Prof offers lessons on first dates, for a price
Jennifer Harman has plenty of cringe-worthy first-date horror stories of her own to share, so she knows of what she speaks. Harman, a psychologist and researcher with Colorado State University in Fort Collins, says much of our first-date interactions happen on a level we're unaware of. Her DateSim.net assessment aims to help people better understand how they come across to strangers.
"A lot of the ways we process information and make judgments about people are done quite automatically," Harman says. "People sometimes don't know how they're coming across."
Among the rookie mistakes: not making good eye contact, crossing your arms, discussing politics or religion, and even failing to be flexible if plans change.
Harman says DateSim uses techniques developed by the CIA and executive coaching firms to analyze prospective agents and leaders. The $499 assessment process begins when a would-be dater fills out a dating profile for a fake dating site, including picking photos of themselves.
Harman says a good dating profile photo shows your face clearly, and if possible demonstrates you have facial symmetry, which many people see as a sign of health and vitality. Making a good first impression with that photo will color virtually all other interactions, she says.
After making a dating profile, the would-be dater starts corresponding with and talking to, via Skype, actors who are portraying a dating pool. All of the interactions are recorded and analyzed, and then the would-be dater spends time discussing a lengthy after-date report with a counselor.
"A lot of dating is about creating good first impressions. And we have a lot of research about what helps make good first impressions," Harman says. "There's a lot of skills that people can work on."
She adds: "Some people make big mistakes, like checking their cellphone in the middle of the date. If you've been out of the dating world for a while, it's a great way to practice."
The report covers everything from body language to communication, emotional intelligence and impression management. Harman says her job is to help you succeed on the first date and make it to a second one. The rest, she says, is up to you.
Harman, a twice-divorced single mom who lives with her mother, blogs about her own dating experiences on the Science of Relationships site. There, she recounts one bad date with a man who used a decade-old picture on his profile, ordered drinks and food before she arrived, and who noted they were eating close to his apartment so they could hook up if she was interested.
Her takeaway: "Would men be offended if I requested a short psychological test for detecting deceptiveness or personality disorders before committing to a date with them?"
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