How to get the person of your dreams – with a little help from science

Luke McGuinness

Online Science & Tech Editor

Love is, rather unromantically, little more than a complex biological process, drawing from fields including evolutionary biology and neuroscience, and involving substances such as oxytocin, the chemical responsible for many of the experiences associated with love. With this in mind, three ways of using science to (maybe) increase your chances in the dating game were rounded up:

1) Maths is sec(c)

For those of you who have decided to seek out the perfect person through the use of online dating sites, the sciences of behaviour and statistics are here to help. According to Dr Hannah Fry from University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, you are actually better off to have a picture on you online profile that doesn’t hide your natural flaws, those things you think will put people off contacting you.

This is because, as she explains in her TED talk titled the “Mathematics of Love”, the more you divide the vote on how attractive people think you are, the better a chance people contacting you think they have. In contrast, if everyone thinks you are incredibly good looking, less people will put in the effort to join the perceived mass of potential lovers vying for your attention. In short, Photoshop is not your friend in this case!

Additionally, for those who can relate to the title of this section, perhaps you could take after Peter Backus of the University of Warwick. Back in 2010, he modified the Drake Equation, the equation that estimates the number of highly evolved civilizations that might exist in our Galaxy, to calculate how many potential girlfriends there were for him in the United Kingdom. Titling his paper “Why I don’t have a girlfriend”, he came up with the surprisingly low number of 26, meaning that his chance of meeting one of these women on a night out was only 100 times greater than finding an alien civilization with which we can communicate. Ironically though, Backus got married last year, so there is hope for us all yet.

2) Hey baby, what’s your blood type?

Not so much a Western world phenomenon, but a belief widely held in Japan states that your blood type determines your personality. The belief is so strongly held that a Minister in Japan resigned in 2011 following remarks that were deemed to be insensitive and hurtful. In an address made following his resignation, he blamed his blood type for the outburst, as type B’s are thought to be selfish and individualistic according to popular belief.

By extension, it is thought that your blood type can indicate which other blood types you would be most compatible with in terms of relationship potential. Similar to star signs, there are a number of dating sites based solely on your blood type. is one such site, promising “Type to type, we get it right.” The site also offers home blood testing kits, in case potential clients don’t know their blood type. So just be aware that, if Tinder just isn’t cutting it for you, and if quasi-science is your thing, there are always alternatives.

3) You had me at “Hello”

For those of you not ready to go online just yet, fear not, science can still help you. There has been a surprising amount of research done into why we bother with pickup lines at all, and which lines in particular are likely to increase our chances of getting accepted. In 1986, Chris Kleinke conducted two studies, the first asking respondents to rate lines for men approaching women, and the second for women approaching men. They found that innocuous lines are the best bet for men approaching women, in order to avoid coming across too strongly, and to protect the ego in case of rejection. Women have it slightly harder, needing to use direct lines to ensure that the man gets the message that they are interested in meeting them, but not so direct that they are wrongly thought to be overly promiscuous.

As for particular opening lines, the best rated for approaching women were innocuous with “Hi” and “Hi, my name is… ” ranking highest, with 60% and 59% of respondents respectively labelling them as excellent. As for things to steer clear of, “I’m easy, are you?” was scored as terrible by 83% of respondents, while “You remind me of a someone I used to date” did similarly poorly. Admittedly, things might be a little different now as the study was conducted almost 30 years ago, but some things never change – “Is that really your hair?” was rated as terrible by 89%.

Finally, a more recent experiment conducted in 2010 again looked at different ways for men to approach a woman. This study found that cute-flippant and humorous lines still ranked quite poorly, but it also included an extra category – third party introduction, something along the lines of “Róisín, this is my friend Ronan.” This category performed best out of all, demonstrating that the age old position of wingman has a basis in scientific fact.

Ilustration: Natalie Duda