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RS89 - Online Dating

Release date: June 16, 2013

Looking for love online? You're not alone -- one in five new relationships nowadays begin on a dating site. But just how scientific are the "matching algorithms" sites like eHarmony and OKCupid use? What does cognitive psychology tell us about how this new choice context affects our happiness? Massimo and Julia turn an analytical eye on the math and science of online dating, in this episode of Rationally Speaking.

Julia's pick: "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed"

Massimo's pick: "Do different kinds of alcohol get you different kinds of drunk?"

Reader Comments (11)

RS89 Online Dating episode will not play.

June 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael


June 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChance

This was a very enjoyable podcast! I loved it. Very interesting. Thank you both!

June 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Race preferences are what I'd expect. White men prefer white women as well as Asian women. Asian women prefer white men, and black men prefer white women. Consequently, black women and Asian men have a harder time attracting their own race.

Accepting mixed-race marriage doesn't mean you must be open to it yourself, any more than accepting same-sex marriage means you must be open to it yourself.

June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMax

If you assume that everyone understates their age by, say, 3 years, and that everyone knows this and compensates by adding 3 years to the age on the profile, then you figure that being honest about your age will actually make people think you're 3 years older than you really are. So telling the truth creates a false impression.
Now apply this reasoning to contract underbidding.

June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMax

Great discussion, one comment on the interpretation of the research that Julia commented on regarding the study of Car sales and satisfaction.
Is it not true that when an individual is asked to chose a car after quantifiable criteria that are collected and rated by someone else they are much less likely to experience dissonance when they are faced with evidence that indicates that the car is less than perfect than an individual that chooses car from gut feeling, for example? (excuse the overly long sentence :) ) My thought here is that people are able to handle criticism easier if they can redirect it towards others, but I'm finding trouble connecting to the original discussion you were having about people choosing quantitative aspects to look for in others.
My gut tells me that the two are about different things.. the car study is about dissonance, the dating study is about not selecting the correct things to look for in a partner, but my gut has been wrong before, like about that cake which my gut told me would make me feel nice.

June 18, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersnoozer

A few thoughts on the racial preferences:

Firstly, I'm not quite sure how you are getting a higher degree of racism among females than males. Yes women are overall far less likely to respond to ANYONE than males, but the variation between rates of women responding to different races doesn't seem any greater than that of men. If anything it seems the men are more racist (if you average the range between most and least preferred race in each column, it's over twice as high for men as for women; this also holds out using some rough (since I don't have raw data) statistics. Overall it seems like the women are pro-white men and have a smaller variations among other races while men are hugely anti-black women (and a couple others specific to certain races of men) with even smaller variations between other races, but really it seems women are only more racist if by "racist" you mean less likely to respond to anyone.

This (as well as the higher likelihood of black women responding and lower likelihood of white men responding) can probably be explained by having a greater (or lesser for black women) number of messages to choose from (with women v men I'm basing this on what I know of dating sights tending to have an overabundance of males; with black women and white men I'm extrapolating that a lower response rate from a certain group is correlated with a lower likelihood of an initial message from that group,

The difference between people saying interracial marriage is ok and they themselves not being interested in other races may not be all racism per se but rather a general preference for someone who looks like yourself. Even within a race it has been shown that people tend to be most interested in people that have more physical characteristics (ear shape, eye placement, cheeckbone height, jawline, etc.) in common with them, so, considering that race usually correlates with many, if not all, of these things in addition to things like skin color, it's not surprising many people who have no problem with interracial relationships are not as attracted to people of other races. In addition, race and culture also tend to correlate, so people may use race as a shortcut for finding someone with a similar culture.

Also, if I were single I would probably prefer to date someone with the same religion, political views, age range, education level, etc. as myself, but I would also not say marriage between people differing between any of those things is a bad idea. I think when you ask someone if interracial marriage is a bad idea, they are picturing a dating couple that has found that they have enough in common to want to get married and they happen to be of different races whereas if you ask them if they prefer to date someone of their own race they are thinking of themselves as a single person trying to find someone with whom they share enough in common to want to continue spending time with while not knowing anything about a hypothetical person other than their race, and so they are using race as a shortcut to assume other, more cultural, things in common. While I would answer a very strong no to both questions, they make me think about two completely different situations. So while some of this effect is probably residual racism (it's ok for other people but not for me), they way the questions are worded and overall physical attraction are huge confounding factors.

June 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeljopy

But doesn't that really depend on one's social circle?

Unless one's social circle is really diverse across race specifically, it seems, unlikely that the answer regarding whether one would prefer to have an inter-racial marriage would be 'yes'. If of course others are doing it, it is assumed that they have some other significant bond to overcome the race barrier.

The questions just seems a bit awkwardly worded. If the question was presented to me as it were, my answer at best would be the one which is basically 'no comment'. After all this is a completely hypothetical person in question, and unless it is all other factors being equal, except race/ethnicity, it is too easy to just take a shortcut.

June 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterW.Ho
The "racist" data, where there is a moderate preference for dating within ones own race, is a result predicted by J.P. Rushtons theory of "genetic similarity", when choosing mates.
In general, most of the statistical data patterns gathered from dating sites is predicted by the current theories in evolutionary psychology and sociobiology. For instance, men prefering younger more fertile women, with a certain hip to waist ratio. Women prefering high status high income men with certain masculine physical features.

I think Massimo is commiting a fallacy when he labels people having a within race mate preference as racists. At least if we understand racism as a choice of outlook on life, within the realm of preferences and ethics. and not as a psychopathology(which is what certain strands of critical theory do). Our sexual preferences are not a choice, but are to a large extent hardwired into us, or alternatively primed into us from early age. If we have Little choice on this matter regarding sexual preferences, and racism is a choice, then it makes Little sense to label the within race daters as racists.
As others have noted, it is not obvious that a tolerance for cross racial dating in society would entail that one would be morally commited to practice this personally.
The racism label needs to be used far more cautiously if its original meaning is to be preserved.
March 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJannik
Favoring a particular race for a mate does not necessarily indicate racism, but rather just a personal preference similar to a specific taste in food, wine, music, or art.

I love the "carpet bombing" dating strategy analogy!

Women should definitely exercise.
January 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
I believe interracial dating is great for both parties. Your mind can grow as well as your spirit. When it comes to love, everything else is just details! For any woman/man out there interested in interracial dating, can help!
January 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSid

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