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Online Dating Algorithm Adding Up To Love

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When we talk about finding love, some people say it’s a matter of chemistry.  But, it may actually be a matter of math.  North Texas mathematicians have come up with complicated equations which are the driving force behind some online dating sites.

For Dallas couple Bryan Joyce and Megan Thrasher, cupid’s arrow hit pretty hard when they met last March.

“We pulled up in the parking lot at the same time and I remember seeing him, and there’s just always that instant connection,” said Thrasher.

The two actually met in cyber-space first on the relationship website Match.com.

“I had been on it six months or so before I came across her profile,” Joyce remembered.

While the couple believes their instant connection in person sealed the deal, it was the initial online connection that first ignited a spark.  Shortly after Thrasher signed up on the site, Joyce’s profile popped up.

“I was really specific about the things that I wanted,” Thrasher said. I knew that I wanted to find a long term person in my life.”

And, that’s exactly how the people behind Dallas-based Match.com designed it to work.

“Our algorithm is not based psychological theory,” said Amarnath Thombre who helped design Match.com’s algorithm.  “It’s based on rigorous analysis of data of what people actually do on the site.”

The Match.com algorithm is behind every single match made on the site.  It takes into account the user’s personality, preferences, and their behavior on the site.

“What people say they want and what they actually do is quite different,” said Thombre.

In other words, your profile may say you prefer blondes, but if you actually click more on brunettes, the algorithm will figure that out and change your matches accordingly.

“The algorithm is constantly following you on the site and getting more and more accurate as you spend more time on the site,” Thombre said.

Dr. Eli Finkel, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, has been studying the science behind relationship websites like Match.com.  He says the sites are generally good at connecting two people who might otherwise never meet, but he says there’s a certain magic to finding true love that’s not part of a math equation.

“You can browse until you’re blue in the face and you’re never going to be able to tell who’s romantically compatible with you from a profile,” Dr. Finkel said.

He says that spark we all seek can only happen with face-to-face interaction.

“The dynamics between the two of us are much much stronger predictors than like my personality and  your personality, my values and your values,” said Dr. Finkel.

“I don’t think algorithms are a substitute for interpersonal chemistry,” explained Thombre.  “What algorithms are good at are predicting who you are most likely to have interpersonal chemistry with.”

The algorithm seemed to work for Thrasher and Joyce.  Just over a year after they met, the two are set to be married in April.

Dr. Finkel says if you’re going to do online dating, be specific and honest about what you’re looking for, and don’t set high expectations for finding “the one”.  He says just go with the flow and simply enjoy meeting new people.

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