During InScience festival, scientists from Leiden University conduct a dating experiment in the Mariënburg chapel, called 'Feel the beat'. They measure people's physical reactions during a blind date and see if it's possible to measure if people feel attracted to each other. Vox editor Jozien Wijkhuijs applied and had to stare a stranger in the eyes for two full minutes.
When I walk into the tent where the dating experiment takes place, the researchers immediately tell me I am being too noisy. The boy who is supposed to be my blind date, is not allowed to hear me yell that I think this is all very uncomfortable, because that can influence the research results. Whispering, one of the researchers sticks electrodes on my stomach, under my collarbone and on two of my fingers. These are supposed to measure my heartbeat and skin reactions. I also get a pair of glasses, that will keep track of my eye movement. After that, I am placed in front of some rolling shutters and she leaves me. My arm is placed in an unnatural position and I cannot imagine that the glasses do a lot of good for my appearance. Compared with this, a normal date seems easy.
‘I give him a 6 on average’
I hear my date shuffle in, for a while, we are both staring at the shutters. After that, it opens for ten seconds, after which it closes again. I have to rate on a scale of 1 to 8 how funny, attractive, intelligent and loyal I think the boy in front of me is. I give him a 6 on average. The part that comes next is the hardest: stare in each other eyes for two minutes, without saying anything. While my eyes shoot to all sides and I try not to get a dumb grin on my face, he looks back at me calmly. He seems to be in his early twenties, and he is slouching in his chair. He seems to be completely comfortable with the situations. Meanwhile, I am coming to the realisation that you never have to look someone in the eye for two full minutes and I am pretty sure I am never going to do it again.
Two minutes of talking
When the shutters close again, I am very relieved, and the scores I fill in are a lot more positive. Eventually, we also have to talk for two minutes. We mostly talk about what it is like to stare at each other in silence, and after that about where we come from. Then, the shutters close again.
My eventual scores are average, but when I am asked whether I want to exchange contact information, I circle the word ‘no’. The researchers tell me that the eventual results will also be shared with me, after they have compared my physical reactions to my scoring forms. While I walk away, I decide to study the results very well, once they arrive. That way, during my next ‘real’ date, I have science on my side.
You can still visit film festival InScience today and Sunday.