February 6, 2012
Dating In The Digital Age
According to new research, online dating has surpassed all forms of matchmaking in the U.S. other than meeting through friends.
The team said the new digital age is providing greater and more convenient access to potential dates.
Researchers analyzed reviews of over 400 psychology studies and public interest surveys of the industry that has attracted 25 million unique visitors from around the world.
"Online dating is definitely a new and much needed twist on relationships," Harry Reis, one of the five co-authors of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a press release.
"The Internet holds great promise for helping adults form healthy and supportive romantic partnerships, and those relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health."
The researchers wanted to find the ways in which online dating may result in benefiting or undermining singles.
Online dating has become the second-most-common way for couples to meet, behind meeting through friends.
The researchers said less than 1 percent of the population met partners through printed personal advertisements or other commercial intermediaries in the early 1990s. But by 2005, 37 percent of single adults who were Internet users had dated online.
They found that 22 percent of heterosexual couples and 61 percent of same-sex couples found their partners through the Web by 2007 through 2009.
A study of about 6,500 users of a major online dating site found that men viewed three times more profiles than women did, and were 40 percent more likely to initiate contact with a women after viewing her profile than a woman.
Many websites claim they use an algorithm to match up singles with partners who are compatible. However, the authors say that these claims are unsubstantiated and false.
“To date, there is no compelling evidence that any online dating matching algorithm actually works,” Eli Finkel, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at Northwestern University, said in a press release.
“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."
He said the authors found that it is unlikely their algorithms can work, even in principle, because of the limitations of sorts of matching procedures the sites use.
The team of psychologists believes existing matching algorithms neglect import insights from the science of relationships.
They said the strongest predictors in trying to find soul mates who are compatible for life lay in a couple's interaction style, and ability to navigate through stressful circumstances.
“Developers of matching algorithms have tended to focus on the information that is easy for them to assess, like similarity in personality and attitudes, rather than the information that relationship science has found to be crucial for predicting long-term relationship well-being," Finkel says.
They did say the sites were successful in rapidly helping singles meet potential partners in person. This process works faster because chats and messages people send through online dating sites may help them convey a positive initial impression.
The authors of the paper published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest say they hope their research pushes sites to build a more rigorous scientific foundation for online dating services.
“Thus far, the industry certainly does not get an A for effort,” Finkel wrote in the journal. “For years, the online dating industry has ignored actual relationship science in favor of unsubstantiated claims and buzzwords, like ℠matching algorithms,´ that merely sound scientific.”
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