To explore dynamics in the opening minutes of romantic attraction, the researchers set up seven speed-dating sessions for a total of 156 undergraduate students. Participants had four-minute speed dates with nine to 13 opposite-sex individuals. Immediately following each date, they completed a two-minute questionnaire, answering items such as "I really liked my interaction partner" and "I was sexually attracted to my interaction partner."
After returning home, they recorded on the study Web site whether they would be interested in meeting each person they had speed-dated again in the future. Mutual "yeses" were given the ability to contact one another.
"People who like everyone, unlike in a friendship context where they generally are liked in return, may exude desperation in a romantic context," Finkel said.
"It suggests to us that romantic desire comes in two distinct flavors: selective and unselective," Eastwick added. "If your goal is to get someone to notice you, the unselective flavor is going to fail, and fast."
The need to feel special or unique could be a broad motivation that stretches across our social lives, the study concludes. "Just as this need plays an important role in intimate relationships and friendships, the present study reveals a distinctive anti-reciprocity effect if this need is not satisfied in initial encounters with potential romantic partners."