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The Science Behind Online Dating

The Science Behind Online Dating Image

We see adverts for online dating so frequently, and we may sometimes hear of “success stories”, but what is the theory behind online dating?

In 2016, the BBC reported that 91 million people are on dating websites and apps around the world. The dating industry is growing, and is reportedly worth £165m.

According to two professors, success in online dating relies heavily on user name. An overview of literature found that men were drawn to physical appearance e.g. cutie, whilst women were drawn to user names indicating intelligence e.g. cultured. This links with psychological theories around how the sexes biologically choose their “mate”. According to some theories, men are more attracted to physical appearance as it subconsciously indicates reproductive value; it relates directly back to finding a high quality mate. In contrast, women are more attracted to qualities that show dependability such as earning potential, and this links again with quality of finding a “mate” that will provide for her and future offspring. This theory focuses largely on reproduction, and whilst there is evidence to support it, it has also come under scrutiny too.

Mathematicians have even devised algorithms into online dating, or in other words a mathematical equation. Dating websites use all kinds of algorithms, and this helps them with some of their success claims. Some sites ask users as many as 400 questions to compatibly match them with a partner. Some sites even use a multitude of question types that determine relationship, friendship or enemy status.

However, these algorithms come under scrutiny from many. There is no peer reviewed evidence that they actually work. One argument is that what people identify as wanting can sometimes differ from what they actually want. They may say they want an outgoing and fun other half, however down the line a partying partner who is out all weekend may not actually be what they wanted after all. The chemistry involved in “falling in love” is a funny one, and can be attributed to why people fall in love with seemingly their opposite, or someone they never imaged to have those feelings for.

The actual concept of love is a complex one. It comes down to chemistry, and is aided by neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine combined with hormones like oestrogen and testosterone. Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of people’s brains show brain changes like increased blood flow in certain areas. Psychologists studying the reasons for us falling in love still have not come to a concrete decision as to why. It could be similarity, social influences, biology; it is likely a combination of these along with other factors. So, with the complexities of finding a “soul mate”, can this really be done based on algorithms online?

What do you think of dating algorithms? Have you had success with dating sites? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!