No Kidding: Online Dating Sites’ Matching Algorithms Not Scientifically Sound

02/07/2012 11:22 AM |

Surprise! Computer flowers!
  • Surprise! Computer flowers!

Undoubtedly you will all be shocked (shocked!) to learn that a recent study found that online dating algorithms don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. But it’s an algorithm! Aren’t algorithms made of science? From the study’s press release:

Many online dating sites claim that they possess an exclusive formula, a so-called “matching algorithm,” that can match singles with partners who are especially compatible with them. But, after systematically reviewing the evidence, the authors conclude that such claims are unsubstantiated and likely false.

“To date, there is no compelling evidence that any online dating matching algorithm actually works,” Finkel observes. “If dating sites want to claim that their matching algorithm is scientifically valid, they need to adhere to the standards of science, which is something they have uniformly failed to do. In fact, our report concludes that it is unlikely that their algorithms can work, even in principle, given the limitations of the sorts of matching procedures that these sites use.”

Yeah, I’m sure eharmony is going to get right on that, as soon as they’re finished fighting a court battle for the right to be homophobic. Look, I’m sure we all owe lead study author Eli Finkel and his bros at the Psychological Science in the Public Interest journal a debt of gratitude for getting to the bottom of this pressing issue, but if you’re using online dating for the matching algorithms you’re kind of doing it wrong. The point is not to have a computer be like “bleep bloop you both like tacos now get married,” it’s having a big pool of people you otherwise wouldn’t meet, who are presumably single and interested in dating. If you can’t scroll through and reject everyone who says they like Tom Waits on your own, then I think you’ve got bigger problems.