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Then comes the choice to send a person a message, or to reply to one.And of course, the final, crucial decision, which isn't captured by these data: whether to meet the person in the real world.A team led by Elizabeth Bruch, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, tapped into this torrent of dating data.Because of a nondisclosure agreement, the researchers can't reveal the exact source of their subjects, describing it only as an "established, marriage-oriented, subscription-based dating site" from which they randomly selected 1855 people, all based in New York City.Bruch wondered: Is mate selection like a job interview process, where the person with the best combination of positive factors wins?
The data set includes some 1.1 million interactions between users.
But the biggest deal breaker of all turned out to be age, at least for women.
All other factors being equal, women overall were 400 times less likely to browse the profile of a man significantly older than herself. Whereas 20-year-old women were 10 times more likely to ignore a man 10 years her senior, 45-year-old women were nearly 10% more likely to browse the profile of a man 55 or older compared with a man her own age.
Those 30 million people have generated billions of pieces of data.
And because most dating sites ask users to give consent for their data to be used for research purposes, this online courting has played out like an enormous social science experiment, recording people's moment-by-moment interactions and judgments.