Can dating sites really predict who you'll find sexually attractive?

A new study explores whether computers can accurately predict whether two people will be attracted to each other before they meet in real life

05 September 2017 - 12:03 By AFP Relaxnews
Online dating couple. File photo.
Online dating couple. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Although dating websites might claim they can predict attraction between two people, and as much as we might want them to be right, a new study suggests that unraveling the mystery of real-life attraction cannot be done by a computer.

Led by Samantha Joel from the University of Utah, the study set out to see if a computer could predict attraction before real-life meetings, including who we will desire online, who will be desirable to others online, and how much desire and attraction there will be between two specific people.

The team used data from two samples of speed daters who filled out questionnaires about more than 100 traits and preferences before meeting each other in a series of four-minute dates.

Afterwards participants were asked to rate each interaction and the level of interest and sexual attraction they felt toward each each person they met.

The researchers then used a cutting-edge machine learning algorithm to see if it was possible to predict attraction between two people based on their questionnaire responses, and before the individuals met.

However, although they were able to predict the overall tendency for someone to like and also to be liked by others, they could not predict which two particular people would be a match.

Joel acknowledged that for many of us entering information on a computer to find out who your soulmate is an appealing idea, "Dating can be hard and anxiety provoking and there's a market there for a short cut. What if you didn't have to kiss all the frogs? What if you could skip to the part where you click with someone?"

However she added that, "Our data suggests that, at least with the tools we currently have available, there isn't an easy fix for finding love."

Although she noted that dating sites can be a useful tool for finding love, by allowing you to narrow your search and identify potential partners using their online information, she added that, "They don't let you bypass the process of having to physically meet someone to find out how you feel about them."

Co-author Paul W. Eastwick of the University of California, Davis also noted that, "It may be that we never figure it out, that it is a property we can never get at because it is simply not predictable."

"Romantic desire may well be more like an earthquake, involving a dynamic and chaos-like process, than a chemical reaction involving the right combination of traits and preferences."

The research can be found published online in the journal Psychological Science.

The findings will also be presented by Prof Joel at TEDxSaltLakeCity on September 9 at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus.

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