The Sciences

When choosing a mate, you can't beat up-close chemistry

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My latest article in The Austin Statesman is now available online. It begins:

You would expect that with the virtual world at our fingertips, it should be relatively easy to locate an ideally suited partner. Yet in reality, the Internet has made navigating the dating landscape more challenging than ever. As I spent the past two years composing "The Science of Kissing," I learned a great deal about what attracts two people together. It turns out that real chemistry involves many nonverbal signals that are impossible to detect when searching for love from behind a laptop. Sure, there are obvious online benefits: The singles pool is no longer limited to one town or community, so those looking for a partner can literally shop through thousands of profiles as easily as looking for holiday gifts. In mere seconds, a long list of available men or women can be presented for consideration, a feat that might make even Genghis Khan jealous. Securing a date this way is a quick and efficient dip into a boundless sea — where there are always other fish. Through an ever-growing number of website services, users gain insight into each other's "personalities" long before they ever have a real conversation, exchange a single e-mail, or send a virtual "wink." Prospective "dates" can be sorted by income, body type or any specified parameter — assuming the information they submit is accurate. Those who don't fit your prescribed set of standards conveniently disappear before they even cross your screen so there's no need to waste an evening on an awkward, star-crossed first date. What could possibly be better, faster, or a more reliable indicator of shared values and interests? Science suggests it's an old-fashioned, traditional encounter.

Read on...

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