Better Matching in Online Dating

(Photo: Don Hankins)

(Photo: Don Hankins)

Researchers led by Kang Zhao at the University of Iowa have devised a new matching algorithm for online dating sites. Business Insider summarizes the model’s advantages:

In the online dating context, an algorithm can get a good idea of my taste in partners by doing a similar comparison of me to other male users. Another male user of the site will have a similar taste in women to me if we are messaging the same women.

However, while this gives the algorithm a good idea of who I like, it leaves out the important factor of who likes me — my attractiveness to the female users of the site, measured by who is sending me messages.

Zhao’s crucial innovation is to combine information about both tastes and attractiveness. The algorithm keeps track of both who I am messaging, and who is messaging me. If a male user has similar taste (he is messaging the same women as I am) and attractiveness (he is messaged by the same women as I am) to me, we are scored as being very similar; if we are similar in one trait — if we have similar tastes but attract (or fail to attract) different groups of women, or vice versa — we have a moderate similarity ranking, and if we are different on both measures, we are counted as very dissimilar.

The researchers tested the model and found that it does a pretty good job.  “[W]e illustrate that the new model performs well on recommending both unilateral and reciprocal contacts,” write Zhao, Xi Wang, Mo Yu, and Bo Gao.  “In other words, the new model can better recommend partners that matches a user’s taste and attractiveness.”

Belle Vierge

If I hadn't already successfully found my boyfriend via okcupid, I would be interested in giving this a try! Since statistically, women receive more messages than men, I feel like this would especially help out the men to improve their reply rates.

My boyfriend actually blogged about his own "statistical analysis of online dating," which showed that he received replies to his initiated messages less than 50% of the time.

Voice of Reason

You know, I'd like to see a study to show why this tends to be. With an even number of guys to girls in America, you would think that it would essentially be a zero sum game, but time and time again, it seems that women have much easier times finding dates and boyfriends than vice versa.

Why is this? Do men need companionship more (not even talking about sex, because we all know that guys seek sex more than women). Is it because men are attracted to younger women, and women are attracted to older guys, so as you get older it becomes more of a buyer's market for men? Are there more lesbians than there are gay men? Do American men face tougher competition from overseas men than women do from overseas women? I'd like to see a study on this.

Belle Vierge

While there is a fairly even number of men and women in the US, most dating sites have a considerably higher number of men than women. As to why more men sign up for online dating, well, I can only speculate.

When I was meeting guys from okcupid, I mostly met them in public places, often with a friend along. My friends had an endless stream of advice on how to stay safe, just in case. I knew too many horror stories not of awkward dates, but of women being sexually assaulted on first dates.

When my boyfriend was meeting girls from okcupid, he didn't bother telling any of his friends the time and place of the date, just in case he didn't come home. His only rule of thumb was to meet in a public place. His exact quote for his reasoning: "number one, I generally had to make the suggestion and I didn't want to make the date feel uncomfortable and two because being the internet, there isn't really even a way to guarantee that the person I was planning on meeting wasn't a 45 year old man who was hell bent on killing 20 something nerds."

As Margaret Atwood once famously said, "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."

Men simply have less to lose and more to gain from online dating than women do.



Still doesn't seem to address the basic problem in on-line - and, alas, real-world - dating: that the women I find attractive & compatible so seldom reciprocate... and vice versa, of course :-)

Sure you are single

Plus you have to deal with all those fake profiles...which are usually easy to spot, but still.

Gorgeous woman with only one picture, no kids, never been married, makes a ton of money, hates shopping, former professional poker player, has season tickets to local sports team right behind the bench, looking for a slightly to mildly overweight guy who likes to play video games and prefers a night of drinking beer to boring walks on the beaches or opera or sissy stuff like that. All she needs is you to message her and she’ll share more pictures and love will ensue!

steve cebalt

This is pure genius; since being attracted to ME is the only criterion that really matters; it makes any woman instantly irresistible. The rest is detail, and I am very negotiable if (hypothetically) a woman were attracted to a self-centered middle-aged lazy bald man with no charm, no social skills, no money, and a beat-up Honda Civic. Shockingly, I've not met her :)

But if I did, then a variant of Groucho Marx's club-membership rule would apply:

"I don't want any woman crazy enough to want me."

And here the algorithm goes into an endless loop.

Allan Horian

I am married to a person i found on if i wasn't married, i would have used this tactic to find out someone for me. Nice blog..thanks for sharing this information..


it's funny guys are all named asians. simplest way is to have caucasian photo. in that regard, take many photos and post the one that looks most white. you can't go far if they don't msg u at all. my anecdotal study shows 0 replies to asian photo, 25% replies to white photo, 3% replies to no photo with stated white ethnicity, 0 with no photo with stated asian ethnicity.


Anyone who thinks they've invented an algorithm that can really score and measure attraction is kidding themselves. Thanks to goodness that some things are still beyond the reach of scientific anaylsis.

Dating algorithms can be very effective in narrowing your field of vision down to only those who are appropriate for you in terms of practical factors (values, backgrounds - whatever). But if you want to know if you fancy a person - you still gonna have to meet them.