Exemplar Study: Can You Accurately Judge Romantic Interest? (Mixed Design)

This study sought to determine whether a third party could discern romantic interest between two strangers. To test this, male and female observers watched video clips of speed-dating situations to determine the individual speed dater’s level of romantic interest toward the speed-dating partner. Participants observed clips of different lengths (10 vs. 30 s), and from different parts of the speed date (beginning, middle, end). Each participant rated one long and three short video clips. The researchers also coded for participants’ gender (male or female) and relationship status (single or in a relationship). Results indicated that participants were able to discern romantic interest at above chance levels. Length of clip did not influence accuracy, although the part of the speed date did.

Place, S. S., Todd, P. M., Penke, L., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2009). The ability to judge the romantic interest of others. Psychological Science, 20, 22-26. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02248.x

Discussion Starters:
• What are the design elements (IV, DV) and operational definitions?
• What are the potential confounds?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of the study design?
• Why did the researchers use videotapes of German speed dates when the observers were from the United States?
• Explain the matching hypothesis to students. The matching hypothesis is the notion that partners of approximately equal physical attractiveness end up together (White, 1980). How might this have influenced an observer’s perceptions?
• In what other contexts could researchers study the accuracy of interpreting nonverbal behavior?
o Suggestions in case students get stuck: job interview, lie detection in criminal investigations, talking to a boss or superior, a doctor talking to patients about their health.

In-class Activities:
• Ask the class what pieces of information they think the observers were using to make their judgments of romantic interest. Suggestions in case students get stuck: facial expressions, eye contact, body posture, proximity, tone of voice, amount of speech, clothing.
• As a class or in small groups, generate a study to isolate and test one or more of students’ ideas for other contexts in which to study the accuracy of interpreting nonverbal behavior.
• Have students observe the nonverbal behavior of students in a class to see if they can predict how interested the students are in the lecture. This could be done live or through a videotape of the class. Based on this article, it would require only a very short observation or clip (less than a minute). Get each student’s rating of her or his own interest and then have your own students focus on a single person. Another option would be to pick only a handful of students from the class being observed and have everyone focus on them. This option would also provide an opportunity to obtain reliability among the observers.

Click here for a PDF copy.