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Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process which has the purpose of encouraging eligible singles to meet large numbers of new potential partners in a very short period of time.
Usually advance registration is required for speed dating events. Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short "dates" usually lasting from three to eight minutes depending on the organization running the event. At the end of each interval, the organizer rings a bell, clinks a glass, or blows a whistle to signal the participants to move on to the next date. At the end of the event participants submit to the organizers a list of who they would like to provide their contact information to. If there is a match, contact information is forwarded to both parties. Contact information cannot be traded during the initial meeting, to reduce pressure to accept or reject a suitor to his or her face.
There are many speed dating events now in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. Requirement for each event vary with the organizer. Specific age range based on gender is a common restriction for events. Many speed dating events are targeted at particular communities. The documentary film, "Age of Love" describes a speed dating event organized for older adults. Other groups have included: LGBT people, polyamorists, Christians. Graduate student speed dating events are common.
Some feel that speed dating has some obvious advantages over most other venues for meeting people, such as bars, discotheques, etc. in that everybody is purportedly there to meet someone, they are grouped into compatible age ranges, it is time-efficient, and the structured interaction eliminates the need to introduce oneself. Unlike many bars, a speed dating event will, by necessity, be quiet enough for people to talk comfortably.
Participants can come alone without feeling out of place; alternatively it is something that women who like to go out in groups can do together.
Because the matching itself happens after the event, people do not feel pressured to select or reject each other in person. On the other hand, feedback and gratification are delayed as participants must wait a day or two for their results to come in.
The time limit ensures that a participant will not be stuck with a boorish match for very long, and prevents participants from monopolizing one another's time. On the other hand, a couple that decides they are incompatible early on will have to sit together for the duration of the round.
Most speed dating events match people at random, and participants will meet different "types" that they might not normally talk to in a club. On the other hand, the random matching precludes the various cues, such as eye contact, that people use in bars to preselect each other before chatting them up.
According to the New York Times, participants in speed dating experience an average of 2 in 10 or 3 in 10 matches. Online dating participants, in contrast, only find a compatible match with 1 in 100 or fewer of the profiles they study. As reported by the BBC in the Science of Love, it only takes between 90 seconds to 4 minutes of face-to-face interaction to determine attraction, which gives speed dating an advantage over online dating.
Some speed dating companies have now started offering free speed dating where the user does not pay unless they meet somebody they like.
In the 19th century, in what was perhaps a precursor to modern speed dating, there was a custom in some areas of the United States called New Year's Calling. The custom was that on New Year's Day many young, single women would hold an Open House (a party or reception during which a person's home is open to visitors) on 1 January where they would invite eligible bachelors, both friends and strangers, to stop by for a brief (no more than 10–15-minute) visit.
The earliest documented example of speed dating was by Aryeh (Alan) and Rena Hirsch of Los Angeles in early 1996 who developed speed dating as a solution to the problem of typical single events where "only attractive women and outgoing men have success at the end of the evening".
SpeedDating, as a single word, is a registered trademark of Aish HaTorah, who began hosting such events in 1998.
There have been several studies of the round-robin dating systems themselves, as well as studies of interpersonal attraction that are relevant to these events. Other studies found speed-dating data useful as a way to observe individual choices among random participants.
A 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania of multiple HurryDate speed dating events found that most people made their choices within the first three seconds of meeting. Furthermore, issues such as religion, previous marriages, and smoking habits were found to play much less of a role than expected.  
A 2006 study in Edinburgh, Scotland showed that 45% of the women participants in a speed-dating event and 22% of the men had come to a decision within the first 30 seconds. It also found that dialogue concerning travel resulted in more matches than dialogue about films.
In a 2012 study, researchers found that activation of specific brain regions while viewing images of opposite-sex speed dating participants was predictive of whether or not a participant would later pursue or reject the viewed participants at an actual speed dating event. Men and women made decisions in a similar manner which incorporated the physical attractiveness and likability of the viewed participants in their evaluation.
Malcolm Gladwell's book on split-second decision making, Blink, introduces two professors at Columbia University who run speed-dating events. Drs. Sheena Iyengar and Raymond Fisman found, from having the participants fill out questionnaires, that what people said they wanted in an ideal mate did not match their subconscious preferences.
Olfaction and the MHC
A 1995 study at the University of Bern showed that women appear to be attracted to the smell of men who have different MHC profiles from their own, and that oral contraceptives reversed this effect.
The MHC is a region of the human genome involved with immune function. Because parents with more diverse MHC profiles would be expected to produce offspring with stronger immune systems, dissimilar MHC may play a role in sexual selection.
A speed "date" lasting several minutes should be long enough for the MHC hypothesis to come into play, provided the participants are seated close enough together.
Olfaction and pheromones
Age and height preference
A 2006 study by Michèle Belot and Marco Francesconi into the relative effects of preference versus opportunity in mate selection showed, while concluding that opportunity was more important than preference, that a woman's age is the single most important factor determining demand by men. Although less important than it is to men, age is still a highly significant factor determining demand by women.
The same study found that a man's height had a significant impact upon his desirability, with a reduction in height causing a decrease in desirability at the rate of 5% per inch.
Studies of speed dating events generally show more selectivity among women than among men. For instance, the Penn study reported that the average man was chosen by 34% of the women and the average woman was chosen by 49% of the men. New studies suggest that the selectivity is based on which gender is seated and which is rotating. This new study showed that when men were seated and the women rotated, the men were more selective.
The popularity or charm of speed dating has led to at least one offspring: Speed Networking. A structured way of running business networking events with the goal of making meeting potential business contacts easier and more productive.
Speed networking has also been used in China as a way for business people to meet each other and to decide if they have similar business objectives and synergies. Speed networking offers participating investors and companies an opportunity to have focused private meetings with targeted groups in a compact time frame.
In popular culture
- Frasier. "Sliding Frasiers" (2000): Frasier attends a speed date, describing it as "all the stress and humiliation of a blind date, times twelve."
- Peep Show. "Jeremy's Broke" (2008): Mark goes speed dating but has little luck: "Ohhh, Saz, she implied she might be ticking. Maybe she did tick! Maybe the data wasn't collated correctly! Maybe she's my hanging chad!"
- Sex and the City. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (2000): Miranda, the lawyer, pretends to be a stewardess at the event after telling her first few "dates" that she is a successful lawyer scares them off
- Providence. "The Mating Dance" (2001): Syd goes to a "speed dating" event.
- Kath & Kim. "Gay" (2002): Kim, estranged from her husband of 2 months, goes with her friend Sharon to a speed dating event.
- Reba. "Switch" (2002) : Reba's daughter, Cheyenne, convinces her mother to try speed-dating.
- Monk. "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater" (2003): Adrian Monk tries to talk to a suspect at a speed dating event.
- Dead Like Me. "Hurry" (2004): Daisy goes speed dating to take the soul of one of the men participating.
- Gilmore Girls. "But Not as Cute as Pushkin" (2004): Featured Rory's friend Paris attempting speed dating after the death of her professor boyfriend.
- Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. "Queer Eye For The Shy Guy" (2004): a straight man is made over to attend a speed dating party.
- 60 Minutes II. "60 Minutes II" (2004): Featured speed dating in the segment called "Love in the 21st Century"
- The Vicar of Dibley. "Happy New Year" (2005): Geraldine Granger receives a ticket to a speed dating event for her 40th birthday.
- Beauty and the Geek. "Episode 204" (2006): Featured speed dating as one of the challenges faced by the "geeks".
- The Bill. "Episode 405" (2006): Yvonne Hemmingway persuades Honey Harman to go with her to a speed-dating event.
- The L Word. "Lifeline" (2006): Alice and Kit go to a speed dating event.
- Various dating game shows such as The 5th Wheel
- Psych. "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, Oops He's Dead" (2007): Shawn and Gus connect supposed "alien abductions" to a speed-dating event at a local bar, and attend undercover to solve the kidnappings.
- The Friday Night Project. "Series 5, Episode 8 – Guest Host: Rupert Everett" (2007): Justin Lee Collins and Alan Carr take Rupert Everett to a When The Music Stops speed dating event in a London bar.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. "Starved" (2005): When a speed dating service is linked to three rapes, Detective Benson goes undercover to catch the culprit.
- iCarly. "iSpeed Date" (2009): After spitting in her crush's eye, Carly becomes humiliated and tries to find a new date for a popular school dance. Sam feels for Carly's frustration, and hatches a plan to get her a date. During the webshow, Sam handcuffs Carly to a chair and duct-tapes her mouth shut while asking boys from the Seattle area to apply for Carly's date. When the gang is overwhelmed by the number of boys who show up at the meeting place (Groovy Smoothies), they set up a speed-dating session. Carly then tells Sam that she must ask Gibby to go to the dance if Carly had to go with a random iCarly fanboy. When Sam goes to invite Gibby to the dance, he surprisingly turns her down. She discovers Gibby has a girlfriend, Tasha. When Carly's pick, Austin, keeps interrupting her conversations, she reaches her breaking point, she screams "shut up" at him and then tells him to "get out of here". The episode ends when Sam returns to the Groovy Smoothie and sees Carly and Freddie dancing a slow dance. Upon seeing this, she silently leaves.
- Valentine (2000)
- Let's Be Friends (2005)
- Hitch (2005)
- The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005)
- Speed-Dating (2010)
- In the UK, the Local Government Association with the Solent Peoples Theatre developed "political speed dating" in 2004. Not a niche dating event; these are run by local councils to introduce young constituents to their representatives.
- BBC, The Science of Attraction within Speed Dating
- House. "Private Lives" (2010): House, Wilson and Chase participate in a speed dating event.
- The Only Way Is Essex. "Episode 2" (2010): Kirk becomes jealous when Amy flirts with the other male speed dating attendees.
- Jaffe, I. "Seniors Speed Date in "Age of Love" Science, 8 March 2015. https://www.npr.org/2015/03/08/391619575/seniors-speed-date-in-age-of-love
- "polyspeeddating.co.uk". Archived from the original Check
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- "christianspeeddate.com". Archived from the original Check
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- ACUI. "Creating campus community for graduate students through programs, services, and facilities". acui.org.
- "Speed-dating boom hit by shortage of men". The Independent. London. 19 January 2003. Archived from the original on 15 October 2007.
- Tierney, John (10 April 2007). "Romantic Revulsion in the New Century: Flaw-O-Matic 2.0". Findings (column). The New York Times.
- "The Science of Flirting". Science of Love. BBC. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
- "25 Speed Dating Brings 21st Century Daters Back to Reality and Finds Them Love". 25Dates.com. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
- "Speed Dating In The 19th Century". The Protojournalist (NPR). 15 December 2014.
- Diane Arieff Zaga. "Matchmaker, Matchmaker". The Jewish Journal, February 2–8, 1996.
- "HurryDate: Mate preferences in action" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine—a study done by evolutionary psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania
- "UPenn: Falling in Love in Three Minutes or Less" Archived 30 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine—press release
- "Men, you have 30 seconds to impress women"—The Scotsman 14 April 2006
- Cooper, Jeffrey C.; Dunne, Simon; Furey, Teresa; O'Doherty, John P. (2012). "Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex Mediates Rapid Evaluations Predicting the Outcome of Romantic Interactions". The Journal of Neuroscience. Society for Neuroscience. 32 (45): 15647–15656. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2558-12.2012. PMC 3513285. PMID 23136406.
- Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-17232-4. pp. 61-66
- "The Storytelling Problem (excerpt from Blink)". Nerve.com. 26 January 2005. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Psychology Today Mar/Apr 1996: The Smell of Love". Psychologytoday.com. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Are Pheromones a Secret Weapon for Dating?". ABC News. 9 December 2005. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- Can anyone be the One? Evidence on Mate Selection from Speed Dating Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine IZA Discussion paper October 2006
- Anderson, Abbey (11 November 2017). "Penn Study Finds Men Are More Likely To Receive CPR in Public than Women". www.pennmedicine.org. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- "Study Questions Whether Women Are More Selective at Dating". LiveScience.com.
- "Sex and the City". HBO.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Providence". TV.com. 17 May 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Kath & Kim". TV.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Reba". Tv.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- S.R. Dipaling (2 December 2008). ""Monk" Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater (TV Episode 2003)". IMDb.
- "Dead Like Me". TV.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Gilmore Girls". TV.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- Bravo: Queer Eye Archived 6 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- "Love in the 21st Century". Cbsnews.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "The Vicar of Dibley". TV.com. Archived from the original on 8 October 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Beauty and the Geek". TV.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- ""The Bill" 405 (TV Episode 2006)". IMDb.
- "The L Word". TV.com. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Media Information". When The Music Stops. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "LGA: Political speed dating". Localdemocracy.org.uk. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "BBC Science | Human Body & Mind | Language of Love". Bbc.co.uk. 1 October 2002. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "Speed Dating on TV | Amourlife Speed Dating". Amourlife Speed Dating. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
- "Dating Events Around The UK". Retrieved 18 March 2021.