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Non-verbal speed dating

Image credit: Graham Mansfield

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 19, 2021
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Speed dating where two people just look at each other in silence for a few minutes, then decide whether they want to go on a real date based on "gut feeling". No words or gestures are allowed.


During the initial communication, people tend to put on their best act and use words to portray themselves in the best possible light. It's basically a marketing campaign that occupies a large chunk of the person's mental capacity. Juggling between self-presentation and analysis of the other person can feel overwhelming. Maybe like driving a car for the first time.

According to Albert Mehrabian, words (7%), nonverbal behavior (55%), and tone of voice (38%) are three basic elements of face-to-face communication.

By removing the words out of initial communication we miss out on 7% of the information but free up a large chunk of the mental capacity that we can then focus on the other person.

Online version

An app where you just jump in when ready.
  1. The app puts you in front of a live video feed of another local person that matches your general criteria. There is no audio. No gestures or signs allowed.
  2. You look at each other up close for 1-2 minutes until the time runs out or one of you chooses to exit.
  3. You then get to review the other person's bio/description and see a few more photos. You then decide whether you want to go on a date with them or move on to the next person.
  4. The system allows you to schedule a maximum of X dates per week for a maximum of 2 weeks in advance. If you don't have time to go on dates, don't waste people's time.
  5. Upon scheduling X number of dates the system stops showing you other people until your dating schedule is clear.
People have the ability to report misconduct by the other person, upon which a moderator reviews the video and penalizes the account if necessary.

Gamification to make the silence less awkward

People could play the staring game. Whoever starts laughing before the time is up looses. 2 out of 3 wins.


[2]The 7% rule. Fact, fiction, or missunderstanding. https://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=2043156

Creative contributions

Doing this live

Povilas S
Povilas S Aug 25, 2021
I like the idea, but I think the best would be to do such non-verbal speed dating live in a group of people who meet for that purpose. The "pre-screeing" could be done online, but the actual face-to-face dating should best be done in reality. There already is such a thing as live speed dating, just it's usually verbal rather than non-verbal. So it wouldn't take much to reform this.

Why live? Because video conveys very little compared to seeing a person in reality. Video doesn't have a depth element (except the illusionary one), it doesn't convey small details of facial expressions, body language, etc. unless a very high resolution/big screen/up-close shooting are used, but nevertheless by focusing on the face the video at the same time fails to convey the whole body posture and other important "secondary" details. In reality, you are able to incorporate all that into your vision field by quickly shifting your sight and using peripheral vision, but conveying all this through video is much more complicated. Also, just the general atmosphere of being around a certain person is very important and can't be conveyed through a video.

Video is a good substitute for reality when speech is allowed, but if it's not I think in many cases the impression about the person made this way would be different than the one made in a live meeting which might result in disappointment down the road.

Of course, doing this online is way more simple and enables to access way more people from different locations, but anyone who has used online dating apps would perhaps agree that a lot of people is both a good and a bad thing. Bad because nobody takes the thing seriously for that reason - it's just like communication in a marketplace vs communication with a newly met person on a couch at a party. Live dating represents the second case. Anything that takes more effort and preparation/time dedication and is more challenging is also more valued and more difficult to disregard as unimportant. That element is crucial for building a relationship (even if a casual one).

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
The live version might need additional layers of gamification to make people feel less awkward about putting themselves on the market and going to abstract lengths to find a partner. The more they can tell themselves that the point is something else, the easier it gets.

For example, a staring contest where the winner is the one who didn't start laughing gives staring a good excuse and thereby makes it feel less awkward.
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General comments

Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia3 years ago
In your own description you are referencing that words represent a very little part of what we percieve as communication. But if you think about it, eliminating words from the equation doesn't solve any problem. First of all, the tone of voice is obviously linked to talking. Also, the non-verbal communication part is very linked to the other ones, since it complements them and we subconsciously assess for congruence between the words that come out of the mouth and the expressions and movements of the body.

The idea that you propose is, in my opinion, limiting the interaction to just looks and a first, visual impression. Even if that worked, you still have to meet the person afterwards, and that person will (I hope) talk to you. Why would you go to a date with a person just because they looked fine or "interesting" and they have a nice profile without having any idea of how they communicate? Personality is way more important for "deep" attraction than looks, thus why would I want to eliminate that from my choice process? I would like to understand the reasoning a bit better.

Additionally in the system you propose, the only interaction between the two people before a date is just looking at each other through a screen for 1-2 minutes. There is no chat or anything like that. I think a lot of people are more confortable getting to know someone by chatting or calling each other before setting up a date. What do you think about that?
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
1. Low barrier to entry first evaluation. No need to come up with small talk makes a world of difference for introverts or even for people who don't like to waste time.
2. Video is more real than just browsing images. You can pick up a lot more information about the other person.
3. If two people like each other based on a silent video (shared moment), they are more likely to go on an actual date than if they just liked each other's images/profiles.

Personally, I dread talking to people on the phone. I avoid it like plague. But I have no problem meeting new people in person. I enjoy it.

Good point in your final paragraph. This makes less sense in person. But I still like the idea when done as an app. In-person, the awkwardness could be masked by playing a staring game (the one that laughs first, loses)
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
This idea was inspired by an AI-generated problem description https://twitter.com/darko/status/1428295715525177346?s=20
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