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Published: 2022-09-28

Umeå alumnus receives alternative Nobel Prize for research on blind dates

NEWS Every year, the Ig Nobel Prize is awarded to research that will make you laugh first and think later. In 2022, Daniel Lindh, an alumnus of the bachelor’s programme in cognitive science at Umeå University, and his colleagues, were awarded the satirical prize for their research on how to measure attraction during dates.

Text: Elin Andersson

The name of the award is a satirical take on the Nobel Prize, which it parodies, and on the word ignoble ("not noble").

“It feels incredibly satisfying,” says Daniel Lindh. “Nobody expects to win the Ig Nobel prize, but it has resulted in a great amount of press and PR for the lab, and that's just great.”

Daniel Lindh studied in the bachelor's programme in cognitive science from 2010 to 2013. After his studies, he has worked as a teacher and PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, and he now works at Quin, an e-health company in Amsterdam.
“I have lots of memories from my studies, where I also met one of my best friends,” says Daniel Lindh. “Mostly how incredibly fun it was with the wide range of courses, the wonderful teachers and all the lovely people involved with the programme. We also had our own cognitive science lab where we spent a lot of time.”

The surprising part of our study was how bad people are at guessing whether their dating partner likes them or not. Everyone was at the chance level.

Daniel Lindh and his colleagues have been awarded the 2022 Ig Nobel Prize in Applied Cardiology for their study titled "Physiological synchrony is associated with attraction in a blind date setting." In the study, the researchers found evidence that if two people go on a first date and feel attracted to each other, their heartbeats synchronize. He describes more about the study in detail:

“It is a study of social decision-making and was based on the fact that people who are familiar with each other often tend to imitate each other's gestures and language. A lab in Leiden in the Netherlands was interested in what physiological signals can predict attraction between people, and in the past, they have shown that synchronisation of pupil size seems to lead to more trust between people. Our research team measured all sorts of externally visible signals, such as laughter, smiles, glances, etc., and through them we could not predict any attraction on a first date. However, we could see that if people on a date synchronised signals they had less control over, such as heartbeat and galvanic skin response (a kind of sweating), it predicted attraction.”
Already after a few courses in the first year of the bachelor's programme in cognitive science, Daniel Lindh had decided that he wanted to be a researcher. And so, he adapted his education accordingly:
“I decided to study programming courses during the summer, and I chose all my electives to develop my technical skills. I think that's more important than specialising in specific research topics at the beginning. Many of our teachers at Umeå University were researchers themselves, which was very inspiring for me. I then did my master's in Amsterdam and after that my PhD studies in Amsterdam and Birmingham. For this award-winning study, I did a lot of the analysis work. I also collected the data, wrote parts of the paper and helped convince reviewers. I think we had 36 pages of extra analysis and responses to reviewers before they were satisfied.”
So what can all date seekers take away from Daniel Lindh's research findings? Well, maybe that you can't judge your partner's feelings as well as you think.
“As a matter of fact, the surprising part of our study was how bad people are at guessing whether their dating partner likes them or not,” explains Daniel Lindh. “Everyone was at the chance level, which was also true for neutral observers who were shown recordings of the dates afterwards. We are incredibly good at hiding our intentions, but apparently not good enough to fool our electrocardiogram!”

Read the entire study published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour 

About the Ig Nobel Prize

The Ig Nobel Prize is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to honor ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. Its aim is to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think."

Organized by the scientific humor magazine, Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), the Ig Nobel Prizes are presented by Nobel laureates in a ceremony at the Sanders Theater, Harvard University, and are followed by the winners' public lectures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

List of 2022 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Sources: Wikipedia, improbable.com