Do opposites attract or do birds of a feather flock together? Is there such a thing as dating “leagues” or is it all an illusion? Truth be told, modern dating can be tricky and for some, a not-so-pleasant experience may just be enough to drive them in swearing off dating in the near future. Hopefully not.
Elizabeth Bruch and Mark Newman, researchers from the University of Michigan, recently published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. It’s an addition to the literature that perhaps would help in giving light to the more muddled areas of modern dating and attraction, specifically where online dating markets are concerned.
“We find that both men and women pursue partners who are on average about 25 percent more desirable than themselves by our measures and that they use different messaging strategies with partners of different desirability,” the study read.
Bruch and Newman’s study of aspiration mate pursuit was done in the context of adult heterosexual romantic relationships in the United States, specifically in the cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.
They described romantic courtship as “taking place in a dating market where men and women compete for mates.” This competition for mates creates a hierarchy of desirability, which is associated with the demographics of online daters.
Desirability, on the other hand, was quantified based on the number of messages a user receives, with women receiving “more messages than men overall.” However, desirability varies with age for both men and women.
“Older women are less desirable, while older men are more so,” read the study. “The average woman’s desirability drops from the time she is 18 until she is 60. For men, desirability peaks around 50 and then declines.”
As for messaging behavior, the study showed that both men and women write substantially longer messages to more desirable partners.
“Up to twice as long in some cases,” the researchers wrote. “The women show an increase in their use of positive words when communicating with more desirable partners, while the men show a decrease… men experience slightly lower reply rates when they write more positively worded messages.”
The results of Bruch and Newman’s study were “consistent” with the concept of dating “leagues”, the notion that while less attractive others find attractive matches desirable, these attractive matches are “unavailable” to them.
Bruch and Newman, however, also wrote that online dating is likely fiercer than “offline” dating, thanks to the high volume of partners and low threshold for sending messages.
This, in turn, may increase the hierarchy of desirability online and reduce people’s willingness to message back “less desirable” others.
“When there are plenty of fish in the sea, one can afford to throw a few back.” NVG
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