What are good things to talk about on a first date?

Dear Economist,
it’s all very well identifying women you could be interested in. The problem is when you managed to get to the first step, i.e. the first date. What to do next? What are good things to talk about on a first date?
Sincerely, Nithin

Dear Nithin,excellent question. What you want are themes that give you valuable information about your date, but are not boring or scare her away. What does that mean? You actually want to ask questions that are easy maybe even fun to answer, yet relevant and substantial.

Economists have called this ‘ascertaining full information about easily researchable traits’. In a 1970 paper in the American Economic Review, Dale Mortensen suggested that relationship decisions are best taken by concentrating efforts on ‘easily researchable traits’, like education, intelligence, physical appearance, and family background. It’s better to spend much dating dialogue on these topics, rather than fuzzier ones, like for example ambition, resilience under pressure and potential for growth. How do you want to pin these down anyway?

Whatever you ask, finding out things is difficult (economists would say ‘costly’) so you need to think about where to spend your effort. You don’t want to spend it on stuff that’s a pain to see clearly about. In other words, stick to the easy and transparent stuff, stay away from the murky. If not you’ll spend much time and effort and be none the wiser.

Best of luck, and do check back in.

Dr De Bergerac

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