Physical synchrony in a first date may indicate romantic compatibility - study

Through a series of speed dating runs, researchers found that people experience heightened electrodermal and physical synchrony when they are attracted.

A couple share a romantic glass of champagne in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Courtesy)
A couple share a romantic glass of champagne in the Golan Heights
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Physical synchrony during a first date could be an indication of a compatible match, according to a new study conducted on heterosexual couples.

The study, which was led by Dr. Shir Atzil from Hebrew University's Psychology department, was published in the peer-reviewed Scientific Reports journal.

Humans are part of a small club of mammalian species who actively seek long-lasting romantic bonds with their sexual partners. While the process of choosing a partner is often a significant process in people's lives, little is known about the bio-behavioral mechanisms that drive them to make their particular selections.

The process of choosing a partner is referred to as mate selection. Older revolutionary theories stated that females chose male partners based on strengths and resources, and males chose female partners based on fertility. More contemporary theories have been adjusted to say that mate selection is based on genetic compatibility based on each partner's genetic appearance. This, however, does not consider social interaction.

The study sought to understand more about the elements of social interaction that lead to selecting specific partners within heterosexual couples – and to this end, the experiment was conducted through speed dating.

 Dr. Shir Atzil (credit: YANIV VAKNIN) Dr. Shir Atzil (credit: YANIV VAKNIN)


Each participant in the experiment went through 46 speed dates in which they spent five minutes with each date. After each date, the participants were asked to rate their partner for romantic interest, sexual attraction and the partner's physical appearance.

During each date, the participants' electrodermal synchrony (sympathetic nervous system) was measured, and they were filmed by the researchers. The videos were analyzed for each partner's motions to see if they were attuned.

The results of the brain activity were later compared with the analysis of the videos and the surveys to see if increased electrodermal synchrony and physical attunement were indicators of romantic interest and sexual attraction and found that it did.

"we still don’t know whether synchrony raises attraction or does the feeling of attraction generate the motivation to synchronize?”

Dr. Shir Atzil

"Our research demonstrates that behavioral and physiological synchrony can be a useful mechanism to attract a romantic partner," said Atzil, who intends to further investigate the issue.