THERE'S A WAR out there. In the bars, clubs and even on office floors, Hong Kong's singles are waging war against each other in the hope of securing the prize: a mate. Or at least a date. Experts in love say it's never been so hard to find a partner, and if we're to believe them, it means that in the modern world you can't just sit back and wait for Cupid's arrow to strike. Cynthia Chan Kar-man, general manager of Hong Kong dating agency Whirlwinddates, says it can be harder to find a partner here because people have high expectations. 'They're well-educated with good backgrounds and they want their partner to be better than them,' she says. 'They have larger circles of friends, they meet different people from different backgrounds and think, 'Maybe I can find a better partner rather than someone just like me'.' So, singles have to use tactics to secure that mate, says Raj Persaud, a psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in London. The author of Simply Irresistible: The Psychology of Seduction (Bantam Press), he used dating strategies when he went undercover as a single for a televised speed-dating experiment. All the women he met said they'd like to meet him again. These days, the science of attraction has become a serious area of research. So, here are some lab-tested tips to help you find a date for Valentine's Day. Eyes wide open The eyes are the windows to the soul and your heart. Researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London, found that eye contact with an attractive face instantly lights up the brain's ventral striatum, the area that's activated in anticipation of a reward. Research on flirting has shown that a woman will avert her gaze if a man makes eye contact. However, if she looks up again within 45 seconds, she's interested. So set your stop-watch. Smile Researchers have proved that a smile is one of the best weapons in both sexes' seduction armoury. Monica Moore, a psychologist at Webster University in St Louis, found that a smile was twice as likely to get a man to come over and talk to a woman than a short darting glance; four times more likely than flicking hair; and five times more reliable than accidentally brushing up against him. Get friends to smile at you A team at the Face Research Laboratory at Aberdeen University found that a woman is more likely to find a man more attractive if she catches other women smiling at him. The team, led by Ben Jones, proved this by showing women pictures of men, first with women looking neutral, and then with women smiling at them. Jones said this was possibly because the qualities women find attractive - health, willingness to invest in childrearing - weren't always visible. 'So, women will copy the mate preference of other women on the assumption that the other woman might know something she doesn't,' he says. Use your body To some, body language comes naturally and you may find that you lean forward, maintain eye contact, turn your body towards your intended prey, and even mimic some movements without even realising it. If you feel you need some help on this, check out First Impression (Hodder Mobius) by Anne Demarais and Valerie White, or How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You (McGraw Hill) by Leil Lowndes. Make a good first impression In a new encounter, everything you do and say is used by the other person to form an opinion of what you're like. Psychologists Demarais and White say the secret of making a good first impression is to shift the focus from 'how you feel' to 'how you make that other person feel about themselves'. Leave them feeling good and they'll want more of your company. Listen attentively, ask questions, show interest, use their name, flatter - and keep that eye contact. Mimic your prey Research has shown you're more likely to be successful if you choose a mate with similar facial features to your own. One theory is that this is all because after a lifetime of looking in the mirror and seeing our family around us, we develop a preference for what's familiar. Another is that you stand more chance of success with someone who scores a similar score on the attractiveness scale. Move first - and fast! He who hesitates is lost, says Lowndes. In her book How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You, the communications expert recommends a four-step strategy for men to move in. First, make that important eye contact and hold it a little longer than normal. Second, flash a smile. Third, if they look back in 45 seconds, give them a gentle nod. Fourth, move close enough to talk. Lowdnes advises women not to worry about seeming too forward in making the first move, as research has also shown that the male ego will rewrite history, so he'll believe he made the first move. Be agreeable ... eventually Persaud says people who agree with everything their date says are considered more attractive than those who disagree. But those who switch from disagreeing to agreeing with their partner during the date are considered to be the most attractive. Choose your venue Go somewhere smoky and dimly lit and your chances of attracting the opposite sex increase, say researchers in clinical optometry at the University of Manchester. The team, commissioned by eyecare firm Bausch & Lomb PureVision, assessed the so-called beer goggles effect - the theory that alcohol makes the less attractive seem more attractive, the more you drink. They found that the goggles effect also depended on other factors such as the distance between the two people, how badly lit or smoky a room was, and the eyesight of the beholder. The beer goggles effect was tested by Glasgow University, which claimed that students found members of the opposite sex 25 per cent more attractive after consuming alcohol. The researchers say the phenomenon is caused by alcohol stimulating the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain that's used to determine facial attractiveness. Don't try too hard Know when to give up the tactics. Persaud says that trying to make small talk with someone who would rather be left alone is just as poor a social skill as not being able to make small talk at all. Toby Jones of Hong Kong dating agency wheresmydate.com.hk also warns against trying too hard. 'There's a level of being proactive and a level of being overly active,' he says. 'If someone's getting to the stage where they're doing speed-dating once a week, and constantly running out, meeting one or two people a week, then there's a danger they become a serial dater. 'You have to decide your own level of how much you want to do. I always laugh at the books. They can be great if they give someone confidence in themselves. But the danger is you can have a library of books on how to find the right person and still be single at the end of it.'