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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > Energetic Compatibility Study

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

 



Outcomes from the Energetic Compatibility Study
Part 1

Sad but true... compatibility matchmaking tests offered in the online dating world are often not backed by any legitimate, scientific research1,2,4,5. In fact, online daters themselves even question the veracity and usefulness of compatibility testing3. As a result, many insiders to the online dating industry call for matching systems to be tested so that the claims of companies offering compatibility systems can be checked against their marketing claims. My team has led this charge.

Recently, my team had the opportunity to learn about a new matching service called MatchMatrix (www.MatchMatrix.com) -- which claims to pair people based on a concept called “energetic compatibility.” The energetic pattern defined by MatchMatrix is described as being sourced in the life-force. The life-force is experienced physically are as hot/cold and pain/pleasure, etc. According to MatchMatrix, the energetic pattern reflects the emotional side of the life-force. That pattern is said to be fixed at birth and is synonymous with being identified as a human being. How two patterns merge and share similarities is said to determine the quality of platonic or romantic relationships. This idea was proposed thirty years ago when the system’s developer Dick Nelson is said to have discovered that he could identify specific characteristics that consistently showed up when two patterns were merged in a relationship. MatchMatrix calculates “energetic compatibility” based on the birth dates of two people. That said, the company insists that its matching method is not based on numerology, astrology, biorhythms or traditional personality testing.

I can't speak to the reality of any life-force, but my team was able to test some of the information that the MatchMatrix provides to users. Keep reading to learn more about this new study…

What was the purpose of the study?
The purpose was to test whether the Matchmatrix method made conclusions about couples that could be independently verified using a standardized relationship questionnaire.

Social scientists conceptualize compatibility in terms of the interplay of at least two types of love: Erotic Love — love closely associated with sexual desire for a partner; and Companionate Love — which represents friendship-type platonic love towards a partner6. Typically, these aspects of love are measured and tested by administering one or more standardized questionnaires to members of romantic couples and / or control individuals.

MatchMatrix compares a couple’s birth dates, and it generates two high-level estimates pertaining to the potential of the relationship -- a Friendship index and a Lovers index. Thus, the information given to users does speak to the two core components noted above. However, the exact mathematical algorithm used to compare two birth dates is proprietary and was not provided for our scrutiny. Therefore, we had to approach the MatchMatrix method as an oracle, in other words, its predictions are treated as coming from a black box about which nothing else is known other than its inputs (two birth dates) and outputs (the two compatibility indices). A strong and positive statistical correlation between the MatchMatrix indices and an independent relationship questionnaire would provide preliminary evidence for the validity of the MatchMatrix method.

Who participated?
We gathered people using snowball sampling and an “open-invitation” method. Snowball sampling is a recruitment technique whereby existing respondents to a questionnaire help recruit future respondents. An “open-ended” invitation refers to a public invitation to participate in a study that is emailed or posted across the Internet using a combination of press releases, distribution lists and postings on appropriate websites and chat rooms. Accordingly, respondents of wide diversity had the opportunity to participate. The final sample was heavily skewed, with 78 women and only 11 men (89 people total). The average age of respondents was 50.6 years old. The respondents said that they were currently in a serious (committed) relationship.

What did the participants do?
We used an online survey to collect data. This survey asked basic demographic questions and presented a 42-item questionnaire called the Relationship Success Scale. My team developed this questionnaire specifically for this research. It measures eight core relationship issues: Activity Level, Communication, Energy Drain, Friendships, Humor, Misunderstandings, Sex and Overall Satisfaction. This is a highly reliable and valid tool to measure how compatibility and satisfaction a person feels in his or her romantic relationship. You will see an academic journal article about this new questionnaire in the near future.

What were the results?
Based on all of the respondents, the scores on the Relationship Success Scale showed only very small, positive correlations with the MatchMatrix Friendship and Lovers ratings. These correlations were headed in the right direction, but they were not statistically meaningful. This motivated us to examine the influence of “Length of Relationship” on these statistics given that the stability of the relationships may have influenced the results. Indeed, it did. Positive and moderately strong correlations were found specifically for relationships of less than two years. However, negative correlations of low magnitude and non-significance were found for relationships of two years or more. In other words, the MatchMatrix method applied to our research sample predicted the quality of a relationship rather well for couples in relatively new relationships. Yet, it didn’t predict the quality of a relationship well when couples had been together two years or more. Check out the next installment when I’ll discuss the possible meaning of all of these results.

 


References:

1Houran, J. (2004). Ethics in cross-cultural compatibility testing in Europe: an opportunity for industry growth. Paper presented at the Internet Dating / Online Social Networking Industry Association Inaugural Meeting, Nice, France, July 15-16.

2Houran, J. (2009). Science friction: compatibility testing present and future. Paper presented at the Internet Dating / Online Social Networking Industry Association Meeting, Los Beverly Hills, California, June 27-29.

3Houran, J., & Lange, R. (2004). Expectations of finding a ‘soul mate’ with online dating. North American Journal of Psychology, 6, 297-308.

4Houran, J., Lange, R., Rentfrow, P. J., & Bruckner, K. H. (2004). Do online matchmaking tests work? An assessment of preliminary evidence for a publicized ‘predictive model of marital success.’ North American Journal of Psychology, 6, 507-526.

5King, A., Austin-Oden, D., & Lohr, J.M., (2009). Browsing for love in all the wrong places? Skeptic Magazine, 15, 48-55.

6Masuda, M. (2003). Meta-analysis of love scales: Do various love scales measure the same psychological constructs? Japanese Psychological Research, 45, 25-37.

Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.


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