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Online dating: Can an algorithm really match you with your dream date?

A new research questioned whether data and algorithm can predict attraction between two people who have never met. Here’s what they found.

sex and relationships Updated: Aug 31, 2017 17:30 IST
Asian News International, Washington DC
Online dating,Dating app,Right swipe
It is possible to predict the overall tendency for someone to like and to be liked by others.(Shutterstock)

Dating apps have changed the rules of the dating game. While online dating has its downside, such as the danger of being catfished,it has seen great success in India. But, it turns out, a magic formula to predict the attraction is more elusive than ever. According to a recent study, machine learning can predict aspects of attraction, but not the perfect soul mate. The University of Utah study, which used speed dating data, found a computer could predict who is desirable and how much someone would desire others, who’s hot and who’s not, but it could not unravel the mystery of unique desire for a specific person.

“Attraction for a particular person may be difficult or impossible to predict before two people have actually met,” said lead author Samantha Joel. “A relationship is more than the sum of its parts. There is a shared experience that happens when you meet someone that can’t be predicted beforehand.” The researchers used data from two samples of speed daters, who filled out questionnaires about more than 100 traits and preferences and then met in a series of four-minute dates. Afterward, the participants rated their interactions, indicating level of interest in and sexual attraction to each person they met.

Joel and her colleagues used a cutting-edge machine learning algorithm to test whether it was possible to predict unique romantic desire based on participants’ questionnaire responses and before the individuals met. The answer was no. They found it was possible to predict the overall tendency for someone to like and to be liked by others, but not which two particular people were a match. Joel said, “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.”

It would be great if people were able to circumvent the hassle and heartache of the dating process by entering information into a computer and having it produce the perfect soul mate, Joel said. While online dating sites provide a valuable service by narrowing the field and identifying potential romantic prospects, “they don’t let you bypass the process of having to physically meet someone to find out how you feel about them,” Joel said. The bottom line is relationship science still has a long way to go to decipher romantic attraction and what makes two particular people click, said co-author Paul W Eastwick.

The study appears in journal Psychological Science.

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First Published: Aug 31, 2017 17:29 IST