Scientific journals might not be the first place you’d think to look for tips on how to turn up the romance this Valentine’s Day, but we’ve mined tons of research—all in the name of bringing you some study-backed ideas for how to boost the connection you feel with your date this February 14.
1. End on a high note
The end of an experience matters more than you might think: Experiments on colonoscopies compared the experience of 30 minutes of unpleasantness to 30 minutes of unpleasantness with an additional five minutes of slightly less discomfort tacked onto the end. Perhaps counter intuitively, people actually preferred the latter.
It just goes to show that we judge our experiences based on its final moments. Think about a special way you could end your date, whether it’s by giving your partner a gift you’ve gotten for them or by treating them to their favorite dessert.
2. Make the conversation meaningful
Whether you’re on an early date or you’ve been married for decades, we form far richer connections by asking probing questions—yet we tend to spend the majority of our time on small talk or logistics.
So how can you make the conversation meaningful? Dan ran a study with MIT students and found that most online dating messaging involved exchanging resume-type information, such as people’s hometowns or majors. This is understandable since revealing anything of meaning about yourself and being vulnerable can be scary.
In another version of the test, students were given 20 questions and told that they must ask each other only questions on the list. Since the questions were along the lines of, “What’s your most interesting sexual fantasy?” and “What’s your greatest fear?” everybody enjoyed the dates more.
So this Valentine’s Day, focus on asking your date more probing questions than, “Did you do the grocery shopping yet?”
3. Show you’ve put effort into the night
Research from Mike Norton found that people value something more when they see the effort that goes into it. That’s why we like when Kayak tells us each airline it’s searching on our behalf.
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Granted, only you see all the details of the work you’ve put into your relationship. So be more like Kayak by letting your partner know about the things you’ve done for the relationship and to make Valentine’s Day special. It’s not about lying or exaggerating; it’s about making your efforts apparent so your loved one can appreciate them more.
Logan Ury leads a behavioral economics research lab at Google. She started the popular “Talks at a Google: Modern Romance” series, in which she interviews dating and relationship experts such as Dan Savage, Esther Perel and Sherry Turkle.
Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University and a New York Times bestselling author.