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Health & Sex

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Does Online Dating Make You Luckier at Love?

New Review Delves Into Claims of Relationship Success Made by Internet Dating Sites

Does Compatibility Matching Work? continued...

For a fee, they offer to retrieve potential matches that better align with a client’s values, preferences, and in some cases, even their DNA. They also promise that these matches are more likely to result in successful relationships.

But the review finds no evidence to suggest that such matching is scientifically based or lives up to its claims.

That’s in large part because dating sites refuse to reveal their methods, saying it would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

“There is no evidence available that meets any standard of scientific validity,” Reis says. “Imagine if a drug company came out with a new drug and said that it cures depression better than any other drug, but refuses to tell people what’s in the drug or how they did the study. Would you believe that claim?”

Based on the information they could find, and based on decades of scientific research on love and marriage, researchers say it’s unlikely these sites can live up to the happily-ever-after hype.

First, they say, the weight of scientific literature says compatibility between partners who have not met has relatively little power to predict the success of a relationship.

Second, studies have shown that some of the strongest indicators of how long a couple will last depend on how partners interact with each other and how they respond to unpredictable and uncontrollable events -- none of which can be measured before two people even meet.

Advice to Online Daters

Still, online dating can be a useful way to meet romantic partners, Reis says. Here are his suggestions for success:

  1. Don’t spend vast amounts of money on it. “The value added by those kinds of matching services is not clear.”
  2. When you go through lists of people, only look at a handful at a time. That helps you evaluate each potential partner on his or her own merits, not just on how he or she compares with other people.
  3. Don’t just look at the characteristics a person lists on their profile. “Try to imagine, ‘What would it be like to go on a hike with this person? What would it be like to go on a vacation with this person?’"
  4. Communicate online, but meet in-person quickly. That keeps online interactions like well-worded emails from taking on undue and unrealistic significance.
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