Love in the fast lane

Hi there! I’m Michi, a customer success and support specialist at Datawrapper, and today I’ll be writing my first Weekly Chart about speed dating.

I have a slight fascination with dating (on a conceptual level, mind you). Perhaps this stems from a larger interest in how relationships form and run their course, where dating feels like a microcosm of that process. And if normal dating can tell us something about what pushes people together and apart, isn’t speed dating an even more compressed version of the same thing?

Earlier this week, I stumbled on a 2004 Columbia University study on partner preferences in speed dating. Heterosexual university students would meet around 10–20 strangers of the opposite sex and spend four minutes talking to each one, filling out surveys before, during, and after the session. While the original paper primarily analyzed the data through the lens of race, the dataset itself includes much more information on each participant, like their field of study and what qualities they value in a potential partner.

For my first chart, I decided to look at this last question. The study asked:

You have 100 points to distribute among the following attributes: [attractiveness, sincerity, intelligence, fun, ambition, and shared interests/hobbies.] Give more points to those attributes that are more important in a potential date, and fewer points to those attributes that are less important in a potential date. Total points must equal 100.

In particular, I was curious how these preferences would differ between the women and men participating. So I split the data by gender, averaged the scores, and voilà:

Yikes! “Men are so shallow” was one of the first things I heard when I showed this chart to a colleague. In fairness, the massive gap in how men and women valued attractiveness did immediately stand out to me as well, as did the 50% difference in preference for an ambitious partner. But I was also struck by how members of both genders seemed to rate intelligence quite highly, while ambition and shared interests were relatively low.

For my second chart, I asked myself if a potential partner’s place "in line," so to speak, made a difference in people's interest in a second date. I had the hunch that, as the night dragged on and the number of potential partners dwindled, daters might become more open to a second meeting with their current partner.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the end of the night brings a pretty sizable spike in interest, especially among the men — an (anecdotally) well-established phenomenon at clubs and bars. I did find it interesting that women were most eager at the very start of the evening, but couldn’t come up with an explanation. Maybe you have one?

Thank you for reading my first Weekly Chart! I only focused on a few variables here, and I highly recommend digging into this data gold mine yourself if the subject interests you.