?) I would say the vast majority of us get quite anxious before we arrive at the bar, restaurant, or cafe we have chosen to potentially start up a new relationship.

You want to be honest, but you also want to portray yourself as an appealing person for your date to want to see again, and it can all get very complicated once you start second-guessing yourself. Luckily for us, there are numerous studies out there conducted by experts in various fields that can get to the bottom of all of this; asking 'what makes a perfect first date?'

1. Make the right amount of eye contact

By now we have all heard that eye contact is a good thing to maintain with a date, but there are limits to this. A study in the Journal of Research in Personality has shown that if you have too little eye contact you will seem like you are lacking in confidence, but if you go too far the other way you can end up coming across as aggressive, confrontational, or dominant in a way you weren't intending. Around 7-10 seconds at a time is the maximum you should spend before looking away, according to this research.

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2. Do something active

Researchers at McHendree University in Illinois collected data by instructing 70 student volunteers to look at photos of their potential partners after 15 minutes of physical activity. The adrenaline spike increased their attraction to the photos compared to those that didn't. Their conclusion was that physical activity, even a short-burst, improves mood and makes it more likely that a spark will ignite between the two of you.

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3. Risky conversation

It turns out that many of our instincts are wrong when it comes to conversation on a first date. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that rehearsed lines have a negative effect, even though you may think it's good to prepare. Classic questions like "What do you do for a living" aren't exactly bad but also don't progress the conversation either.

Behavioural economist Dan Ariely suggests that asking revealing questions can help in this situation. Similarly, researcher Arthur Aron found that total strangers are likely to feel closer to one another by skipping the small talk and sharing secrets sooner rather than later. Obviously don't jump in to these questions right away, as you need to have some rapport and sense of safety with the other person, but if more difficult, personal questions are asked in an upfront and friendly way, you will leave your comfort zones and get to know each other better.

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4. Have sweet foods

Romantic moods can stem from sugar consumption, a study from Purdue University found in 2014. Their applicants were more open to intimacy with a first date after drinking a sugar solution than those who were asked the same hypothetical questions while drinking water. They believe that the brain might associate romantic thoughts with sweet tastes. As a bonus - you get to have dessert after your meal.

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5. Body language

While it is not the same for everybody, there are certain ways of holding yourself that most people find unattractive. Men who put on a macho poise or walk, or anyone attempting to seem sophisticated in their body language, looks quiet forced - but can also make you seem intimidating or snobbish rather than appealing.

A report published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology stated that it's important to keep your body language relaxed to be comforting. If your movements are subdued at first, the person you're meeting (likely a stranger) will feel more at ease with small gestures, personal space, and slower movements. Once you're more comfortable with each other is when you can be more animated.

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6. Be direct with plans

If you want to meet up with someone, it's always best to be direct, rather than try to glean an answer through indirect methods. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that people were far more responsive to direct questions in this context. Subtlety was often rated the least effective way to show someone you like them. This means "Can I take you out for dinner next Wednesday?" will get better results than jokes or tentative plans.

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7. Positive thinking

It's easy to get anxious before and during a date, but focusing too much on the potential worst scenarios or replaying embarrassing moments in your head leads to a higher secretion of stress hormones. It's best to let these worrying thoughts go; rather making them real by dwelling on them, think of them as passing thoughts and nothing more, otherwise it can affect the tone of the evening.

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8. No cheesy one-liners

There's been a sort of resurgence in cheesy pick-up lines in recent years, but it doesn't exactly work. A study in the journal Sex Roles found that women are more likely to prefer innocuous opening lines. Even if you're saying those cheesy lines with a sense of irony, you'll find more success with more straightforward and sincere statements.

couple on date Credit: Pixabay

Taking these into account the next time you land a dinner reservation after a Tinder match, you might just find things run smoothly. On the other hand, we are all different, and so take these rules with a pinch of salt. But if you're looking to refine your method even more, you should check out this list of dating profile phrases that you should avoid at all costs.