Ever watch the Bachelor? (Don’t worry, this is a safe place; no one will ever know if you just responded “yes.”) My husband and I have found a new guilty pleasure in the show. We watch for the drama, the terrible life choices, and the truly hilarious quotes (“I’m literally speechless right now” and similar wise sentiments). Although it appears that there is no scientific substance to this reality TV dating show, there is an aspect of most episodes rooted in the science of attraction: The dates.
These dates are rarely ones us in the real world go on. Rather than watching a movie and making cookies, the contestants ride bulls bareback, or repel down a skyscraper. Terrifying activities that get blood pumping. There’s a reason for this.
Adrenaline and Dating.
Research has shown that initial attraction can occur more frequently when people feel strong emotions such as fear or anger. Some say this is due to the body’s nervous system responding very similarly when it feels attraction or fear: The pupils dilate, the stomach churns, and the bladder tries to empty itself (but hopefully does not manage to). This means that going through a neurologically arousing experience can increase feelings of attraction for the person you are with. For a show like The Bachelor, whose goal is to create intense connections in a very short time, using adrenaline is an easy way to try and assure attraction happens fast.
A study designed to test this theory had two bridges set up above a deep canyon. One bridge was built low in the canyon with only about a 10 foot drop. It was sturdy, and had high handrails. The other was built out of wooden boards attached to wire cables, was 200 feet above the floor of the canyon, and would tilt and sway as you crossed it. (Imagine every rickety bridge featured in a cartoon.) On the other side of both bridges was an attractive woman. The researchers had her approach men after they crossed one of the two bridges, and ask them to take a brief survey. After they finished the survey, she gave each man her phone number asking them to call if they had any further questions. Researchers predicted that the men on the shaky bridge would be more likely to call, as they would mistake their fearful arousal for a romantic one. Sure enough, more men from the shaky bridge made the call.
With this research in mind, it’s easy to see why exciting first dates could be a great strategy for anyone hoping to make a connection. Skipping dinner and a movie for something more adrenalin-seeking can boost that sense of initial attraction. However, does that mean you just quit the exciting stuff once you find a partner?
Not necessarily. Another study had sixty couples go on dates that were either novel and exciting, or pleasant but mundane. The couples who went out on the adventurous dates showed a significant increase in relationship quality when compared to the couples who did not.
This doesn’t mean that it’s time to completely ditch the game nights for skydiving, but throwing an exciting date into the mix can be beneficial for strengthening a connection.
Look For Exciting Dates
An important thing to keep in mind is that an “exciting date” does not have to equal “expensive date.” Fun, cheap date ideas could include:
- Hiking a new trail.
- Rock climbing.
- Sledding (especially if you can find a steep hill).
- Pranking a mutual friend – the more you have to sneak around to do so the better.
- Water balloon fight/Laser Tag/Paintballing.
Try letting your inner adrenaline junkie out next time you have a date to plan, and let us know your best exciting date ideas.
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Written by: Melece