Study Reveals Online Dating Pitfalls

(February 8, 2012) A new study has revealed that there are quite a few pitfalls to online dating, including the so called “matching algorithms” that some services use to “match compatible singles”. A team of psychological scientists conducted the study, which is being published this month in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest journal.

Interesting Points Online Dating Magazine Pulled from the Study:

- so-called “matching algorithms” do nothing. Many are even false.

- browsing through hundreds of profiles overwhelms people.

- profile browsing makes finding love comparable to shopping; desensitizing the importance of it.

- online dating has altered the dating landscape and not for the better.

- online dating makes it more difficult for people to commit to just one person.

- online dating sites use variables in matching that matchmakers traditionally ignore due to their ineffectiveness.

- news agencies often parrot claims by online dating services, thus spreading misinformation.

The study is extremely critical of media coverage of online dating, stating that news segments often become infomercials, instead of unbiased insight, for the services. The study cited the following example as one of many instances:

Good Morning America (GMA), ABC’s popular morning television program, recently featured GenePartner, a dating site that claims to match potential partners based on their DNA. As part of this segment (downloadable from GenePartner.com, 2011), GMA interviewed Tamara Brown, co-founder of GenePartner, who informed viewers that her company’s system of establishing ‘biological compatibility’ is ‘really, really accurate.’ Fortunately for her, GMA, with the ABC News logo featured prominently on the screen, was happy to spread the gospel, introducing the segment as follows: ‘Now, hard science is making it easier to find true love. A new matchmaking system uses DNA to help find your dream date, and it’s redefining what it means to be compatible.’ GMA elaborated: ‘But making that first match has always been an inexact science, kissing a few frogs, unavoidable. Until now. With the use of DNA technology, the science of online dating has become a whole lot less inexact.’ Despite a paucity of evidence that DNAbased compatibility has an important influence on romantic outcomes, GMA functioned in this instance as a crucial component of GenePartner’s public relations efforts.”

The lead author for the study was Eli Finkel, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at Northwestern University. The study spends most of its time bashing “matching algorithms” touted by various online dating services.

“To date, there is no compelling evidence that any online dating matching algorithm actually works,” says Finkel. “If dating sites want to claim that their matching algorithm is scientifically valid, they need to adhere to the standards of science, which is something they have uniformly failed to do. In fact, our report concludes that it is unlikely that their algorithms can work, even in principle, given the limitations of the sorts of matching procedures that these sites use.”

Ironically, the study comes out just before a special CNBC series called “Love @ First Byte” which explores the science of online matchmaking.

 

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