To call or not to call, that is the question.


Imagine you had a pleasant date and hope to see that person again. Should you call? – Let’s look at it from the economist’s perspective.

A phone call is an effort, an investment with a risk attached like all investments: you might earn the reward of a delighted reaction and indeed, a repeat encounter. Or you might experience various degrees of failure: lack of interest, a cold reception, or worst, a clear signal of refusal. Weighing the reward against the risk, you may think that on balance it’s not worth it.

This is because we tend to over-value losses compared to wins. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky showed in a Nobel Prize winning study that people perceive loss of a certain object as hurting more strongly than the joy coming from winning that same object. The loss or gain is objectively the same, but the human psyche values it differently according to the original situation. Human beings have a tendency to stick to the status quo, and deviations, whether up or down, always have a cost. This discounts gains a bit, and adds to losses. In the context of weighing the risks and benefits of calling a date, this means that most people (if not all) tend to judge them somewhat too pessimistically on balance.

Therefore, our first recommendation: unless you are sure of a refusal, take the risk of calling. The pain of refusal is usually less than imagined. Here, being confident is usually more realistic.

Let’s look at what people actually do. Two large-scale surveys have asked women and men about their calling habits and any successes after dates the dating agency ‘Just Lunch’ asked 38,912 singles, and surveyed 5,000 daters. Here is what they found. Women seem to line with Kahneman and friends: 49% of them never call or expect the man to call first. 20% call two days later, while 15% call the next day. On the other hand, dating men are more courageous: 45% of them say they call the next day, 32% call two days later, and 14% call three days later.

That’s 91% of men calling after a date, wow. Most dating men seem to have overcome the deceptions of loss aversion, congratulations. A small catch with these survey answers is that they leave out those who never or very rarely date. Those who actually have a date to ponder about are potentially a more courageous lot than the non-dating. Anyway, as a bottom line, the figure is quite encouraging.

What about follow-up dates after calling? With such a high calling rate of men, it doesn’t surprise that those who don’t call within 24h rarely arrange for a follow-up date: only 1 in 8.

Therefore, our second recommendation: as a woman, don’t waste too much hope on the chaps that don’t even text within the first 24h, or 48h max. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket and keep dating other people.