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It is a form of courtship, consisting of social activities done by the couple, either alone or with others.The protocols and practices of dating, and the terms used to describe it, vary considerably from country to country and over time.Dating may also involve two or more people who have already decided that they share romantic or sexual feelings toward each other.These people will have dates on a regular basis, and they may or may not be having sexual relations.These species-particular behavior patterns provide a context for aspects of human reproduction, including dating.However, one particularity of the human species is that pair bonds are often formed without necessarily having the intention of reproduction.Humans have been compared to other species in terms of sexual behavior.Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky constructed a reproductive spectrum with opposite poles being tournament species, in which males compete fiercely for reproductive privileges with females, and pair bond arrangements, in which a male and female will bond for life.

In the twentieth century, dating was sometimes seen as a precursor to marriage but it could also be considered as an end-in-itself, that is, an informal social activity akin to friendship.This period of courtship is sometimes seen as a precursor to engagement.Dating as an institution is a relatively recent phenomenon which has mainly emerged in the last few centuries.Historically, marriages in most societies were arranged by parents and older relatives with the goal not being love but legacy and "economic stability and political alliances", according to anthropologists.Accordingly, there was little need for a temporary trial period such as dating before a permanent community-recognized union was formed between a man and a woman.