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In the world of online dating, men and women are looking to find someone a little out of their league, according to a new study. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, shed new light on the patterns and priorities of men and women when playing the online dating game.
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Researchers have long tried to pin down the behaviors that drive people to choose particular romantic partners. Couples, married or not, tend to have similar ages, educations, levels of attractiveness and a host of other characteristics. On the other hand, it could mean that people try to find slightly more attractive mates — which in the same pattern as the most desirable partners pair off, followed by the next most desirable, and so on.
Online dating offers a solution, because you can see who first contacts whom, and whether the recipient responds to that initial message.
So for this paper, the scientists used anonymized data from an unnamed dating site for nearlyusers across four U. Rather than gauge individual attractiveness or desirability themselves, the scientists relied on the site users to do the rankings: Users were ranked as more desirable depending on how many first messages they received, and depending on how desirable the senders themselves were. The most popular person in their data set was a year-old woman in New York who received 1, messages, or about one message every half hour.
Then, to make their calculations, they essentially placed all the users on a scale of 0 to 1. Did these users simply think they were more desirable than they actually were?
Or did they know that they were seeking out relatively more attractive mates? To find out, the scientists analyzed the messages they sent, picking up on some clear patterns.
Men, however, did the opposite: They sent less positively worded messages to more desirable women. In all four cities, men had slightly lower reply rates from women when they wrote more positively worded messages.
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Bruch said one of her graduate students is developing an explanation for why this strategy seems to work. Seattle is also a market where straight men may have to work harder to find a date, the researchers pointed out.
It seems that people do seek out more desirable partners — but that desirability is closely calibrated to their own attractiveness. As it turns out, aspirational message-sending does work — not all the time, and less often when the desirability gap is bigger. Bruch also pointed to other research indicating that, essentially, people are at their most superficial in the earliest stages of when they meet, and begin to value other characteristics as they get to know each other.
Perhaps studying the of follow-up messages, or the contents of the replies, could start to shed more light on that dynamic, said Bruch. In the meantime, Bruch said the findings from Seattle — where men wrote longer messages and were also rewarded for it, in contrast to New York, Boston and Chicago — has inspired her to look deeper into the differences in dating experiences between different cities.
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