When preparing for a first date, there are many things to consider: conversation starters, first-date questions, what outfit to wear. But one thing to keep in mind if you want to make an impression is so simple yet often overlooked. Giving undivided attention is "the most attractive (invisible) asset on a date," explains Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D., on Psychology Today, yet so many fail to do it.
"Unfortunately, in a world of multitasking, we inadvertently display inattention, which can jeopardize relationship development," notes Patrick. "Divided attention reduces the ability to cultivate chemistry because distraction transmits disinterest." So while selective attention "is one of the most seductive aspects of romantic attraction, inattention is one of the biggest turnoffs" and, consequently, a major pitfall in dating today.
Patrick touches on speed-dating research to explain the nuances of chemistry and why attention plays such a significant roll in making a first impression. She explains that though speed dating requires individuals to make decisions quickly, research has found that participants "are able to glean enough information from these brief interactions to decide whether they would like to see the other person again—and why."
One common source of attraction that comes up in such research is "the attraction of attention." In a study titled "Selective Versus Unselective Romantic Desire," it was found that perceived unique desire prompts reciprocal unique desire. Essentially, giving undivided attention to your date will increase the chance they will feel similar feelings of interest in you.
"This research corroborates the difference in attractiveness between someone who pays equal attention to everyone, versus someone who seems to be uniquely interested in you," writes Patrick. "In the absence of obvious red flags that would indicate an ulterior motive, we are far more likely to respond to selective attention."
Whether you mean it to or not, distraction—be it your phone, your surroundings, or even failing to make eye contact because of nerves—signals disinterest. Women are shown to value selective attention from their partners more than men do, but no matter who you're dating, giving your attention on a date—especially a first date—puts your best foot forward.
Once the evening goes smoothly, see what experts say about texting after a first date.