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AS A PSYCHOLOGIST, I have always found the concept of speed dating fascinating.

During a series of mini dates, each spanning no more than a couple of minutes, participants in a speed-dating event evaluate a succession of eligible singles.

These rules of thumb are evolutionarily adaptive, however, and not necessarily a bad thing.

Millions of years of experimentation with different heuristics, conducted in a range of environments, have led us to learn which ones are most effective.

Speed dating, by comparison, offers the opportunity to chat up many eligible singles in rapid succession.

In a typical speed-dating event, participants pair off at individual tables and chairs for a few minutes of conversation.

Yet we need not be passive victims of our circumstances.

Knowing how your environment influences your mind-set, a quality known as ecological rationality, can help you make the choices that are best for you.

Last year online coupon company Groupon hosted the world’s largest speed-dating event, with 414 attendees crammed into a restaurant in Chicago.

Prior research by Lenton and Francesconi provides some insight into why people might struggle with speed dating.

They found that when the number of participants in a speed-dating event increases, people lean more heavily on innate guidelines, known as heuristics, in their decision making.

It sounds simple, but each variable in the design of the event can affect the daters’ outcomes.

In spite of maxims about so many fish in the sea, for example, recent research tells us that the heart prefers a smaller pond.

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