Are you single and unhappy? There are thousands of potential partners on dating websites. Still, finding the right one online can be tricky. How do you improve your chances? Should we leave the search for true love to computers?
Dating with a jury
Would you let a stranger decide the fate of your love life? Researchers from Indiana University (US) made short films during speed dating sessions. These are evenings where singles have short encounters with other singles in the hope of finding the right partner.
They showed the videos to outsiders and had them judge whether there was a romantic spark during such a conversation between two singles. The test persons predicted right in 61% of the male singles as opposed to 58% of the female candidates.
This difference is because the female speed daters hide their feelings longer so that they have more time to think about their choice, say researchers. There is more at stake for females when making a choice of the right partner. When judging the films, it didn’t seem to matter whether the video was 10, 20 or 30 seconds long. The number of correct predictions increased when the videos were shown at the end of the speed date meeting.
Are you a male with a deep voice, a symmetrical face or a relatively long ring finger? Then you probably have a very a high testosterone level. Researchers at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) wanted to know if men with these traits were indeed found to be more attractive to women. They asked women to indicate how attractive the men were after seeing their photographs, smelling their body odour and hearing an audio fragment of their voice. Guess what? Men were found to be more attractive if their ring finger was longer than their index finger. The women did not find any body odour specifically attractive. Also, not all attractive men had a deep voice. Symmetrical faces were found to be attractive. Want to take the test? Measure your index finger and your ring finger. Divide the first number by the second. The lower the number the more attractive you are.
Best to forget the ideal image of your partner
Hooray for dating sites. The internet as a meeting place for singles is on the rise. A decade ago, the world wide web hardly played a role in bringing couples together. Today, there are thousands of sites where your perfect partner could be waiting for you. Why is it so popular? Imagine the scene: suppose you see someone in the bar. You will have to approach that person and dish out a perfect one-liner. After a while, you realise that she is not all you expected her to be or she might already be spoken for. This will cost you about half an hour, maybe even an hour. You could be a lot more efficient on a dating site where there are single people who are also looking for a relationship. Also, from the photo and profile information, you can decide if someone appeals to you. You will quickly realise if this is your knight in shining armour or just wrapped in tin foil. It’s still a gamble, but can new technologies help us find the perfect match?
• Find an equal
“People are bad at judging who they find attractive,” explains Pieternel Dijkstra, a psychologist at the Rijks University of Groningen (NL). She did a lot of research about the partner choices of people. “Everyone has got an ideal picture in their head. They think about stuff such as: she has to be blonde and smart. However, in reality, most people don’t end up with somebody who fits their ideal picture.” With this ‘shopping list’ in mind we make our first selection on a dating site. According to Dijkstra, brunettes are the first to go as well as women with lots of spelling mistakes in their profile text. Also, you could have selected too many people. So, it’s best to get this ideal image out of your head if you are looking for true love. Dijkstra thinks that we often underestimate the power of attraction. “When sparks fly, then a list makes no difference. But what is the secret formula behind the attraction? It all depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for an adventure, a one-night-stand, then the attraction is mainly physical.” Dijkstra adds: “Daters who are looking for a serious relationship also lean towards looking at those criteria. Then you might find somebody who will entertain you for a few nights. Other than that, it is a lottery. You would have to be lucky to find someone who you get on with for a long time. To increase your chances, it would be best to look for someone who resembles your personality.”
• Dating with films
Some websites help you find a similar personality by making you take a psychological test. Your answers are compared to those of others to see if there is a match. Dijkstra adds: “However, many of these tests are useless. It is not scientifically proven that they say anything about the success rate for long-term relationships, although these sites would claim that. It is better to look at someone’s preferences and to judge which of them you find important.” How do you unravel someone’s character online? For starters, there would have to be plenty of emails between you and your partner, not to mention the Facebook likes and pokes. However, this is not how it should be done, according to Roos Vonk, a professor of social psychology at Radboud University in Nijmegen (NL). “Try to meet as quickly as possible, because only then will you know if there is a spark.”
Vonk also sees another possibility for finding the perfect match. He believes that it would make a big difference if everybody uploaded a video instead of photographs. We know from research that you get a much better impression of someone when you see them moving. You will also be able to read someone’s body language and hear their voice. Dijkstra can also see the use in dating sites that do more than just show photos and a profile text. A good example would be where people make a notice board with all sorts of activities they enjoy. This could work because it gives you a better image of someone. Of course, you would expect people to mainly add fun things on such a notice board.
• DNA decides match
Love is no coincidence. That is the motto of online matchmaking site Genepartner. com. The developers designed a ‘match machine’ in 2008 whereby they can determine from your DNA who fits together. They based this on Swiss research from 1995. Then, women had to smell T-shirts worn by men and indicate which one they were sexually attracted to. They liked the smell of a man with an immune system that differed as much as possible from their own. Every human has different gene compositions that make up our immune system. This keeps diseases away, but every person differs to the degree in which we are resistant against various diseases. The smell research suggested that we fall for someone with a combination of genes that form an extensive immune system. Genepartner. com analyses your DNA and searches for another DNA profile with an immune system that is very different from yours. How reliable is it? Researchers have their doubts. The biggest objection is that Genepartner only looks at a small portion of our DNA. A lot more research will still have to be done. Sergio Baranzini, a neurologist at the University of California in San Francisco, writes in online magazine Medill Reports: “Genepartner. com is intriguing, but only for fun. They are simplifying something that is actually very complicated.”
• We like ourselves
Are there other matchmaking technologies available? Apart from likeness in character and preferences, people also seem to prefer it when their faces resemble each other. There are different explanations for that. British psychologist David Perrett wrote about it in his book, In Your Face: The New Science of Human Attraction (2010). According to him, we look for a partner who is just as handsome (or ugly) as ourselves. People with a symmetrical face are often found to be pretty, and the other way around. This principle is applied on the ‘flirtwall’ on Soul2Match.com, a website that went live in 2011. Click on the photo of someone who appeals to you and you will see straight away if your faces resemble each other. Co-founder Linda van Liempt explains: “We scan faces with the same software that the FBI uses at airports to trace terrorists. Two faces are compared with each other on 60 points. If the relationship between those points is similar, you will have a high match.”
• Is it all just a gimmick?
Is face-matching a scientific technology to get people together? There is no hard scientific evidence that it works. Still society wants to take research to a new level to show that two people can find true love in a scientifically responsible way. Until such a time, the technology is seen as a fun gimmick on dating sites. There is no objection as long as websites emphasise the fun factor. Roos Vonk agrees. “The problem is that people might put too much emphasis on it. The most important question should be: which person gives me a good feeling? This will give you much more information than ticking off a wish list. Who knows? Mr Right could be somebody who does not fulfil a single one of your requirements,” he concludes.