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The Takeaway: Dating Websites Don't Deliver On 'Scientific' Matchmaking

The Trouble with Online Cupids: Online dating sites have become a major matchmaking force in the 21st century, as popular among 20-somethings as with 60-year-olds. In fact, middle-aged men and women seem to be the most avid users of dating websites. But while these sites have many advantages-namely, expanding your pool of potential partners-there are also serious drawbacks. And a team of U.S. psychology professors has highlighted these drawbacks in a lengthy new report, to be published in   Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Drawback number one: It can be hard to accurately gauge much about a person from an online profile. Second?

It overloads people, and they end up shutting down," report author Eli Finkel said.

Ah, the paradox (and paralysis) of choice! Much psychological research has shown that when presented with too many choices, people tend to shut down or make poor decisions. But what about those sites with the personality tests and proprietary matchmaking algorithms-surely they've got to make things better?

Probably not, according to Finkel. "Developers of matching algorithms have tended to focus on the information that is easy for them to assess, like similarity in personality and attitudes, rather than the information that relationship science has found to be crucial for predicting long-term relationship well-being," he said in a press release. "As a result, these algorithms are unlikely to be effective."

See Also: 8 Ways to Find Love Online >>  

Does that mean online dating is all bunk, then? Of course not. If you've never found love online yourself, you probably know at least one person who has. Plenty of people do meet partners from these sites. But as far as paying extra to be matched up with folks based on personality, interests or whatever else? You may be better off saving the dough. As another of the report's authors, psychology professor Harry Reis, said: "There is no particular reason for people to use sites that charge a lot of money to offer something they cannot deliver." 

Tuesday Quick Hits: 

  • Teaching older drivers new tricks: A new study finds that while older drivers do have higher crash rates than other drivers, it's learned bad habits-not the problems of aging-that deserve the most blame.

Photo: Mimi Haddon/Getty Images

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