'Online daters try to punch above their weight'

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WASHINGTON D.C:  Most of the online daters seek out partners who are more desirable than themselves, finds out a study published in the journal Science Advances. The study, based on data from a free online dating site, also reveals that while men become more desirable as they age – peaking at 50 years old – women are deemed steadily less so.

 

It states that the notion an attractive person is "out of your league" does not often affect dating hopefuls - at least online.

The analysis performed by Santa Fe Institute revealed that hierarchies of desirability or 'leagues' emerge in anonymized data from online dating networks. The good percentage of people in these dating networks contact prospects who are 25 per cent more desirable than themselves.

“There is so much folk wisdom about dating, but very little hard evidence. And that comes across in all of the sayings we have around dating, one of which is this idea that someone can be ‘out of your league’,” said Dr Elizabeth Bruch, associate professor in sociology and complex systems at the University of Michigan and co-author of the study. “This [research] was motivated by a curiosity about that statement and trying to put some kind of scientific teeth around that idea.”

The results reveal that when it came to making the first move, men and women tended to contact people with a broadly similar level of desirability to themselves, but most tried to punch above their weight by offering an opening gambit to people more desirable than themselves.

A ranking algorithm based on the number of messages a person receives and the desirability of the senders was used by the researchers to rate the users’ desirability. "Rather than relying on guesses about what people find attractive, this approach allows us to define desirability in terms of who is receiving the most attention and from whom," said Mark Newman, also from the Santa Fe Institute.The researchers applied the algorithm to data from users of a dating website in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.

Of the four cities analyzed, the notable exception was from only one, where the researchers did observe a payoff for writing longer messages. In other locations, longer messages did not appear to increase a person's chances of receiving a reply.

The study also shows that sending longer messages to more desirable prospects may not be particularly helpful, though it's a common strategy.

Among other things, the study reveals how people behave strategically during online courtship by altering the length and number of messages they send to individuals at different levels of desirability.

Because most users send the majority of their messages "up" the hierarchy - out of their league - a lot of messages go unanswered.

"I think a common complaint when people use online dating websites is they feel like they never get any replies," Bruch said.

"This can be dispiriting. But even though the response rate is low, our analysis shows that 21 per cent of people who engage in this aspirational behaviour do get replies from a mate who is out of their league, so perseverance pays off," Bruch said.

Though the study affirms that many people are making choices that align with popular stereotypes, researchers stressed that this is not a rule that holds for all individuals.

(With inputs from agencies)

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