RNDP 5: Smiling at Strangers

In 2006, 29-year-old Alice Brome found the nerve to ask out a man that smiled at her in a restaurant and in doing so, she discovered a new dating paradigm: "I don’t have to wait to be asked I can go after the man I want directly."

On their date, she found that "he was insipidly narcissistic and just plain boring". Showing that she is a true pioneer of science, she continued with her new paradigm and asked out two more strangers. In one case, the man was married and declined. With the other, she reported having two fun dates, a third date planned and being at "that point of either becoming friends or moving on to something a little more serious."

Sadly, I can find no further reports from Ms Brome. Those of you who are pessimists may conclude that something terrible occurred on the third date. I prefer to think that our intrepid researcher found herself in love and chose to protect the privacy of her new partner by not writing about the relationship.

4d Analysis: Brome's new paradigm has one element that explicitly differentiates it from her old paradigm: She is asking out men rather than waiting for a man to ask her out. What is not so clear is whether her old paradigm included going on dates with complete strangers. Whether it did or not, her new paradigm clearly allows it. In this paradigm:

  1. She is explicitly choosing the men because she likes the way they look[1] and they smile in a way that implies they like the way she looks too; and
  2. She may be unconsciously or implicitly relying on the location where she encounters these men for an assurance that they are in an appropriate socio-economic group for her and will have personality and character traits that appeal to her.[2]

Her anecdotal report suffers from the main problem with research in this field: the small non-random sample makes it impossible for us to draw general conclusions. However, it does demonstrate that while her paradigm can result in a boring date, it can also result in a fun date.

This leads to a formula I have developed for assessing the Expected Value of a Date (EVD) for someone using this paradigm:

EVD= Pb × Ab + Pf × Af


  • Pb = the probability of winding up on a boring date
  • Pf = the probability of the date being fun = (1 - Pb)
  • Ab = the subjective measurement of how awful the boring date would be
  • Af = the subjective measurement of how fun a fun date would be (in units that are inverse and proportional to the units of Ab)
These variables will change depending on the individuals involved, but I think you'll see that we can use some general norms to arrive at a basic assessment for the paradigm.

Let's assume that the date will be boring if the man has narcissist personality disorder, Asperger's syndrome, or is an accountant.

Narcissists: 1% of the population have NPD, but perhaps 75% of those with NPD are men. So lets say 1.25% of men have NPD. [Wikipedia]

Asperger's: It's hard to get a handle on the prevalence of Asperger's, let's go with a high estimate of 0.4%. [Wikipedia again]

Accountants: It's danged hard to find out how many accountants there are in Canada. At least I couldn't find out in the five minutes I spent looking. But I found out how many Canadians were employed in "Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing" and in "Professional, scientific and technical services" in 2007: 1,060,400 + 1,136,900 out of 16,866,400 employed = 13%. [Statscan]

Making the unlikely assumption that there is no overlap in these groups, we arrive at a total of 14.7% for Pb and a corresponding 85.3% for Pf or that it will be a fun date.

Now, how bad is a boring date? Let's set an evening at home watching CSI and Law and Order as 1 fun unit (Fu) while an evening at home with nothing on but reruns is 0 Fu. Can we say that a boring date is -1 Fu? And the average fun date is 2 Fu?

If so we get:

EVD = 14.7% × -1 Fu + 85.3% × 2 = 1.56 Fu

This means that a woman who uses Brome's paradigm regularly can expect over the long run to have evenings that are noticeably better than watching new episodes of CSI and Law and Order.

This is an important finding, but the quest must continue because we have not yet settled whether fun should be a focus of dating and we don't know the likelihood that dates with smiling attractive strangers will lead to deeper relationships.


[1] We should not assume that Ms Brome is shallow. Liking someone's looks can go well beyond appreciating their high cheekbones and low waist-to-hip ratio. It is also about noticing whether they have kind smiles for their friends and the serving staff, how often they laugh instead of frown, whether they have an artful sense of style or a lack of vanity, and much, much more.

[2] This is why Aggie avoids Big Crab's Daddy Shack.


Woodsy said...

I wish I had read this before today, so that I would have understood why a beautiful young woman wearing an elegant silk hijab smiled at me on the bus last night... she even batted her pretty dark eye-lashes at me... I thought she was just another wood sprite acknowledging my presence...

Jo Stockton said...

The last time I was recovering from a break up and starting to date I made a decision to just ask out anyone who I thought was good looking. It made for lots of fun evenings, only some of which ended in football-watching, shoelace-untangling disaster.

I fully support the asking out of men by women.