The Economist on Online Dating Efficacy

According to a new paper from Northwestern University as discussed in The Economist’s article, “The Modern Matchmakers,” a couple of things that I’ve theorized are now backed up by research:

  • The volume of online and speed dating can make people focus too much on physical attributes rather than on what really matters in a long-term relationship.
  • The online services appear to use people’s self-declared wants to match them to potential partners.  This approach is faulty because data from speed dating show that people’s stated preferences prior to the process do not match the characteristics of those they actually choose.
So other than using the online sites as a marketplace for single people, buyers beware of any online dating service’s inflated claim that their algorithm will magically select the right people with whom you would want to share a lifetime (or for that matter, a couple of hours.)

 / 2 Comments  / in Dating, Long-term relationship


  1. Scott Bishop February 16, 2012 2:15 pm - Reply

    Selena, have you read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink? It's about our ability (and often failure) to accurately read people and situations in that early, quick first impression. Gladwell devotes part of a chapter to speed dating and shows the same thing–people state what they want in a partner, but then choose who they like in the speed dating environment with totally different criteria.

  2. March 19, 2012 2:58 pm - Reply

    Yes, I have! This highlights the reality that human beings have biases that they are not aware of, either significant or not, that impact their daily decision-making. When it comes to something as intimate (and self-serving) as what one should seek out in a long-term mate, it may be that for some people, their lack of awareness of these biases leads them to reject excellent potential mates. Thanks for your comment, Scott!

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