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Title: ''Out of My League'': A Real-World Test of the Matching Hypothesis
Published In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Authors: Lindsay Shaw Taylor, Andrew T. Fiore, G.A. Mendelsohn and Coye Cheshire, University of California, Berkeley
Full Report: https://psp.sagepub.com/content/37/7/942
Summary, In Plain English:
Are people predictable and tend to really pick to date “in their league”?
Using a mixture of laboratory study, surveys of online daters, and extensive activity logs of a large national online dating site the authors of the current study attempted to shine light on whether or not people really do choose to date people they perceive to have similar levels of socially desirable traits.
In the lab setting where dating decisions are hypothetical it’s difficult to find clear evidence of the matching hypothesis.
In study 1, the authors gathered data of 187 participants. They were presented with fictitious online profiles constructed to reflect people with low, medium, and high socially desirable traits. The authors wanted to see if the participants would say that they would choose to communicate with people with the same level of social desirability as their own.
They found that people:
- choose the highly desirable profiles most often (out of their league behavior), but
- that one’s level of self-worth influenced the process to a degree (in their league behavior).
Is attractiveness a good indicator of social desirability and help to support the existence of the matching hypothesis? Short answer: No.
In study 2, the authors next examined the online behavior of 120 heterosexual dating site members. They analyzed the attractiveness level of the photos of 966 people who they had contacted.
They found that people
tended to contact other members who were of higher attractiveness then themselves (out of their league behavior).
On dating sites women communicate within their league. Men randomly communicate with all types of women.
Combining the core elements of study 1 and 2 the authors we interested to know if self-worth would be related to the communication patterns on a dating site. They gathered self-worth data on 3,074 heterosexual study participants and examine the site’s activity logs for the type of people they contacted.
They found that women:
- with higher self-worth tended to communicate with more popular men on the site, where popularity was defined as men who received high levels of inbound communication (in their league behavior).
- with low self-worth tended to communicate with less popular men (in their league behavior).
They found that men:
- communicated with popular and unpopular women irrespective of their own sense of self-worth (out of their league behavior).
Real world communication patterns on dating sites appears to be partially based on being in the same league.
In study 4, utilizing estimates of a person’s popularity on a dating site the authors examined activity logs of more than one million members for indications of whether people communication within their own league
They found that people:
- choose to initiate communication with people with similar levels of popularly (in their league behavior)
- receive communication from people with a similar level of popularity as their own (in their league behavior).
Dr Brenner: Based on this information, you should:
- Educate your members that constructing a maximally attractive and welcoming profile will increase the likelihood of receiving communication.
- Tutor your members that it will also increase the likelihood of communication from relatively popular members and people with higher self-worth.
- Appreciate that men and women tend to initiate communication based on different criteria.
- Be mindful that people’s statements about intended dating behaviors are often at odds with their actual behaviors.
- Recognize that surveys of member’s desires, intentions, and opinions is insufficient to understand how they fully interact with your site and its other members.
- Examining activity logs of your members is a key element of understanding how they utilize your site, its features, and interact with members.