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A Single Question Can Boost Your Chance of Getting a Date

The key, research shows, is getting your foot in the door. Here's how.

Source: LDprod/Shutterstock

Previously, I discussed the benefits (and increased success) to be found by asking someone you like out for a date directly (see here and here). For those who remained shy or anxious, I also explained how to ask someone out in a more indirect way (here). Further, I explained how such requests could be crafted with a bit of persuasion for added effect too (here).

Continuing on this topic, research suggests that making a small request first may lead a person to be more likely to agree to a date. This phenomenon is known as the "Foot-in-the-Door" (FITD) effect. Essentially, when someone agrees to a small, initial request, they then feel more agreeable, positive, and comfortable with a larger, related second request. This works in all kinds of persuasive situations, from sales, to donations, to altruistic endeavors—and dating, too.

Getting Your Foot in the Door

Gueguen and associates tested whether the FITD effect would work on requests for a date (Gueguen, Marchand, Pascual, & Lourel, 2008). They directed three young male participants (age 19 to 21), neatly dressed in sneakers and jeans, to walk around a shopping area in France and ask out 378 young women (age 18 to 22). Randomly, the men either asked for an immediate date with the woman, or asked her for a small favor first (specifically, a light for his cigarette or directions).

The requests were as follows:

Direct Request: "Hello, I'm sorry to bother you but I was wondering if you were busy now. If not, we could have a drink together if you have some time."

Small Favor First: "Hello, I'm sorry to bother you but would you have a light for my cigarette?" (Or, "Hello, I'm sorry to bother you but I am looking for the Place de Liberation.")

  • If the woman gave the light or directions, the man responded, "Thank you very much. Are you busy now? If not, we could have a drink together, if you have some time."

  • If she did not have a lighter or directions, the man responded, "It doesn't matter. Are you busy now? If not, we could have a drink together, if you have some time."

Results of the experiment indicated that women were significantly more likely to agree to a date after first providing directions or a light for the man's cigarette—while only 3.3 percent of women agreed to an immediate date directly, 15 percent agreed to a date after providing a light and 15.8 percent agreed after giving directions. These percentages were generally the same for all three men making the various requests. Therefore, making the small request first did indeed increase the women's willingness to go on a date—much as the FITD effect works in other influence situations.

Making the Best Date Request

While this effect is striking, the overall percentages of women agreeing to a date were lower than those found in some other studies (see here and here). There are a couple of factors that may account for these differences:

  • Relationship Status. In the study above, 25.4 percent of the women refused the date because they were already in a committed relationship. Previous studies have focused on making requests to single and available individuals only.

  • Timing of Date. In the study above, 19.1 percent of the women refused the date because they did not have enough time to go immediately. Previous studies have made date requests for later in the week or weekend, giving an individual more time to plan.

  • Location. The study above was conducted in a shopping area, while some other studies have been conducted on a college campus. Location can make a difference, especially when "strangers" already have something in common (like being students). Commonalities and safer locations can increase acceptance of a date.

  • Attractiveness. There was no mention of the attractiveness of the male confederates in the study above (beyond wearing sneakers and jeans). Other studies have been more specific about the attractiveness of confederates (as determined by opposite sex ratings) and found, unsurprisingly, that it matters.

  • Sex of Recipient. The study above had men asking out women only. Other studies have looked at women making similar requests to men. Generally, men are more likely to accept a date request.


As seen above, making a small request from an individual can increase their receptivity to a later request for a date. Nevertheless, such a request is most successful when made in conjunction with other factors.

Specifically, it is helpful to locate potential dates who are single, and in locations where you might have something in common (here). It also helps to look and act your best when asking for a date (here and here). Further, asking to make plans for a later time seems to be more successful than an immediate request. Add a small request or question to start, which helps break the ice too (see here), and you have an increased chance at getting a date from an attractive stranger, or even an acquaintance.

Some of my previous articles on Psychology Today:

Go to Attraction Doctor for more dating and relationship advice (in helpful categories).

© 2015 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.


Gueguen, N., Marchand, M., Pascual, A., & Lourel, M. (2008). Foot-in-the-door technique using a courtship request: A field experiment. Psychological Reports, 103, 529-534.