In the past few months, I’ve had the delight of stumbling across several investigative reports on the topic of dating. In particular, what I loved was each article’s scientific angle.
Can the sharp reasoning skills of the left brain, and our growing foundation of scientific knowledge, actually shed light on the oh-so-right-brained flights of the romantic heart? The science-lover in me likes to think so. And a growing community of scientists increasingly thinks so too.
In the next three columns, I’m going to take a departure from my usual content of answering readers’ letters and share highlights of these three articles.
(Article 1 of 3 in the series)
The style section of the Nov. 13, 2011, New York Times opened with a headline too juicy to ignore: “Love, Lies, and What They Learned: Online Dating is Allowing Scientists to Explore the Age-Old Question: Why Do People Fall in Love?”
The scientist who definitively answers that question, of course, will secure a patent and enjoy her retirement in the lap of gluttony on some glorious tropical island. (She, along with the Guy Who Found Jimmy Hoffa’s Body and The Woman Who Knows For Sure What Happens When We Die. An elite club, to be sure.)
The impossibility of this question aside, though, it turns out that in the 15-some years since the first caveman logged onto an Internet dating site trying to find love – there have been legions of scientific observers watching every click he made. Triangulating and cross-checking observations. Laughing, I’m sure, at our e-shenanigans over cocktails at the local pub.
As the author of the article, Stephanie Rosenbloom, put it: “There are millions of Americans seeking love on the Internet. Little do they know that teams of scientists are eagerly watching them trying to find out.”
So, what exactly, have they found? Here, in a nutshell of a nutshell, is what Rosenbloom reports:
A professor of psychiatry at the University of California-Berkeley named Gerald Mendelsohn has conducted research on 1 million online profiles. Other scientists have done lots of crunching with this (and other) data. It’s estimated that today, about 21 percent of heterosexual couples and 61 percent of same-sex couples met online. Two important maxims have emerged.
• Your mother was wrong. Opposites do NOT attract.
• George Washington was wrong too. Honesty is not always the best policy. (If the reference is hydroplaning over your head, Google “George Washington” and “cherry tree”!)
The fact too much candor seems to backfire on people is probably just as well, since plenty of people are playing putty with the truth.
• Profile pictures tend to be about 1.5 years old.
• Women describe themselves as 8.5 pounds thinner than they really are.
• Men describe themselves as 2 pounds lighter than they are. But they lie in far greater magnitude about their height, rounding up half an inch. “Apparently,” Rosenbloom quipped, “every bit counts.”
On some instinctive level, we all seem to know that everyone else is lying. Heck, maybe it’s not even fair to call it instinct. Maybe it’s just lessons learned. As one guy interviewed in the research noted, “If I say I am 44, people think I am 48.” People seem to bridge the gap between their ideal self and their real self by describing themselves optimistically.
I am not, for the record, endorsing this reality. I had a 100 percent, all-truth all-the time approach to my own profile, and I believe it’s the only way to go. Research shows, however, that I was somewhat alone in this belief.
• More than 80 percent of online contacts by white daters were to other white daters; only 3 percent were to black daters.
• Black daters were 10 times more likely to write whites than the other way around.
• In-race dating is more important to women than men. It is also more important to “the older” than “the younger.” People claim to be open to other-race dating, but their behavior proves otherwise.
• Women want men who are tall and wealthy and slightly overweight (really!?! )
• Men prefer women who are slightly underweight (thanks a lot, Barbie!) and who don’t tower over them.
• Women rank income as more important than physical attributes; for men, that’s less true.
• Most people shy away from stating political views in their profiles – but that looks like a big mistake. It may attract more dates, but long marriages tend to be among partners with similar political ideologies.
What This Means To You
My takeaways from all this begin with a big fat caveat: Dating research is in its infancy. The conclusions scientists will reach in the future may differ drastically from what they are today, so don’t be surprised if one day, they conclude the exact opposite of what I have summarized here.
Two, human beings and the societies we create are constantly changing. We The People are like amoebas; morphing and moving all the time. So don’t cling onto these generalities with a death grip. And try not to apply general truths to any one particular individual.
Is that woman you’ve been swapping e-mails with really as thin as she said she is? Is that man really as “comfortable” as he craftily, indirectly tries to imply in his profile?
Maybe or maybe not. Quit writing, log off and go out on a date already! There is so little to lose and so much to gain. Maybe, once you meet, pounds and dollars won’t matter quite as much as you think they do.
Speaking for myself, I married not for money, nor for beauty, but for nice. And I’ve never looked back.
This is part one of a three-part series summarizing recent media articles reporting on scientific research into dating and marriage. To read part 2 of this series, click here. To read part 3 of this series, click here.
Inrace dating is more important to women than men ? Maybe black women but, not white women. The vast majority of mixed couples consist of white women with black men !
In reference too: Online Dating ‘Lying’ it is the number one problem! Most men have to lie just to get women interested because women online put these demands on men. But some are too honest. Modern single women go for money and power and they are constantly testing men and men know the tests. Middle age plus men will not take the crap as they did when they were younger. And middle aged plus women go for younger men so they can feel younger and if rejected they can always use the cop out excuse of: “too young for me”. Men only date older women for sex and mothering. The REALITY is that nowadays MOST online daters can’t even answer emails and if they do they can’t keep up a conversation. The big event is a phone call. And if an actual date happens, the likelihood of a second date is very rare. Women in the over 50 brackets seem so obsessed with their personal issues and pretending they; “love life” that they can’t get into a man’s head like they did when they were younger. Women use the right side of the brain (emotional and romantic) and men use the left side of their brain (logic and reality). Women try to reduce the aging process and men want a woman who will accept their aging process. Of course what really killed the relationship is the “vibrator” and the empowerment of careers and substitution of the family and friends for men. ANY man who tells a woman their true feeling is called “angry”. Women, where romance is concerned; want to hear from men only what they want to hear and not what they need to hear; like his personal feelings, and just want men to listen like dumb sheep. Women want “equality” which they have but they want men to pay 100% of the date bill and, if they do cook want men to do 50 %, but 100 % buying and paying for the food and drinks. Most online dating women are angry at men and are only interested in being wined and dined and shows and travel, all paid for by men. Online dating now in the over 50 group is a venture into another dimension.
I completely agree with Mike and I’m in the mid to late forties age group. I consider myself to be friendly and handsome but most ladies in their 30’s and forties have baggage with either children or their exes trying to win them back. Unfortunately, if their single like me, they tend to be unattractive and not worth persuing. Any attractive ladies in their late twenties or thirties who are single generally won’t give you the time of day on JDate as they know they’re attractive so they can be far too picky or maybe they’re just not genuine about meeting anyone in the first place. Mike is right when the 1st coffee date doesn’t turn into a second date as attractive women won’t commit because they know they’re in demand by other guys. Unfortunately, it’s only the unattractive overweight women who will commit! Sad, but true.