Cupid is going digital

There are over 1.5 million people using internet dating sites in Australia alone. Image: Shutterstock.

The digital romance revolution has provided those looking for love with greater and more convenient access to potential partners.

There are over 1.5 million people across the country who use dating websites, according to Online Dating Australia,. But how scientific are their methods?

According to a report commissioned by the Association for Psychological Science in the US, the industry’s claims to offering a “science-based” approach with sophisticated algorithm-based matching have not been substantiated by independent researchers and, therefore, “should be given little credence.”

The report, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, states that online dating is now the second most popular way to start a new relationship in the US. This suggests a definite shift in attitudes from the 1990s, when the stigma associated with personal advertisements extended to online dating.

According to author Harry Reis, from the University of Rochester in the US, behavioural economics has shown that the dating market for singles in Western society is grossly inefficient, especially once they leave high school or university. “Online dating is definitely a new and much needed twist on relationships,” he said.

“The Internet holds great promise for helping adults form healthy and supportive romantic partnerships, and those relationships are one of the best predictors of emotional and physical health.”

However, Reis and his colleagues found that the sites are not scientific, despite sites claiming to use a science-based approach with sophisticated algorithm-based matching. Instead they found “no published, peer-reviewed papers ““ or Internet postings, for that matter ““ that explained in sufficient detail “¦ the criteria used by dating sites for matching or for selecting which profiles a user gets to peruse.”

Instead, any research is conducted by the dating websites themselves, with study methods and data collection treated as proprietary secrets, and is therefore not verifiable by outside parties.

A study conducted by the Queensland University of Technology in 2011 found that attitudes towards internet dating had also changed in Australia, with people from a wide span of ages using dating websites. “I think this reflects a change in attitude and greater acceptance of internet dating as a valid opportunity to meet a potential partner and an opportunity to socialise beyond your immediate group of friends,” said researcher Zoe Hazelwood.

But Reis cautions that online love has pitfalls, as comparing the sites can encourage users to become picky and judgemental. He also said that corresponding by computer for weeks can also raise unrealistic expectations.

“People with strong beliefs in romantic destiny (sometimes called soulmate beliefs) — that a relationship between two people either is or is not ‘meant to be’ — are especially likely to exit a romantic relationship when problems arise “¦ and to become vengeful in response to partner aggression when they feel insecure in the relationship,” Reis and his colleagues wrote.

Source: Eureka Alert.

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