Speed-dating as an invaluable tool for studying romantic attraction: A methodological primer


  • Eli J. Finkel, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University; Paul W. Eastwick, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University; Jacob Matthews, Department of Computer Science, University of Chicago.

  • Finkel’s and Eastwick’s contributions to the Northwestern Speed-Dating Study (NSDS) and to this article cannot be separated; they should both be viewed as first authors. The NSDS was facilitated by grants from the University Research Grants Committee at Northwestern University and from the Dispute Resolution Research Center at the Kellogg School of Management, as well as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to PWE. We gratefully acknowledge Candida Abrahamson, Dan Ariely, and Leonard Lee for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of this paper and Robert Lount for helping to suggest speed-dating as an effective strategy for investigating initial romantic attraction. We also thank the following individuals for their assistance with conducting the NSDS: Layla Bermeo, Debra Blade, Christine Brooks, Bonnie Buik, Madelaine Eulich, Megan Graney, Jeff Jablons, Kristin Jones, Julie Keller, Jennifer Leyton, Kaidi Liu, Mallory Martino, Ashley Mason, Jesse Matthews, Abby Mitchell, Jennifer Rosner, Seema Saigal, Sarah Scarbeck, David Sternberg, Laura Thompson, Ashley Treadway, Stephanie Yang, and the Northwestern Class Alliance.

Eli J. Finkel or Paul W. Eastwick, Northwestern University, Department of Psychology, Evanston, IL 60208-2710, e-mail: finkel@northwestern.edu (EJF); p-eastwick@northwestern.edu (PWE) or (concerning computer programming or database management) to Jacob Matthews, University of Chicago, Department of Computer Science, Chicago, IL 60637, e-mail: jacobm@cs.uchicago.edu.


Research on initial romantic attraction flourished in the 1960s and 1970s but has now been partially eclipsed by research on close relationships. The authors argue that speed-dating procedures, in which participants attend an event where they experience brief “dates” with a series of potential romantic partners, permit researchers to “retrofit” the advances of close relationships research to the study of initial romantic attraction. Speed-dating procedures also allow for strong tests of many fundamental attraction-related hypotheses and, via longitudinal follow-ups, could unify the fields of initial romantic attraction and close relationships. This article will help investigators conduct speed-dating studies by addressing the methodological and logistical issues they will face and by illustrating procedures with a description of the Northwestern Speed-Dating Study.