Slideshows | February 12, 2013

Four intelligent tips about dating

The dating scene arguably shares many dynamics with a traditional marketplace – such as the important balancing act of supply and demand. What can we learn from research and can economics shine light on some aspects of courtship? Our slideshow has four tips that address the “paradox of choice”, efficiency, signalling and more.



Don’t forget you can widen the net
Women tend to look for intelligent men and men prioritise physical appearance, according to a speed dating experiment that also found the size of the group can affect how picky the female participants are. In such a setting, it might pay to remember the size of the group and who is in it may actually skew your perceptions – after all, a person of medium intelligence may seem less smart when surrounded by Nobel Prize recipients.


But too much choice can be tough
Imagine there were only three potential partners to choose from, could you pick easily? What if there were 30,000 – it might be tougher to choose. This “paradox of choice” in dating is highlighted in research that finds the large number of potential partners on online dating websites can overwhelm suitors. In this case, less can be more – so consider imposing your own limits to cut down the pool.


Don’t think it takes too long to look
Some people like it, some loathe it but online dating is efficient, finds research for MIT. The study argues it might be easier to find someone who possesses specific traits desired in a partner in an online search rather than traditional methods of looking. Taken a step further, going online could reduce the opportunity cost of dating for reluctant participants by cutting the amount of time needed to devote to it and freeing up time for other activities.


Say it with flowers
A smile goes a long way in the traditional world of dating and similar “signals” – as they are known in economics – seem to work online as well. Authors of the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper Propose With a Rose? ran an experiment in Korea that found sending a free, virtual rose with a message increased the acceptance rate by about 20%. They write that participants had a limited number of roses so sending one gives a strong signal the person is serious, an attractive quality for “busy young people who may be careful how to spend their limited spare time”.


eZonomics team
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