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How the Thrill of Novelty Can Make You More Enticing

How the Thrill of Novelty Can Make You More Enticing

When you're going out on a date, you do everything possible to make yourself more attractive.  You check your hair, pick the kale out of your teeth, wear the right clothes.  

But did you know that there is one thing you can do that will supercharge the date, and make you seem more attractive, too?  It doesn't involve a single sit-up or plucked eyebrow.  It's called The Thrill of the New.

When Was Your First Time?

Think of something that is now ordinary to you:  your apartment or house, car, TV, tablet, phone, computer.

Do you remember the day you got it?  Of course you do.  Driving home in that new car is emblazoned in your mind.  You were practically vibrating.

Do you remember day seven with that new car?  Or the third day with that new iPhone?

How about now, three years later?  While you still love that IKEA sectional you bought three years ago--it's comfortable, familiar, and soothing--your brain and emotions are no longer on fire.

What's going on here?

This Is Your Brain On "New"

Bianca C. Wittman, in a paper titled Striatal Activity Underlies Novelty-Based Choice in Humans, asserts that novelty, or newness, is a kind of reward that our brains seek (Neuron 58.6 - 2008.

Just like chocolate for our taste buds or awesome music for our ears, new things are a bonus that reward our brains by flooding it with dopamine.  

Wittman and her colleagues ran tests on volunteers in MRI machines.  These volunteers were presented with a majority of familiar images interspersed with a few new images.  The MRI machine graphically showed that parts of the volunteers' brains lit up when presented with something new.

But how does this apply to dating?

The Hunger For Novelty

Dating itself is all about newness.  It is often a departure from the old partner and an entry into new experiences with new people.

OK Cupid, one of our favorite dating sites, indicates that 51,945 people say they are seeking "New Adventures," with an even greater number--74,035--looking for "New Experiences."

Harness the power of new and make yourself more enticing by introducing novelty into your date?

One way is to take the familiar dating situation and twist it ever so slightly. 

  • Instead of meeting at a Starbucks, find a nice local dessert shop that offers afternoon tea.
  • Instead of meeting at a bar or brewpub, suggest that you meet at a local whiskey distillery for a tasting.

On later dates:

  • Instead of dinner at a restaurant, take a picnic to the park (it's cheaper, too!).
  • Instead of re-treading familiar conversational topics like work, family, and interests, go to a movie or play with the express idea of discussing it afterwards over wine (but keep the dialogue friendly!).

Whatever is normal or familiar on a date--whatever people expect to happen--subvert it by giving it a mild spin.

But Just How New Should New Be?

Hitting the right "new" sweet spot can be difficult when you do not know the person well.  What are their tolerance levels?  What is off-putting?

Be sure to avoid overly dramatic maneuvers--dumb hats, bizarre conversation, weird meeting places.  On a first date, remember, not everything needs to be "new" since everything is relatively new to both of you.  Anything that is too stage-y only calls attention to itself, and can be off-putting.

Turning Up the Dial

In later dates, once you know each other better, not only is the tolerance level for novelty greater but it has more impact.

In a similar study from 2006 in Neuron, researchers Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Duze wanted to find out if slightly new situations would stimulate the so-called novelty center of the brain, the SN/VTA.  In other words, is a dessert shop instead of a Starbuck's still considered novel?

Their findings:  no.  Only pure novelty will stimulate the brain enough to cause blood flow into the SN/VTA.

Giving familiar things "a mild spin," as mentioned above, is no longer sufficient.

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