How to Score a Second Date…Using Science

By: Dr. Helen FisherRomantic love is like a sleeping cat; it’s a brain system that can be awakened at any time in a relationship.  But scientists have focused on the first date—assuming that this initial meeting triggers romance.  However, the first date is often just a look-see, a fishing expedition.  In fact, 59% of singles don’t even expect any sparks until the second date…or even later.  And 53% will go out on a second date with someone for whom they feel no chemistry (yet)–thinking this person may “grow on them.”

In short: it’s the second date that has real meaning. So in our 2015 study of 5,500+ single Americans, we sought nature’s formula for getting to date #2–a vital courtship step that has been seriously understudied until now.  Here’s what the data says:

Grab Sushi & A Cocktail

Foremost, do dinner.  Sharing food is a hallmark of humankind: those who eat together form a closer bond—while those who don’t are 2.5 times less likely to win a second shot.  Dining in a more expensive restaurant also ups your odds of a second date–by 50%.  But what to order?  According to our Singles in America study, have sushi; this boosts your second date odds by 170%. Strange!  But fatty fish–like tuna and salmon–contain Omega 3 and L-Arginine, which improve circulation and stimulate alertness, aspects of desire. The seaweed in sushi rolls is high in iodine–which boosts testosterone, potentially revving up the libido. And don’t skip the green stuff: Wasabi’s active ingredient, capsaicin, ignites flushing, sweating and heart rate–mimicking arousal.   Moreover, soda, iced tea and coffee are acceptable.  But skip the wine and beer and have a cocktail—this increases your chances of a second date by 137%.  Last, go out on Friday or Saturday night and linger for about two hours and 15 minutes, but no more.  Extra yakking greatly reduces your chances of scoring a second date.

Show Off Your Smarts

Moreover, those “in the know” snag a second chance.  So…what to talk about?  Politics.  Discussing any political issue boosts your chances of a second date by 91%.  Indeed, 35% of singles will not go out with someone who “doesn’t have any opinion on key political issues.”  Smarts are sexy.  So brush up on the economy, business and the arts as well.  But sports talk and celebs are out.  Less than 20% of men and 23% of women care if a date knows a hat trick from a fumble; while only 11% of men and 10% of women care if a date follows celebrities and pop culture.

Second Date Killers

And about those landmines.  Foremost, don’t ask about his/her past relationships—it’s the kill zone.  Only 14% of singles will discuss an Ex.  Your second chance also plummets if you inquire about the number of their past sex partners.  Over 70% of singles will be instantly turned off if you mention marriage or relocating for a partner, too. Don’t rush into sex either: half of singles think only kissing is suitable. And you’ll get to it soon enough: 78% expect some form of physical connection on the second date.

Above all, try the big five:

  1. Be different; stand out.  It most likely works because novelty drives up the dopamine system in the brain to stimulate optimism and pleasure.
  2. Radiate confidence.  This is catnip to potential lovers–perhaps because self-assurance is often a sign of emotional stability.
  3. Date someone you met online.  Online daters are 32% more likely to imagine a committed future with someone while on a first date, as well as be fully employed, have more education and want to marry (58%).
  4. Smile, ask, listen, be upbeat and be funny.  Humor triggers the feel-good system in the brain.
  5. And most important: Overlook the negative and focus on his/her appealing qualities.  Some 35% of singles report that they have fallen deeply in love with someone whom they didn’t initially find attractive.  

The brain is built to love—so give love a chance.  Or at least a second date.