5 Proven Subliminal Tricks to Try on a Date

Cutting-edge research about the cool, small things we can do when we first meet someone to make us come off as more awesome.

woman with her shirt half off touching man's chest
(Image credit: Goldmund)

The other week, I talked a bit about ways we might be able to work some magic on the subconscious minds of a date — by doing activities (like going on a roller-coaster ride or seeing a scary movie) that would arouse him, physically, and likely lead him to associate that physical arousal with YOU.

But it occurred to me, after the fact, that some of those things might be kinda hard to do. Like: Where are most of us gonna find a roller coaster, just like that — not to mention a dude who'd be willing to go on one?

So, I talked to another expert on the subconscious mind: Ruud Custers, a psychology professor at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. (Who also appears to be a hottie, BTW.) And I asked him if he could give us some tips that might be a little easier to carry out. What can we do on a conventional date — like grabbing coffee or drinks — that would help increase the likelihood that our dates will like us?

1. Reach out and touch.

The psychological magic: Being touched by someone, even briefly and unintentionally, increases liking for the person.

How to apply it: Briefly and even seemingly accidentally touching your date may help. You don't have to come right out and give him a hug. In fact, I'd advise against that. But when he says something you enthusiastically agree with, try touching him briefly on the hand or shoulder and saying, "I know!" Or if he says something you think is completely nuts, give his elbow the quickest squeeze and say, "No way!"

2. Get the dude to hold a hot cup of joe.

The psychological magic: According to Ruud, research has shown that when you get someone to hold a cup of coffee, he will see you as a warmer person — whereas the opposite is true for anyone holding a cold drink. A warm room also has the same effect. As he puts it: "If the environment is hot, he is more likely to think that you are hot." Part of the magic seems to be, simply, that when we have a certain word in our heads — like "hot" or "warm" — we begin to associate that word with the new person we're with. (Sound crazy? Keep reading.)

How to apply it: If your date gives you the option of sitting in a bar's outdoor garden, rather than in the climate-controlled indoor Arctic, take him up on it. If you go out for coffee and he orders an iced mocha, mention how wonderful it feels, in the blasting air-conditioning, to wrap your fingers around your warm latte — and invite him to try it himself.

3. Be smooth. (Or soft. Or fluffy.)

The psychological magic: A very recent study published in the journal Science found that when participants were asked to work together to assemble puzzles, they would say that cooperating with their partners went less smoothly if their puzzle pieces were covered with sanding paper. See? It's that crazy word-association stuff again.

How to apply it: Avoid dive bars with beat-up tables and uncomfy chairs. Go to a place where everything feels good. Wear something that's pleasant to touch — like a feathery hairpiece or (when the weather cools down) a velveteen jacket — and invite your date to cop an appropriate feel when he compliments you on the item. Although, it's possible just the sight of something soft and fluffy — something that is literally "feel-good" — will cause him to form positive associations with you: I have a shirt that has a feather neck and even though it's wildly out of fashion, I never fail to get a number of compliments from men whenever I wear it.

4. Imitate him.

The psychological magic: Studies have shown that we like people more if they subtly mimic us, according to Ruud. One example: A study out of Raboud University, in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, found that waitresses who simply repeated the orders of their customers back to them received larger tips.

How to apply it: When he says something particularly interesting or complex, repeat it back to him — and say, "Is that right?" Or repeat it and then say, "Hmm. I hadn't thought of that before."

5. Make sure he's in a place full of things he likes.

The psychological magic: Ruud just finished a study about how if we are in a place (like a bar) in which there is a stimulant (like a jazz quartet) that another person finds pleasurable, he will come to associate the pleasure of that stimulant with the people around him. "If the thought of you becomes associated with things he finds rewarding, that will increase the chance that he will call you, simply because thinking of you will activate reward centers in his brain," says Ruud.