Updated date:

Five Tips on How to Have the Perfect First Date (According to Science)


1. Get Their Blood Pumping

Think about how you felt when you had your first crush. Your body does some weird things, like excessive sweating, shaking, and the all too familiar "butterflies in your stomach" syndrome. And how could we forget about those racing thoughts and that bubbly outlook on life? Now I want you to remember how you felt after your first roller coaster ride. Hmmmm...pretty much the same, right?

Unfortunately roller coasters aren't love machines, but they're pretty close. Science says that the feeling of "falling in love" and the fear response are physiologically very similar. In fact, your body can't tell them apart! You want proof? One study had couples meet on a wobbly rope bridge, while other couples met on solid ground. Those that met on the bridge rated each other as more attractive on average than those who met on the boring old stable surface. When couples do adrenaline increasing activities together, the fear response is confused by the body as a love response. Those feelings are then projected onto each other.

The take away message is to opt out of a romantic dinner. Instead, a theme park or even a scary movie is more likely to make your date feel those love butterflies.

What's You're Opinion?

2. Wear The Right Clothing

How do you want to present yourself? Cool and confident? Happy and carefree? Science says that our clothes play a big part in how other people see us. The color of clothing in particular has been shown to give people different first impressions.

To the gals: Women who wear the color red are perceived as being more attractive than those who wear less fiery clothing. No wonder we all love Katniss! However if you're looking for a more conservative style, women who wear cooler colors are seen as more feminine while women who wear dark colors are more likely to be assigned traits like "tough," "bold," and "competent."

To the guys: If you want to project an image of strength and power, opt for a darker attire. Men who wear dark clothing are more likely to be assigned traditionally masculine traits. Hello tall, dark, and handsome! On the other hand, men who wear lighter clothing are likely to be perceived as calm, easygoing, and fun.

Don't forget to wear an outfit that is comfortable! Studies show that physical comfort is positively correlated with self-confidence. In other words the more comfortable you are, the less likely you'll do something embarrassing like faint with excitement about having a date.

Should've just worn my footie pajamas. Those are really comfortable.

Josef Abel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Josef Abel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What's Your Opinion?

3. Keep It Cool

Literally. Science says that cooler temperatures seem to induce feelings of love rather than warmer temperatures. So much for fun in the sun!

One study shows that when people are cold, they are more likely to enjoy romantic movies. It is hypothesized that physical coldness activates a need for psychological warmth. Basically your mind decides that because your body is cold, it'll do something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Options include watching cat videos or falling in love. A second benefit is that "love feelings" work to keep you physically warm as well. The physiological effects of liking someone include your heart racing, your face flushing, and your breathing rate increasing. All of these things make your body move more, generating heat.

Skip out on warmer venues and try out something cool, like ice skating. Even turning the temperature down a few degrees during a movie night might turn up the heat on your date.

Gives a new meaning to cold hands, warm heart.

http://See page for author [CC-BY-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

http://See page for author [CC-BY-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What's Your Opinion?

4. Smell Nice

While smelling nice seems to be an obvious tip for a first day, you might not realize the full importance of perfume.

Science says that people are rated at a higher attractiveness level when the judge is smelling perfume. Although this effect wasn't as large for very beautiful and very ugly people (the visual cues outweighed the cues given by the perfume), the average person can improve their looks by improving their smell.

When people are exposed to different olfactory cues (in other words, smells), certain pathways in the brain light up. The scents are associated with the objects around you and your emotions at the time of smelling. That's why if you see an object that you've smelled before, you can anticipate its scent. Seeing dog dung on the ground that was left by an irresponsible owner will leave you expecting that it'll smell horrible. On the other hand, an advertisement on tv showing a delicious cheeseburger tricks your brain into assuming it smells like all of the other delicious cheeseburgers you've eaten. This phenomenon also works in reverse. A smell will make you anticipate what you've previously experienced with it. Let's say your gym teacher was an onion-eating jerk who wasn't big on hygiene. Getting a whiff later in life of an onion/B.O. combo may give you flashbacks of all the times he made you run laps. Because you have that association, you won't just think the smell is bad. You'll think of the pain you felt when your legs started cramping up. This may lead to your brain mimicking how you were feeling back in gym class during those fateful high school days. For example, you may begin to feel anger, fear, and resentment. The most interesting part about all this is that in the present moment, you're unlikely to understand why you just got angry. The nice, albeit unwashed man selling onions to you in present day might get a dose of your anger, all because your brain tricked you. Of course, you don't want to make your date pissed (at least, I hope not). Luckily, your brain performs this little emotional magic trick with nicer feelings too.

Perfume companies are very good at coming up with scent combinations that will make the average person's brain associate the wearer with pleasant emotions. However, you don't want this to be a pleasant date. You want it to be a perfect date. The problem is, scent preferences are highly personalized. You'd literally have to know a person's life story in order to predict how they'll react to combinations of certain smells. Assuming that you haven't stalked this person their whole life, you probably won't know too much about the emotions they have linked with scents. However, if you know general things about them you may be able to take a pretty decent guess on what scent to wear. Do they like the outdoors? A woodsy scent may be a good idea. Were they more timid to accept the date? Simple calming smells like lavender may be in order. On the other hand if this is a blind date, you should choose a more complex and adventurous smell.

The good news is, science knows which smells the general public will prefer. People are more likely to enjoy smells that they can easily identify. Vanilla is almost universally liked because it is so distinct. Another good rule of thumb is to pick smells that most people associate with romance, such as chocolate, cardamom, and ginger.

One thing to remember is that you don't have to pick one scent. Perfumes and colognes are carefully concocted blends. Once you know the smells you're going for, you may have to do a bit of research on which products have the mix you want.

If all else fails, you can always use the scent that has been described as "the ideal erogenous perfume" by several studies: Shalimar.

What's Your Opinion?

5. Say Cheese

So far you know what kinds of activities you should do, where you should do them, what to wear, and what you should smell like in order to create the perfect date. What you haven't learned is the most important ingredient: how to act.

The simple answer is to have fun. Science says that smiling releases pleasure hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Not only that, but just looking at someone smile also releases these same hormones.Your brain literally rewards you for making another person smile.

Back in the day, humans needed work together to survive. These strong social bonds were developed through the use of non-verbal cues. Of course, verbal cues played a significant part in bonding as well. Smiling just helps cement and reassure the truth of spoken communication. Unless you're a car salesman or a politician, it's a lot harder to lie while smiling in someone's face. By mimicking another person's "trustworthy" facial expression, you create a bond together. Connections increase the chances of working successfully together, which in turn increased the chances of survival.

People who were shown pictures of people smiling tended to assign them the characteristics of fun, reliable, and exciting. Happy-looking people were also more liking to be rated as attractive.

So no matter what you do, remember to put a smile on your face. What's the point of a date if you're not having fun?


Baron, R. (1981) Olfaction and human social behavior: effects of a pleasant scent on attraction and social perception. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 7:611

Billings, A., Moos, R. (2007). Work stress and the stress-buffering roles of work and family resources. Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 3 issue 3, pages 215–232

Briese, E. (1995). Emotional hyperthermia and performance in humans. Physiology and Behavior, vol. 58 issue 3, pages 615-618

Brown, W.M., Moore, C. (2002). Smile asymmetries and reputation as reliable indicators of likelihood to cooperate: An evolutionary analysis. In S.P. Shohov (Ed.) Advances in Psychology Research, vol 11, 59-78.

Chebat, J., Michon, R. (2003). Impact of ambient odors on mall shoppers' emotions, cognition, and spending: A test of competitive causal theories. Journal of Business Research, vol. 56 issue 7, pages 529-539

Damhorst, M., Reed, A. (1986). Clothing color value and facial expression: effects of evaluations of female job applications. Social Behavior & Personality: an international journal, Vol. 14 Issue 1, p89 10p.

Dematte, M., Osterbauer, R., Spence, C. (2007). Olfactory cues modulate facial attractiveness. Chemical Senses, vol. 32 issue 6, pages 603-610

Hong,J., Sun, Y. (2012). Warm it up with love: the effect of physical coldness on liking of romance movies. Journal of Consumer Research vol 39, no. 2

Matilda, A., Wirtz, J. (2001). Congruency of scent and music as a driver of in-store evaluations and behavior. Journal of Retailing, vol. 77 issue 2, pages 273-289

Stevenson, S. (2012). There's magic in your smile. Psychology Today

© 2014 Leigh

So...What Do You Think?

Leigh (author) on December 04, 2014:

Thanks for all the support everyone!

RonElFran: I think it's definitely possible that you/your partner could be significantly affected by subtle cues like these for a short amount of time. However, I think it's more likely that they'll turn a good date into a great one...not be able to turn a terrible date into a good one. In other words, these traits don't make up who a person is. They just work to supplement the existing chemistry between two people. Even if you did end up attributing undeserved positive qualities to a person, the effects wouldn't last long term simply because after a few dates their true personality would overpower these efforts. I like to think of these suggestions as working similar to make-up. It enhances already pleasant features and helps hide little flaws, but it wouldn't be able to cover up an extra eye growing from the middle of your forehead. Also, at the end of the day the make-up will come off to show your true face. Interesting thoughts, thanks for your comment!

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 03, 2014:

This was a great read. Not just opinions, but statements backed up by data, and therefore very persuasive. But to me it raises a question. If you put all these suggestions to work, might your feelings be influenced too much by them? Could they lead you to feel more positive about a person than is warranted by more fundamental aspects of their personality, values, etc?

Perspycacious on December 01, 2014:

Congratulations on becoming a graduate, on joining HP, on hitting supposed pay dirt with a first Hub, and on knowing what makes a first date lead to a second, third, etc.

Welcome to HP!

Now it's time for your encores.

Besarien from South Florida on November 30, 2014:

Congrats on HotD! This is a great guide especially those just figuring out dating or where they have been going wrong. Interestingly, my husband broke every one of these rules on our first day except one. He smelled very good. Lucky for him! The rest may come in time but it is hard to forgive someone who is stinky on a date.

Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on November 30, 2014:

Studies have been done on the effects of horror movies on romantic attraction that confirm what you write about the fear response.

Donna from Southern California on November 30, 2014:

Yes great tips. Will have to review next time I date! Congrats on HOTD and looking forward to more Hubs. Keep up the good work and welcome to Hubpages! Voted UP!

Jasmine S from Pennsylvania on November 30, 2014:

For me you MUST smell nice. I don't care if your James Bond or Brad Pitt.. if you stink, you're not getting a second date!! Nice hub, congrats on HOTD x

Yves on November 30, 2014:

Congratulations! It is always good to know what science has to say about romance, and how it is generated in our brains. The only thing I would change a tiny bit is to suggest wearing scents that are crisp---as if you've just gotten out of the shower. I only know of one designer who has accomplished this. His name is Marc Jacobs, and his most "fresh" scents have the same name. He has one for women and one for men. His other scents are slightly more daring, but they still work for first dates.

Wonderful job at tackling this subject from a scientific perspective.

poetryman6969 on November 30, 2014:

smelling nice is a good thing. especially the breath.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 30, 2014:

What an interesting and amazing article. I never thought about all of this for going on a first date. Your information backed by science is fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

Kelley Marks from Sacramento, California on November 30, 2014:

This is a very good idea for a hub. Adding the photo attribution and references is a good idea too - something for which I rarely take the time. Anyway, science can explain much about dating and making love, if we would simply listen and learn. Later!

Kiss andTales on November 30, 2014:

Very informative hub! Another way to look at a date in a more decent view compared to today. It really shows the how people have gotten away from good clean fun, and knowing how to be decent. Thanks for sharing.

Shasta Matova from USA on November 30, 2014:

Congratulations on HOTD. I agree that these things are important on a first date and anytime, but you do have to be careful that you don't overdo it, because people who have read this article will know exactly what you are up to!

Azia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 30, 2014:

I find myself smiling while reading this topic. And yes, I agree with you about colors. My lucky dress is an ocean blue color and I got the most attention at restaurants and other places in that dress.


mySuccess8 on November 30, 2014:

You have provided a fascinating scientific understanding of love and a successful date. The explanations are clear and convincing enough. The human brain plays a large part in how and why we humans react the way you have explained. Great tips! Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Related Articles