Focus on Research

February 14, 2014 10:56 am

In romance follow your head not your heart, say professors

When it comes to romance, first impressions really do count, it seems. But snap judgements cannot replace in-depth study, according to the latest business school research.

Dan Cable, professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School and Jennifer Carson Marr, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Georgia Tech, argue that those who want to find true love should take a few tips from the world of the job interview.

There are two schools of thought, says Prof Cable, on whether snap judgements – “consensus at zero acquaintance” as the jargon goes – or practised questioning give the best results in assessing those you have just met. So the two professors decided they would try to find the definitive answer to which is most effective in the long term.

To do this they conducted research with experienced interviewers, such as those who interview prospective business school students. Though their research focuses on the interview room, it can just as easily apply to a chance Valentine’s Day meeting, says Prof Cable.

The professors’ conclusions are bad news for romantics: that first snap judgement – or love at first sight – is helpful, but a more considered approach will lead to stronger long-term relationships.

“If you want to find the right match you are better coming up with a series of diagnostic questions,” says Prof Cable. It is not quite as clinical as it initially sounds, he adds. “You don’t have to gather the data and put it in a spreadsheet.”

As an example he points out that if you are a film buff and you are looking for a long-term relationship, it is probably a good idea to ask at the outset whether your prospective partner shares these interests, regardless of how attractive they may at first appear.

But at the end of the day the message is clear, says Prof Cable. “When it comes to love follow your head, not your heart.”

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