The Scientific Flaws of Online Dating Sites - Scientific American
The Dubious Science of Online Dating For a fee, many dating sites will collect data about you, crunch the numbers and match you with. The rise of phone apps and online dating websites gives people . kind of undermines the image that critics of the new technology try to put on. Dating sites offer the lovelorn access to millions of singles just a few clicks away, plus proprietary algorithms to help narrow the field to a.
Online seekers of partners and friends rely on computer calculations of a set of hard questions.
There is little room if any for subtlety, deviance, or exploration. The questions that many of these websites use are so mind-numbingly awful "Are you happy with your life?
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Most of the time" that it cannot even be claimed to replicate real conversations. If I were asked most of the questions used to calculated compatibility on a normal date in a pub, say, I would run a mile.
And that's the point: Interpersonal relationships are being transformed into products that can be supposedly objectively measured and objectively chosen, even though such relations represent the exact opposite. The first claims that one can have love without the unexpected "Ayez l'amour sans le hasard! Love — this great irrational driver of humanity — has become an object, which people wish to be fully informed about, choose rationally, and not suffer any unexpected disappointments from.
It is, as philosopher Slavoj Zizek has noted, like caffeine-free coffee. We want to enjoy these essence-free products, but without the irrationality of consuming bad things or accepting the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of emotions and feelings. Everything that makes culture and society real, impulsive, and often erratic is stripped away in favour of rational choice-making.
We don't want to harm ourselves; we don't want suffering; we don't want hardship; we don't accept difficulty and disappointment.
This criticism can be extended of course to other forms of online communities, such as Facebook, where contact-less friendships are reduced to pokes, LOLs, and vacuous innuendos. Some critics, such as Badiou, have suggested that online dating is taking society back to a pre-modern version of arranged marriages. I would say it is worse. Society has invited the language and practice of market rationality into its midst.
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A series of studies spearheaded by our co-author Paul Eastwick has shown that people lack insight regarding which characteristics in a potential partner will inspire or undermine their attraction to him or her see herehereand here.
The straightforward solution to this problem is for online dating sites to provide singles with the profiles of only a handful of potential partners rather than the hundreds or thousands of profiles that many sites provide.
But how should dating sites limit the pool? Here we arrive at the second major weakness of online dating: These claims are not supported by any credible evidence. The first is that those very sites that tout their scientific bona fides have failed to provide a shred of evidence that would convince anybody with scientific training.
The second is that the weight of the scientific evidence suggests that the principles underlying current mathematical matching algorithms—similarity and complementarity—cannot achieve any notable level of success in fostering long-term romantic compatibility. It is not difficult to convince people unfamiliar with the scientific literature that a given person will, all else equal, be happier in a long-term relationship with a partner who is similar rather than dissimilar to them in terms of personality and values.
Nor is it difficult to convince such people that opposites attract in certain crucial ways.
Indeed, a major meta-analytic review of the literature by Matthew Montoya and colleagues in demonstrates that the principles have virtually no impact on relationship quality. Similarly, a 23,person study by Portia Dyrenforth and colleagues in demonstrates that such principles account for approximately 0.
To be sure, relationship scientists have discovered a great deal about what makes some relationships more successful than others."I Used A Dating Site Once. NEVER AGAIN" - NoSleep [X-mas Special]
For example, such scholars frequently videotape couples while the two partners discuss certain topics in their marriage, such as a recent conflict or important personal goals. Such scholars also frequently examine the impact of life circumstances, such as unemployment stress, infertility problems, a cancer diagnosis, or an attractive co-worker.
But algorithmic-matching sites exclude all such information from the algorithm because the only information those sites collect is based on individuals who have never encountered their potential partners making it impossible to know how two possible partners interact and who provide very little information relevant to their future life stresses employment stability, drug abuse history, and the like.
So the question is this: Can online dating sites predict long-term relationship success based exclusively on information provided by individuals—without accounting for how two people interact or what their likely future life stressors will be? Well, if the question is whether such sites can determine which people are likely to be poor partners for almost anybody, then the answer is probably yes.
Indeed, it appears that eHarmony excludes certain people from their dating pool, leaving money on the table in the process, presumably because the algorithm concludes that such individuals are poor relationship material.
Given the impressive state of research linking personality to relationship success, it is plausible that sites can develop an algorithm that successfully omits such individuals from the dating pool. But it is not the service that algorithmic-matching sites tend to tout about themselves.
Rather, they claim that they can use their algorithm to find somebody uniquely compatible with you—more compatible with you than with other members of your sex.