2shrimpS/Shutterstock
Source: 2shrimpS/Shutterstock

The information we communicate nonverbally, through our body language, is an important aspect of dating and relating. As I have discussed in previous articles, the right body language can help get you noticed by a potential date or mate. Also, if done correctly, nonverbal communication can help you break the ice in social interactions. Often, body language signals who is interested in you as well.

What about modern dating scenarios, though? How does body language have an impact when someone makes a split-second decision about you — especially in situations like speed dating, online dating profiles, and Tinder-type swipe-matching? What poses get you noticed quickly and spark romantic attraction?

For the answers, I went searching in the social science literature…

Body Language in Modern-Day Dating Contexts

In my search, I found an article by Vacharkulksemsuk and associates (2016). The group explored the role that body language plays in present-day speed dating and online matching (scenarios in which people make decisions about potential partners after brief interactions of only minutes or seconds). Overall, the researchers conducted three studies, looking at different aspects of body language — and noting how those features related to getting a “yes” in speed dating or Tinder-type matching situations.

In the first study, Vacharkulksemsuk and team (2016) observed nonverbal body language in an existing speed-dating scenario. They evaluated the nonverbal behaviors of male-female pairs of speed daters and compared aspects of that behavior to who was picked for a date. The results indicated that daters were more often chosen when they had expansive body language (open postures involving widespread limbs, a stretched torso, and/or enlargement of the occupied space). In fact, for every unit of increase in expansiveness noted by the researchers, the participant was 76 percent more likely to be chosen for a date. Subsequent analyses showed that this effect was true for both men and women — and the increase in romantic attractiveness was partially due to increased perceptions of the individual’s dominance (and potential status and resources as a mate).

In the remaining two studies, Vacharkulksemsuk and associates (2016) evaluated the impact of expansive body language in an online matching situation. In this instance, the researchers made up dating profiles on an online matching site — varying the degree of expansive or contracted body language that the individual showed in their profile picture. Testing these expanded versus contracted poses showed that profiles with the expansive body language pictures were 27 percent more likely to get picked for a “yes” match.

Subsequent testing showed that this effect held for both men and women. Nevertheless, largely due to the fact that men get picked less overall on these types of dating applications, the effect was more powerful for men. Specifically, male profiles were only chosen by women 30 times (out of 1,500 evaluations), but 26 of those picks were for an expansive male profile (87 percent). In comparison, female profiles were chosen by men 790 times (out of 1,483 evaluations), while 421 of those picks were for an expansive female profile (53 percent).

Follow-up analyses also indicated that the increase in romantic attractiveness for both men and women was due to an increase in perceived dominance. Nevertheless, these effects were highly related to perceptions of openness as well. Therefore, expansive body language tends to communicate that a potential partner has both high status and resources, and is potentially open to sharing them with a mate as well. This combination of expansiveness and openness is an attractive signal to possible mates.

Being Open and Expansive Yourself

Overall, the research indicates that having expansive and open body language can potentially increase your romantic attractiveness — especially when someone else has to make a quick decision about you as a mate (with little-to-no direct interaction). Therefore, when you meet someone quickly for the first time, or pose for your online dating profile, keep the following body language features in mind (for the actual poses used in the study, see here):

  • Be expansive. Whether you are sitting or standing, express yourself with widespread limbs and big expressions. Hold your arms wide, high above your head, or stretch them out across the table or back of a booth.
  • Be open. Keep your body poses open, too. Don’t cross your arms or legs (which may indicate nervousness or disinterest). And keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • Take up space. Get comfortable and stretch out. Use up the space around you, and don’t collapse your body inward.

As you may see from my previous articles, this type of body language is quite similar to the behaviors men and women use to get noticed in other dating contexts. You can see them in general behaviors women use to flirt too. In addition, they are very similar to body language that conveys your interest in a partner. By being expansive and open, not only are you getting a potential partner’s attention and increasing your own attractiveness quickly (and with little-to-no interaction), but you are signaling your possible interest in them as well.

Nevertheless, this may not be a strategy for everyone. Sometimes such expansive poses can feel uncomfortable or inauthentic, especially for individuals who are shy or introverted. Such individuals might prefer a different way of finding a mate. If you are uncomfortable with such outgoing poses, you may be more likely to find a match networking through friends and acquaintances and interacting with people over time to show your uniquely attractive characteristics. Rather than having to make a big impact fast, as is often the case with speed dating and swipe-apps, a slower approach will give you the time to become more curious than anxious and use communication to create attraction too.

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© 2017 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.

References

Vacharkulksemsuk, T., Reit, E., Khambatta, P., Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., & Carney, D. R. (2016). Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(15), 4009-4014.

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