Smooth Operating: A Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) Perspective on Initial Romantic Encounters
Social Psychological and Personality Science
Published: August 3, 2010
The present report used the comprehensive structural analysis of social behavior (SASB) observational coding scheme to examine which behaviors differentiate smooth from awkward initial romantic encounters.
Participants on speed-dates rated as smooth (by independent observers) behaved more warmly and were more other-focused than participants on awkward dates.
In addition, participants on smooth dates tended to avoid extremes on the autonomy dimension, exhibiting neither strong independence from nor strong interdependence with their speed-dating partners.
Furthermore, the manner in which participants were self-focused (but not other-focused) reliably differentiated smooth from awkward dates;
that is, date smoothness strongly predicted how participants reacted to their speed-dating partners (type of self-focus) but only weakly predicted how participants acted toward their speed-dating partners (type of other-focus).
Finally, the authors note SASB’s potential to serve as an overarching framework that explains why some interactions go well and others do not.
Indeed, smoothness is perhaps the central component of communication quality, and it correlates highly with conversational satisfaction and attraction to one’s interaction partner.
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/ ... 10SPPS.pdf
For example, warm people tend to have initial interactions of higher self- and observer-rated quality.
Furthermore, expressions of warmth tend to elicit warmth from interaction partners in turn, and such affiliative cues lead interaction partners to want to meet again in the future.
On the other-focused circumplex, participants had significantly more active love codes on the smooth dates.
An active love code is a warm, partner-focused statement that communicates no attempt to either control or emancipate the partner; in the speed-dating context, flirting is a prototypical active love behavior.
Participants also had significantly fewer ignore codes on the smooth dates.
An ignore code is a statement that indicates an active refusal to respond to the partner, often with a cool indifference.
Thus, in terms of how participants acted toward their speed-dating partners, dates were smoother to the extent that participants made warm gestures that were intermediate on the autonomy dimension and did not actively neglect their partners.
Intriguingly, most of the significant differences emerged for the self-focused circumplex, where all but one of the codes significantly differed between the smooth and awkward dates.
Participants had fewer separate codes on smooth dates; these codes indicate an attempt to create distance between the self and the partner by asserting one’s autonomy.
Participants had more disclose codes on smooth dates, which indicate a warm attempt to connect with the other person by sharing personal information, as well as more reactive love codes, which are exceptionally warm responses that indicate that the participant is enjoying the interaction (e.g., laughter).
Interestingly, participants had fewer trust codes on the smooth dates relative to the awkward dates.
Although trust codes are typically associated with positive interpersonal outcomes, trust codes in this first date situation often indicated that the participant felt vulnerable and was relying on the partner to carry the date.
Similarly, participants had fewer submit codes on the smooth dates, which frequently indicated that the participant was apathetically going along with the conversation.
Finally, participants had fewer wall-off codes on the smooth dates, a code that indicates that the participant is coolly withdrawing, tuning out, or shutting down.
Regarding the three main dimensions of the SASB model, participants on smooth dates (as rated by independent coders) tended to be warmer and more other-focused than participants on awkward dates.
Dates were smoother when participants maintained an intermediate amount of independence versus interdependence with their interaction partners.
The behaviors that mattered most in determining a date’s quality were not those that characterized how participants acted toward their speed-dating partners but rather the behaviors that characterized how participants reacted to their speed-dating partners.
This finding is somewhat counterintuitive, as one might assume that the key ingredient for making a good impression is focusing on an interaction partner properly—grab his or her attention, use the right pickup line, and ask provocative questions.
The present data suggest that how one reacts to the partner is perhaps even more important for achieving good romantic outcomes.
Do you express yourself without boldly asserting your independence from your interaction partner?
Do you react warmly without relying on the partner to maintain the flow of the date?
Do you maintain an active role in the conversation and avoid withdrawing or tuning out?
According to the present data, these would be some of the most important prescriptions for those who wish to have a smooth first date.
A second limitation of this research is that it did not identify the source of the differences between the smooth and awkward dates.
That is, why did participants on some dates exhibit active love (i.e., flirt) with each other, whereas participants on other dates separated from each other?
Was it because the speed-daters possessed skills or personality traits that caused them to engage in more of these particular behaviors, or was it because the mixture of two speed-daters’ personalities happened to produce a smooth or awkward blend?
Given that componential analyses typically find that healthy amounts of variance are attributable to both person-level and relationship-level variables in initial interactions, it is likely that both explanations have some validity.