Women decide on speed-date in seconds

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Women are much quicker than men at making up their minds about a potential partner, a study has found.

A speed-dating experiment showed that men have only seconds in which to impress a woman - and can stand or fall by the quality of their opening chat-up lines. Women were also far more picky than men, and less willing to make do with second best.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist, recruited 100 visitors to the Edinburgh International Science Festival to take part in 500 speed dates.

Initial results revealed that in about a third of cases, participants reached decisions about potential partners in less than 30 seconds.

This was true of 45 per cent of women's decisions, but only 22 per cent of men's.

Professor Wiseman, from the University of Hertfordshire, who conducted the study last Sunday, said: "Men are often accused of being shallow and judging women very quickly. However, this evidence suggests that women may make up their minds much quicker than men. It suggests men have only a few seconds to impress a woman, thus emphasising the importance of their opening comments."

Professor Wiseman's team of researchers compared the conversations of participants rated as very desirable or undesirable by their dates. The most successful charmers encouraged their dates to talk about themselves in an unusual or quirky way.

As an illustration, the top-rated man's best line was: "If you were on Stars in Your Eyes, who would you be?", while the top-rated female's winning question was: "What's your favourite pizza topping?" Failed Casanovas tended to be far less creative as they struggled to impress with comments such as "I have a PhD in computing".

Women were twice as fussy as men when deciding who they liked, but the top-rated man and woman both had a 100 per cent success rate - every one of their dates wanted to meet them again.

Participants were asked to chat about different subjects to assess which topics of conversation were best for bringing people together. When discussing films, fewer than 9 per cent of the pairs wanted a second meeting. But this success rate doubled when the talking point was travel.

A questionnaire found that men and women had very different tastes in movies, possibly explaining why films were a poor conversation choice. Just under half of men said they liked action films, compared with 18 per cent of women, and while 29 per cent of women enjoyed musicals this was true of 4 per cent of men.

"Whenever our couples spoke about films they really increased their chances of disagreement," said Professor Wiseman. "In contrast, conversations about travel tend to revolve around great holidays and dream destinations, and that makes people feel good and so appear more attractive to one another."

In a second study a 30-year-old mechanical engineer went on half-hour dates with four women. More than 400 festival-goers took part in an online experiment, in which they had to predict which he would find most attractive. Most of the participants failed to do so.