A cautionary tale about using psychology to boost your Valentine’s chances

By Christian Jarrett

As he prepared for his blind date, Kevin was determined to leave nothing to chance. For starters, his date for Valentine’s evening thought his name was Jake. You see, Kevin was a shrewd chap who’d decided he was going to use all the latest psychological science to boost his romantic chances. A recent paper showed that unfashionable names could put people off. He’d even made a name badge with Jake written in bold, and pinned it to his (carefully chosen) bright red shirt.

That was one of the easier lessons to implement. The fake scar, a long, jagged line down his right cheek, was trickier to get hold of. Of course, he was also wearing his boots with the chunky heels. He’d also been listening to Barry White tapes to help practise speaking with a more manly voice than usual. Attention to detail, that was key, Kevin kept telling himself, attention to detail. And so he slid onto his ring finger a rubber witch’s finger (he’d spotted that at the shop that sold the scar make-up) – he reasoned this should help him achieve the ideal digit-ratio.

Time was ticking, she was due to arrive soon. Kevin suppressed his nerves and pressed play on his stereo. “Je l’aime à mourir” by French songwriter Francis Cabrel filled his apartment – this was the very song they’d used in another pertinent research paper he’d read. “Ha! The lyrics are perfect,” Kevin thought to himself as he implemented another of his strategies, leaning near the front door a coffin he’d borrowed from a theatrical friend.

Oh dear, you can’t control everything … Kevin cursed his rumbling stomach – was it the nerves or his recent (carefully selected) vegetable-only diet? Kevin wasn’t sure. “Never-mind, nearly there,” he thought as he pulled on his Porsche cap and pinned an RSPCA badge to his lapel. Now, fingers crossed his neighbour and her friend would do their part just as he’d asked.

Lisa, a French student at the local university, climbed the stairs, nervously excited about the evening that lay ahead. A mutual friend had said that Jake was interested in psychology, which sounded promising. Lisa knocked gently on the deceptively normal-looking apartment door. To this day, she will never forget what happened next.

The door opened revealing a tall man, a livid scar running down his face, a baseball cap atop his head. This was obviously Jake – a badge on his bright shirt said as much. The words “I love her to death” (in French) blasted out from the apartment’s interior. Over the man’s shoulder Lisa could see a large, cardboard coffin leaning against the wall. Suddenly two young women burst forth from the neighbouring apartment. They drew nearer and began gazing at the man silently, big smiles on their faces. Awkwardness hung in the air.

“Hi, erm, I’m Lisa,” Lisa managed to mutter, just about controlling her urge to run. “Hi, I’m Lisa,” the man echoed her words with a gravelly voice and a nervous chuckle. “Please come in,” he said, reaching out and touching her on the arm, a wrinkly witch’s finger protruding from his hand.

Lisa turned and ran, and ran.

If this hasn’t put you off, here’s a list of evidence-based Valentine’s advice I put together earlier.

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

4 thoughts on “A cautionary tale about using psychology to boost your Valentine’s chances”

  1. AWESOME! My favorite part was probably the creepy mimicry attempt! I posted a link to this article on my blog, in today's post. Thanks for the entertainment 🙂

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