The popular dating portal took 30 percent matches and told them they were 90 percent matches, in the name of science.
I’ve been a pretty big proponent of OK Cupid in recent years. I used it for most of 2012, went on a lot of first dates, a few second dates, and I credit it with meeting my girlfriend (even though that was through friends, when you go on that many first dates it’s useful experience). I like Ok Cupid more than Tinder because you can see a persons personality not just the best few photos of them and more than Match because the barrier to entry is lower (there is no membership fee).
These experiments that Ok Cupid ran are a little disturbing. The article doesn’t make it clear if “Love Is Blind Day” was something that was advertised or not. It’s honestly a pretty good experiment, and it plays to Ok Cupid’s strengths as a service. If people were told ahead of time, then that’s fine.
As Dylan Matthews says in the article, the third experiment is the most troubling. “Users [were] told they were 90 percent matches when they were in fact 30 percent matches”. Yikes.
Users were told the truth after the fact, but I know that I’d be more than a little upset, more because the service was wasting my time than anything else. Because, at least for me, when you’re actively looking for dates (online or irl) the last thing you want to do is waste time.
Reading this article’s summary of the original blog post, I actually greatly prefer the original post. Why? Because they’re just about as long as each other, and in truth the original does a much better job of explaining exactly what they did, why, and what happened when they did it.
But these results are actually rather cool. The blind date thing especially was rather hilarious and interesting. Without photos people were more likely to actually converse, and they even went on good dates! In addition to that, they enjoyed themselves more on dates with people who they would never have given the light of day before. So we learned 1) that people are shallow, and 2) that if people reduced how shallow they were, they would actually be happier.
It is also cool to see that their match algorithm does work (the fact that 90% actual match never went sub 16% in chance for conversation), but also rather interesting to see that the suggestion that a couple may be a match has a strong influence (17% chance of conversation between actual 30% match, but told 90%). I am curious how they corrected for people who didn’t even visit profiles due to seeing certain match scores, but I’m sure they did something (maybe cursor tracking?)
The power of suggestion is incredibly strong. That was the interesting final message, and I’m glad that OKC is up front about it. Just think, other dating services which claim to find you true love via questionaires could literally just be throwing random people at you, and because they say they are good for you, you may end up getting into something awful. Then again the argument could be made that truly random pairings of people could result in opening up individuals to experiences they would have never considered before, and expand their horizons.
I would say, “Who cares as long as it makes you happy.” but other studies have also shown that removing choice and free will from a person’s life can actually increase their happiness…