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Why You Can’t Find Your ‘Perfect Match’ With Online Dating

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Why You Can’t Find Your ‘Perfect Match’ With Online Dating

Online dating sites and apps have given us instant access to a vast array of potential partners. We come across a photo, swipe right, match, exchange a few giddy messages, and plan our first date. We meet up in person and the date falls flat; the virtual chemistry we had did not translate to real life.

Researchers at the University of Utah say it’s not our fault — there is no “magic formula” to predict romantic attraction between two strangers online.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found it’s possible to predict the overall likelihood that someone will be liked by others, but not which two people could be a “perfect match.” In other words, algorithms used in online dating cannot anticipate how much two people will desire each other. Although two people may be a match online, this doesn’t mean they will be a match in real life.

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“Attraction for a particular person may be difficult or impossible to predict before two people have actually met,” said Samantha Joel, lead author of the study and a University of Utah psychology professor, in a statement.

Joel and her colleagues collected data from two samples of speed daters who filled out questionnaires on more than 100 traits and preferences and then met in a series of four-minute dates. The participants were then asked to rate their interactions, and indicate their level of interest in, and sexual attraction to, each date they had. Following, Joel and her colleagues used a machine learning algorithm to determine whether it was possible to predict individual romantic desire based on the participants’ questionnaire responses and before they met their dates.

“I thought that out of more than 100 predictors, we would be able to predict at least some portion of the variance. I didn’t expect we would find zero,” she said.
Joel and her colleagues concluded online dating sites do help daters by narrowing the field and identify potential romantic partners, but it still doesn’t replace the process of meeting someone in real life to see how you feel about them.

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Users can enter information on these sites in hopes of reaching the perfect match, but no formula exists yet to make this possible. The act of meeting someone in person can be hard and anxiety provoking, but online dating is not “an easy fix for finding love,” according to Joel.