Love, Lies and What They Learned
Some interesting but not surprising findings from a study of more than one million online dating profiles, conducted by Gerald A. Mendelsohn, a professor in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley.
1. 80% of people misrepresent their height and weight on their online dating profile. Women on average report that they are 8.5 pounds thinner (that’s a lot!), and men 2 pounds.
Some interesting findings on liars:
“Liars tend to use fewer first-person pronouns. Professor Toma said this is an indication of psychological distancing: “You’re feeling guilty or anxious or nervous.” Liars use more negative words like “not” and “never,” yet another way of putting up a buffer. Liars use fewer negative emotion words like “sad” and “upset,” and they write shorter online personal essays. (It’s easier not to get caught if you say less.”
Of course, you can’t really extract or judge an individual profile based on such collective studies, so it’s somewhat useless in my opinion to try to use this as a guideline.
2. People still date others who are similar to the-particularly in race.
This is somewhat obvious to me.
3. The scholars found that women have a stronger preference than men do for income over physical attributes.
Duh! We didn’t need to analyze gazillion profiles to figure this one out.
Conclusion: Online dating helps people reduce transaction cost and allows them to broaden their network. So one might expect more diversity or at least somewhat different behaviors exhibited by users when choosing a date. However, in my opinion, the fact that the user can search and browse for profile information with all kinds of information, in effect, exacerbates homophily. In the real world, whether it be at a party or a blind date set up by friends, conversations take place before one learns if a potential date smokes or makes $150K plus. She can gather more data points that can potentially open her up having follow-up meetings with the person, even though, let’s say, he is not a particular race that she is used to dating. However, in online dating, we filter and browse first by all kinds of attributes that we think are important and feel comfortable with.
I’m not claiming one is better than the other. The former can cause a lot of wasted time, but the latter can cause a lot of missed opportunities. Perhaps a balanced approach of giving enough information about the date through profiles, but not too much information that gives a reason to rule him/her out immediately would be a good compromise.