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Of that first group, 94 participants had a first date, and completed the full survey, which included measures drawn from the literature on relationships and online dating. In addition, they collected the emails study participants sent prior to meeting and carefully coded the content into thematic units.
This is the first such study to look at how dating evolves over time during the transition from online to in-person dating, and future work from this group will look at factors beyond the first in-person date. The data, drawn directly from online conversation, included 1) expressed similarity, 2) frequency of disclosure, and 3) information seeking, and they rated the communication volume based on the amount of words in the emails. First of all, they found that most participants were disappointed after the first date, as indicated by having less attraction after meeting than during online engagement.
It appears that, in general, people who ask more before the first date have a better experience than those who wait until they meet to find out important information, possibly because they are less likely to be disillusioned.
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For this study, the researchers measured 1) "anticipated future interaction", 2) "change in attraction" (from online dating to after the first date), 3) "perceived similarity" (a well-known predictor of attraction), and 4) "uncertainty" (about the other person, e.g. Furthermore, first date success was predicted by perceived similarity, expressed similarity, lower uncertainty, and greater information seeking.
Importantly, all other factors being equal, greater communication overall, and greater disclosure, predicted first date success.
It's easy to play up similarity and downplay differences—and it's understandable that some people looking for companionship tend to quickly develop a crush when someone seems to "get them" right away.
Indeed, Sharabi and Caughlin found that, contrary to their expectations, the greater the similarity, the better.
Meeting online was the third most common way of meeting, after introduction by friends, and close behind meeting randomly in public settings (bars, restaurants, parties, etc.).