Do Online Dating Matching Algorithms Work?

Large websites specializing in online dating provide matching algorithms based on compatibility of traits in profiles. But do these algorithms really work?

The problem with online dating matching algorithms

A recent research made an attempt to decipher mechanisms of romantic desire and whether it can be predicted by computers.

The result: Current machine technologies are unable to foretell attraction based on a list of self-reported traits, with any viable degree of dependability.

The study led by psychologist Samantha Joel from the University of Utah gave a verdict: “Compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet”.

The work was published in Psychological Science in August 2017.

At the same, time computer algorithms were able to pinpoint who would be hot and not, in other words, the extent of desirability of a person among potential candidates.

But the answer to the main question, whether two particular people will be drawn to each other, appeared to be elusive for the machine intellect.

The process used over 100 self-reported characteristics, much in the way people list their traits in dating profiles, by filling in a questionnaire that researchers compiled. The list of criteria in questionnaires was designed by the scientists based on what they considered as relevant in search for a mate.

In a follow up event, participants met each candidate of the opposite gender at a speed dating situation and then indicated whom they liked. Using the latest machine-learning algorithms, researchers attempted to predict compatibility, guided only by matching of the attributes they collected. And they failed.

Based on that, scientists decided it’s not possible at the present moment to match people using computerized algorithms.

Paul Eastwick, a co-author of the research, who is an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology of the University of California, thinks that we may never be able to calculate attraction, “because it is simply not predictable”.

Can computers predict attraction in dating?

The results of this research were picked by multiple mainstream media outlets, quickly pronouncing that “online dating doesn’t work”. Which is not actually what the study found.

  • What the research discovered was that self-reported characteristics via a questionnaire were not enough for a reliable computer matching—in the case of this particular questionnaire designed by this group of academics.
  • The actual algorithms used by dating sites were not considered or analysed.

Maybe science indeed has a long way to go to unravel the intricacies of the matching process, but dating algorithms are doing a perfect job screening out unsuitable candidates.

  • For example, someone who doesn’t want to have kids in a marriage, while for you it’s absolutely essential.
  • Or not showing you listings of smokers, because you don’t want a woman who smokes.

During a speed dating event with only a few minutes available for a talk, you probably would not even find out these things about your interlocutor.

Another issue is the physical type that a person finds attractive. In their romantic pursuits, people tend to gravitate to men or women who look a certain way.

4 steps of the actual online dating matching process

The process of actual matching differs in speed dating and connecting via a website for singles.

  1. While computer algorithms cannot reliably predict attraction, software is able to remove unsuitable options and match lifestyle compatibility, values and relationship goals, providing a set of perspective candidates.
  2. The next stage is based on an individual taste and chemistry. In other words, you probably need to see the picture of the person before you can reliably say whether you like the way they look or not.
  3. If this checkpoint is passed, then there is a much greater probability that talking to a person through a computer screen (Skype, Viber, Whatsapp) will result in a positive outcome.
  4. And finally, the personal meeting confirms attraction.

Scientists in the abovementioned research jumped from step 1 to step 4, which didn’t give them the results they hoped for.

The stage of visual evaluation (step 2) and computer-based video communication (step 3), which are part of online dating, were not actually present.

So, it seems premature to pronounce online dating unfeasible. The matching process works, if properly followed through.

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