Impression rating via speed-dating: How a single communication event can alter perceptions of another individual

Andrew Clayton Dix

Abstract

The central purpose of this experiment is to scientifically test whether interpersonal communication influences individual perceptions in a dating environment. This study uses interaction appearance theory (IAT) as an empirical foundation for understanding the relationship between communicative outcomes and personal opinions. According to IAT, cognitive impressions of aesthetic appearance are highly fluid and vulnerable to the results of multiple social interactions (Albada, Knapp, & Theune, 2002). While most empirical investigations have provided additional support for this theory, no studies have tested whether IAT applies to various other social constructs. As such, this investigation was designed to address this gap in the literature as it explores the variables of physical attractiveness, intelligence, attitudinal similarity, and background similarity within an attraction-relevant atmosphere. A total of 104 undergraduate students at a large southeastern university engaged in speed-dating in order to ascertain if individual perceptions changed from pre-test to post-test. Study participants were recruited via numerous channels that included but were not limited to campus advertisements, class visits, and the student newspaper. Upon arrival, participants completed a 19-item blended scale that was created by the principal investigator. Next, study participants socially interacted with multiple opposite-sex speed-daters for a time period of three minutes per person. Before departure, the same 19- item blended scale was re-administered to all study participants. The collected data was then subjected to a series of statistical tests that included reliability analyses and 2 x 2 x 2 mixed factorial ANOVAs. Four central conclusions were drawn based on the evidence that emerged from the proposed hypotheses and research questions. First, interpersonal communication can be strategically used by females to increase their level of physical attractiveness. Second, a positive social interaction can make another person appear more intelligent. Third, perceptions of attitudinal similarity are influenced by a mere 180 seconds of communicative behavior. Fourth, the interaction appearance theory of communication can be applied to a single social interaction as well as to multiple other dependent and independent variables. When taken together, these results advance our practical understanding of both interpersonal attraction as well as cognitive processes.