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How terrific would it be if there existed a type of social gathering with just a bit more structure; something that romantically eligible individuals would want to attend, but that would also permit data collection and experimental control? About a decade ago, a rabbi in Los Angeles named Yaacov Deyo provided the answer: speed-dating.

Typically, mutual yesses (‘matches’) are then given the ability to contact each other after the event to further explore any romantic possibilities.

At first glance, it might seem that individuals would only be able to learn shallow or trivial information about a potential romantic partner in just a few short minutes (e.g. However, this notion is contradicted by an avalanche of evidence demonstrating that individuals can make remarkably sophisticated social judgements based on ‘thin slices’ of social behaviour lasting five minutes or less (Ambady et al., 2000).

Perhaps unknowingly, the rabbi invented speed-dating by applying this social psychological gem to a romantic context.

Every night, researchers who investigate relationships and person perception miss out on great opportunities.

Millions of parties and social gatherings take place throughout the world, and no one is there to measure the interpersonal dynamics taking place in these real-world environments.

As researchers of romantic attraction, we think about all the single people meeting each other for the first time – chatting for a few moments, deciding whether or not they’d like to get to know each other better – and we are heartbroken not to be observing unobtrusively.

Every night, researchers who investigate relationships and person perception miss out on great opportunities. Interpersonal perception: A social relations analysis.

We find some solace by reminding ourselves that parties and bars are not exactly perfect research environments.

It is true that people at parties can often form real relationships with real futures, and this external validity makes such social gatherings ideal sources of data on real-life mating behaviour (Eastwick & Finkel, in press).

But at a party, there are many uncontrolled factors that weaken internal validity.

For example, not all romantically eligible people have a chance to meet one another, and some people can get cornered for half the evening stuck in a dreadful conversation.