Skyler S Place, Peter M Todd, Lars Penke, and Jens B Asendorpf (2009)

The ability to judge the romantic interest of others

Psychological Science, 20:22-26.

The ability to judge another individual's romantic interest level-both toward oneself and toward others-is an adaptively important skill when choosing a suitable mate to pursue. We tested this ability using videos of individuals on speed dates as stimuli. Male and female observers were equally good at predicting interest levels, but they were more accurate when predicting male interest: Predictions of female interest were just above chance. Observers predicted interest successfully using stimuli as short as 10 s, and they performed best when watching clips of the middle or end of the speed date. There was considerable variability between daters, with some being very easy to read and others apparently masking their true intentions. Variability between observers was also found. The results suggest that the ability to read nonverbal behavior quickly in mate choice is present not only for individuals in the interaction, but also for third-party observers.