Sunday, February 07, 2010

Can You Put A Price Tag On Love?

That might sound sacrilegious, especially with Valentine's day coming up. But "Online dating is a $976 million annual industry in the United States" according to a New York Times article titled: Better Loving Through Chemistry (this is one article which is definitely worth checking out because the picture is very funny). So people are willing to pay big bucks to find love.

The article discusses some online services. Some sites try to match brain chemistry. Others try to match personal values and life experiences. They may simply be facilitating the information gathering process that was once easier in the past when life moved at a slower pace and people lived in more close-knit communities. Or, they may just be getting people together who are very selective. This may sound crass, but love is about people trading something and these services might make the trading easier. Here are some interesting exerpts:
""People tend to be adept at heeding that first spark of attraction but may be less dexterous at recognizing the commonalities that are the foundations of good marriages, says Gian Gonzaga, eHarmony’s senior director of research and development. The site suggests potential matches based on areas of compatibility —like values, beliefs and important experiences — that are predictors of relationship success, he says.

“In the long haul, you want to be able to manage conflicts, celebrate positives and get through the day-to-day relationship,” Dr. Gonzaga said. “Our system is there to take care of that so you can now focus on who you find really attractive, that you feel really passionate about.”, meanwhile, uses answers to a detailed questionnaire to suggest potential partners based on their brain chemistry, says Dr. Fisher, a research professor in the anthropology department at Rutgers University. Based on a review of scientific studies on neurotransmitters and chemicals like dopamine in the brain, she determined that humans tend to express one of four dominant temperaments.

Since the site’s introduction in 2006, more than eight million people have answered Dr. Fisher’s questionnaire, and she has used their answers to pinpoint traits that attract people to one another. She says people of decisive, straight-talking temperament, whom she calls “directors,” tend to be attracted to empathetic, intuitive types she calls “negotiators.” Spontaneous types (“explorers”) tend to be attracted to their own kind, while traditional pillars of society (“builders”) also tend to seek out partners that resemble themselves.

“If Helen Fisher can give you right off the bat individuals that your brain is more likely to be attracted to,” she says, “so much the better.”

At the end of the day, however, it may be that the success of such sites is attributable not so much to their proprietary methods as to their choosy, self-selected members who don’t want to wink at and woo the first person whose profile they read online. The sites attract cohorts of people interested in slowing down the online dating and mating process, in finding out more information about potential partners — or in ruling out unlikely suitors — before they graduate to the meet-and-greet stage.

THE more advanced the partner prediction sites, the more they may actually serve a more old-fashioned role. The sites provide background details on a person’s family, education, aspirations, character, genetic traits and general health of the type that was once public information in farming or immigrant communities or even in hunter-gatherer societies, Dr. Fisher says.

Indeed, at least from the point of view of evolutionary science, you’d be better off spending $50 — and more likely to find a mate — by using a premium dating site than by dropping $50 on drinks in the uncertain waters of singles bars."

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