What do men and women look for in a speed dating session, and what is the evidence that this leads to a long term relationship/marriage?

From: Ideas

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  • Approximately 1800 women and 1800 men who participated in 84 speed dating events


  • People sit at the assigned table, with women usually staying seated at the same table and men moving around. Each date lasts for three minutes. After a date, men have about 30 seconds to move to the next table, and a new date begins.
  • Participants communicate their proposals to the agency right after the event.
  • The agency collects all these proposals and exchanges contact details only between participants who have a match.


  • On average, women choose 2.6 men and see 45% of their proposals matched, while men propose to 5 women and their proposals are matched in only 20% of the cases. About 36% of men and 11% of women do not get any proposal
  • Women are less likely to select men who are shorter (an additional 5cm will increase female proposal rates by 9%) and who are either younger or more than 5 years older. Men prefer women who are younger by no more than 5 years and shorter by no more than 7 centimetres, and they are less likely to select if their potential partner is taller.
  • Weight - An overweight woman will see her chance to get selected reduced by 70 percent
  • Smoking – if a person smokes, the likelihood of receiving a proposal is reduced by 10%. Men who smoke prefer smokers
  • Education - All subjects prefer partners with their own level of education to partners who are less educated than they are. More educated men prefer women who do not smoke, while more educated women prefer taller men. At the other end of the distribution, less educated men prefer partners who are not in manual occupations and who are not overweight, whereas less educated women are generally less picky over men’s attributes.
  • Popularity - a woman is less likely to choose a man if he is more popular than she is, while a man is less likely to select a woman if she is less popular than he is.
  • Children - having a child does not affect female desirability to men, while it mildly increases male desirability to women.
  • Common interests (film and music, sports, arts, travelling, restaurants and bars, outdoor recreation, and other activities) was never correlated with women’s proposals, but positively correlated with men’s proposals
  • Occupation - Younger women are more likely to receive proposals by all men irrespective of their occupational position, whereas men in lower level occupations show a preference also for slim women, and men at the upper end of the occupational ladder are more likely to propose to non-smoking and more educated women.
  • Eye colour and hair colour are not relevant to subjects’ dating decisions
  • Both women and men equally value physical attributes, such as age and weight, and that there is positive sorting along age, height, and education
  • 38% of men and 46% of women do not choose anyone.
  • The cost of being rejected in the speed dating environment is arguably lower than in the standard day-to-day dating world.


  • Younger female subjects prefer men who are within 5 years older, have higher educational qualifications, and are in non-manual jobs. Older women tend to choose men who are also within 5 years older, taller, have lower educational qualifications, and do not smoke.
  • Younger men are more likely to choose younger and more educated women, whereas older men prefer older, taller and normal-weight partners. As in the case of women, younger men put a greater weight on women’s popularity than older men do.


Editors Notes

  • Despite the title, and the questions asked in the original paper, the authors have failed to investigate in any depth the evidence for long term relationships and/or marriage.