Online dating sites are not only a boon for people looking to start relationships — they're also proving to be extremely beneficial for people who like to crunch lots of data. Some psychologists and mathematicians are taking the copious amounts of information that you're putting into these sites to get a better sense of our preferences and tendencies — and it turns out that you can learn some pretty intimate things about a person from just a single question.
A recent article by Douglas Kenrick in Psychology Today shows how Christian Rudder, the cofounder of the free dating site, OKCupid, is making good use of all this information. Rudder, who has a degree in mathematics from Harvard, says that the site has produced data on "hundreds of millions" of user interactions, as well as the various dating preferences and social attitudes of users. He has used his background in mathematics to analyze this tremendous amount of information, and his findings have been revealing to say the least. From Kenrick's article:
There's a colorful dynamic graph depicting the relationship between a woman's self-professed body weight (skinny, full-figured, obese, etc.), self-confidence, age, and sex-drive. Although it sounds complex, the graph nicely demonstrates that a woman's sex drive rises dramatically until her late 30s, then drops just as dramatically, whereas her self-confidence steadily rises with age. Women who self-describe as "curvy" are decidedly more interested in sex, and more self-confident, compared to women who say they are "skinny," a trend that holds throughout the lifespan.
And in one of his analyses, titled "The best questions for a first date," Rudder studied millions of answers to the question "Would you consider sleeping with someone on the first date?" The answer that emerged was strange, but not entirely meaningless:
The single best predictor of saying "yes" was whether or not the person liked the taste of beer. And this question was a good predictor, whether the respondent was a man or a woman, gay or straight. I suspect this link may have something to do with the links between sex, politics and recreational drug use, and I discussed some research on this link in a blog titled: "Is opposition to pot-smoking really just fear of sex?"
There's lots more over at Psychology Today, including insights into why you should pay particular attention to the following questions: "Wouldn't it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?", "Do you like horror movies?", and "Have you ever traveled around another country alone?"
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