You might not think your sweaty palms are your most attractive feature, but they – along with the cadence of your heartbeat – could be a physical manifestation of your true desire, a new study suggests.
In a dating experiment conducted in the Netherlands, researchers recruited heterosexual participants to take part in real-life ‘blind dates’, in which they would meet a prospective partner in a ‘dating cabin’, while wearing various sensors designed to measure the physiological dynamics between the pair.
These sensors included eye-tracking glasses with embedded cameras to determine what each participant looked at during the date, as well as recording how they laughed, smiled, and otherwise acted with their partner.
At the same time, each participant also wore sensors to monitor their heart rate, and sensors to track skin conductance (aka electrodermal activity), measuring how perspiration on the skin changes in response to psychological or physiological arousal.
Ultimately, the researchers were looking for signs of physiological synchrony – the hidden choreography of mutual, non-verbal cues that can emerge when people connect with one another, or share an experience together.
“We hypothesize that, if a gut feeling of attraction truly exists… there must be a physical manifestation of interpersonal attraction in the real world of behavior,” the researchers, led by first author and psychologist Eliska Prochazkova from Leiden University, explain in their paper.
Here, the team thought those manifestations might show up in a range of overt synchronous behaviors, with attracted participants mimicking or reciprocating their partners’ physical expressions, such as smiles, laughter, eye gazing, nodding, and other gestures.
But it didn’t turn out that way.
“None of these signals predicted the extent to which one person was attracted to another,” Prochazkova explains. “It’s the invisible, internal signals such as heart rate and skin conductance that determine this.”
In each blind date, the participants sat on opposite sides of a table with a barrier between them, which opened for a few seconds so they could see each other, before closing again, at which point the participants would rate how attracted they felt to the other participant.
After this, the barrier opened again, and the participants got to talk freely for a couple of minutes (followed by another discreet attraction rating), and then were instructed to look at one another without talking for another 2 minutes (and then rating them once more).
All the while, during this series of interactions, the eye-tracking glasses recorded their exchanges, while the electrocardiographic and electrodermal sensors …….