Fast romance for first years

Posted by Mariel Kennedy

Single and ready to mingle, freshmen? Here's some good news: the psychology department is conducting an on-campus speed dating study for all members of the class of 2014.

The study begins September 28 and will continue on Tuesday evenings throughout the year.

This is the second time the speed dating study has been conducted at Skidmore.

According to Professor Mary Campa, who leads the effort, new data from this year's study will be incorporated into the significant information collected during the first study. Some preliminary data can be viewed in the halls of Tisch Learning Center.

The purpose of the study is to observe how people choose dates and mates — what characteristics are desirable and how this information is used when choosing a date.

Campa said, "We are interested in the process people engage in when selecting a romantic partner. People have a lot of ideas about who might make a good partner for them and we want to see how they use this information in picking people to see again."

The study takes just over four hours to complete. After creating a username, password and nickname on skidmorespeeddating.com, participants have three hours to complete an initial questionnaire with background information, past relationships and personality.

After finishing the questionnaire, participants will be scheduled for a particular speed dating event.

At the event, they will pose for a picture before being set up on 12 separate five-minute dates with a member of the opposite sex. Each date will be voice-recorded for further studies.

After each date, a short survey must be filled out. A non-obligatory secondary study follows, in which willing participants give a DNA sample collected through a simple cheek swab. The DNA is used to study the possible genetic component of attraction.

Within 24 hours of the end of the study, participants return to the speed dating website to fill out another short survey and rank their dates. Speed dating matches are sent out via the Web site 48 hours later.

Participants will be able to connect with matches for four weeks following the experiment through an anonymous messaging service. Another survey will be sent out to participants weekly for the duration of their interactions.

Campa says the Skidmore study is closely modeled after a professional speed dating service. "Generally, people have enjoyed it."

The study promises that all information — photos, voice recordings, etc. — will be completely confidential. Only study personnel will have access to collected data.

Participants are identified by either nicknames or assigned numbers. Names and study materials will also not be available to other participants. Students are able to withdraw from the study at any time.

Campa plans to continue the study in the future for as long as people are willing to take part.

Each study will consist of 24 students — 12 males and 12 females. Due to size limitations at Skidmore, similar studies are being conducted on a larger scale at Queens College

Skidmore Speed Dating offers many possible benefits and rewards. Other than the potential of a date, the free dating service signs up participants for a $100 lottery for each completed follow-up survey. There is also a $15 reward for those who choose to provide DNA samples.

Currently the study is targeted only at first-year students over the age of 18. Personnel ask that all volunteers be individuals who are romantically interested in opposite sex partners. It is also asked that all participants not be in a committed, exclusive relationship.

The speed dating Web site does offer a disclaimer, stating, "There is a risk of embarrassment, awkwardness and / or social rejection as a result of participating in this study."

Campa believes the risk may be worth it for a lot of students.

"People tend to have a pretty strong reaction about speed-dating at first. Some think it would be fun but lots think, ‘What kind of person would do that?' Also, college students in particular think there might be the idea that you can only speed-date if you want a long term relationship. This is not true. If you are single and want to meet people of the opposite sex, speed-dating is a place to do it!"

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