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So it makes sense that online dating services including e Harmony, Ok Cupid, and use algorithms to try to surface potential matches.

(Although Tinder and other swipe-based dating apps don’t try to make specific matches, Tinder does use algorithms based on swiping behavior to identify people whom others find desirable.) But matters of the human heart are hard to predict—as psychologists Samantha Joel, Paul Eastwick, and Eli Finkel found out when they conducted their own speed-dating events.

The study, forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, had 350 college-aged participants attend the researchers’ speed-dating events.

Beforehand, participants completed questionnaires that measured their personality traits, values, dating strategies, well-being, and what their ideal mate would want in a partner.

Members can constrain their interactions to the online space, or they can arrange a date to meet in person.

So maybe online dating services that use this kind of algorithm will have a tough time identifying two people who will find each other romantically desirable.

Between dates, they completed a two-minute questionnaire about their feelings toward the person they’d just met. It was easy to predict people who were generally friendly and people who were exceptionally picky.

The researchers later compared the algorithm’s predictions to participants’ actual reports of romantic desire. But the machines had zero ability to match a specific person with another person.

That doesn’t mean people should avoid going online to find a mate.

“Online dating is still a useful tool,” Joel says, “because it identifies people in your pool. It say this person is a good fit for you.” Her words jibe with my online dating experience.

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