When do you like someone like yourself? An analysis of online dating

September 27, 2006 at 8:47 pm 52 comments

Online dating is gaining momentum and is an easy, socially acceptable way to find partners for dates or relationships. To a social scientist, the wealth of data stored on online dating services has enormous potential in the study of interpersonal relationships. Instead of having to take surveys and interview people, scientists can now discover findings by looking at the statistics of what actually happened. Actions speak louder than words. Never before has something so human and primitive been reducible to such quantitative discrete values.

Do opposites attract? Apparently not. This study of an online dating service measures the importance of a matching characteristic when choosing a partner. The data is extracted from the contacts initiated by the users.

Characteristic Increased Contact
Marital status 1.64x
Wants children 1.54x
Number of children 1.39x
Physical build 1.28x
Smoking 1.25x
Physical appearance 1.23x
Educational level 1.19x
Religion 1.17x
Race 1.14x
Drinking habits 1.12x
Pet preferences 1.11x
Pets owned 1.08x


Demographic findings in this study:

  • 62.8% of members were male and 37.2% were female, but 55% of active members were female
  • The median age for men was 36 and women was 33
  • 78.2% of messages were never responded to
  • Members sent an average of 1.5 messages
  • Men initiated 73.3% of messages, but their initiations were 17.9% less likely to be reciprocated

A more detailed analysis of online dating is given in the author’s thesis.

I found this paper by browsing the list of Judith Donath’s students, who was also one of my professor’s advisor. Fiore’s Masters Thesis was about online dating — I bet that made for interesting party conversation.

Fiore, A. T. & Donath, J. S. (2005). Homophily in Online Dating: When Do You Like Someone Like Yourself?. Proceedings from CHI ’05: Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1371-1374. [PDF]

Entry filed under: Dating, Internet, Online Dating, Sociology.

“Just Kidding” Falls on Deaf Ears Drinking patterns, social interaction, and barroom behavior

52 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bryan Kennedy  |  September 28, 2006 at 4:59 am

    With some of the new sorts of online dating services becoming available, I wonder how these findings will change? likebetter.com for example, basically does away with inaccurate self-reporting.

    • 2. Odzyskiwanie Danych  |  June 18, 2009 at 4:03 am

      I don’t think it does. It just makes it harder for people to lie. But it’s still not impossible.

  • 3. Daniel  |  September 28, 2006 at 5:34 am

    It’s an interesting story you have there. I just started a website that allows for cameraphones to upload pictures directly to the web/myspace:


    What we are finding though, is that many of those who join are male. As soon as a female joins, *all* the guys start hitting on her, even if they are in indonesia and the girl is in the states. I guess the male labido has no limitations.

  • 4. Steve Schramm  |  September 28, 2006 at 6:12 am

    Um, I just tried likebetter and it’s pathetic. I answered questions three cycles and all six things it concluded were wrong. They were completely wrong, not even close. And I took the test seriously and answered honestly. A waste of time.

  • 5. Marc F  |  September 28, 2006 at 6:57 am

    I dont understand these stats. If you smoke you get 1.25% more contacts?

  • 6. Thomas  |  September 28, 2006 at 7:53 am

    A bit concerned about how the data was gained:

    “Through an agreement brokered by the Media Laboratory with an online dating Web site (the “Site”), I obtained access to a snapshot of activity on the Site over an eight-month period, from June 2002 through February 2003. The data included users’ personal profile information, their self-reported preferences for a mate, and their communications via the site’s private message system with other users.”

    Love the last bit about gaining their communcations via the “private” messaging system, I wonder what options were available for the participants to opt out …. probably buried in the T+Cs that the informatioin could be sold off.

    Having ranted above though, I am still reading through the results, some interesting information in there (assuming the data is accurate…we all know how people change small aspects of themselves for online dating). I find some of the graphically representions a bit questionable but I’m more a tables person.

  • 7. snollygoster  |  September 28, 2006 at 8:03 am

    No Marc F – if you are smokin’ hot you get more contacts.

  • 8. julieluongo  |  September 28, 2006 at 11:40 am

    I think people should mate based on Myers-Briggs personality theory (Keirsey’s research). But, alas, I do not makes the rules of social engagement. If I did, Type Tango would be more popular.

  • 9. rodentia  |  September 28, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    SWPF, 32, DWK, ENTJ. ISO generous SWM, 30-40, INFP for LTCR.

  • 10. trr  |  September 28, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    why does an ENTJ want an INFP? Just curious, I’m married and an INFJ/INFP.

  • 11. trr  |  September 28, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    For fun, look at setlleforbrian.com. An interesting alternative to the matchmaking sites, for one guy, who was rejected by eharmony.com!

  • 12. Bobby  |  September 28, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    That settleforbrian.com site is great (note the correct spelling here).

    The 1.25X for smoking means you are 25% more likely to get a contact based on both people having the SAME smoking preference.

  • 13. spice2  |  September 28, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    I’m not sure it pays to reduce relationships to formulas. It leaves so much out of the equation.

  • 14. :: jennifer ::  |  September 28, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    this is funny (weird)…

    Google’s in court, championing our collective right to privacy (applause!) by resisting US govt subpoeanas for search queries that would aid them in developing online protection laws for children: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-2002169,00.html

    meanwhile… dating services — apparently — freely divulge personal info to anyone writing a thesis… no one raises an eyebrow?

    why, a more thoughtful person would have to wonder whether to laugh or cry!

  • 15. aprilda  |  September 28, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    I’ve been married so long I wouldn’t have a clue about love online! But it is a very interesting read!

  • 16. subtlelite  |  September 28, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Hi there, I was fascinated by your post. Its my heytime right now, that means a break from the financial world, Id like to bookmark you. and can I invite you too to share your stories that may help other people in some ways

    pls join or visit


  • 17. Angela  |  September 28, 2006 at 9:17 pm

    “why does an ENTJ want an INFP? Just curious, I’m married and an INFJ/INFP.”

    I’m an INTJ- the personality type joke is probably because some of the personality sorters suggest you’d be compatable with another type, usually not your own. I thought it to be rather like astrology this way. :)

  • 18. Ascentia  |  September 29, 2006 at 3:58 am

    Daniel, the males hitting on any female who joins thing is universal in online communications. Try joining any online free chat with a woman’s nick. you might create a fictitious MsD for example, and watch as the instant messages pour in asking about your bra size.

    Interestingly, a lot of men impersonate women online – in hetero groups, and in the lesbian ones. Many are quite good at it.

    More than a few women hit on any man who comes into a group, also., but very few men complain.

  • 19. freshfodder  |  September 29, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    so i’m more likely to contact someone if they have the same smoking habits as me than the same education level? very interesting.

  • 20. julieluongo  |  September 29, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    “why does an ENTJ want an INFP? Just curious, I’m married and an INFJ/INFP.” I’m curious back at you. Why did you want him/her? Simply put you balance each other on the detail things like socializing and cleaning and you compliment each other on the big things like ideas and conversation.

    The astrology argument is valid, only the CIA and Harvard Business school are still going to continue using personality theory as a tool because Sylvia Browne told them to.

  • 21. oogabooga  |  September 30, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    hey “shell8” – why do you leave a response to an english article in russian you fucking commie.

    As for the study, all it implies is that anyone serious enough about dating to take it online is looking for a serious relationship (hence marital status and children being the top attractor.)

  • 22. Online Dating Expert  |  November 25, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    Paid dating sites do have an advantage over free dating sites because they can limit the amount of spammers. People on paid services need to use a credit card which, for the most part, assures that they are a real person that can be tracked back for spamming. Also, social networking sites like myspace are taking over but there are too many people to weed through. Also, they are flooded with spam too.

    I recommend signing up on all dating sites and social networking sites if you are serious about meeting the right person. You might find a great date online, at a singles bar, or just walking down the street. However, the more that you, and or, your pictures are exposed to other singles the better chance you will have to find love, friendship, intimacy, a one night stand or whatever you are looking for.

    Also, just think, if you find someone you like on a paid site is $20.00 to much money. Yes, it’s great to have the internet free but most free dating sites are full of ads, spam, players. Again, I would suggest using the free services too but just be prepared to figure out who is and is not trying to spam you.

  • 23. SirWellingtonsBeefTrapeze  |  December 27, 2006 at 10:08 am

    In the free vs pay site debate, it should be noted that the profit motive of the paysite is to get you to buy a membership, and in my experience 99% (unscientific) of emails at paysites are from fake members created by the owners of the site. After about two days these ridiculously good-looking and horny young ladies ready to bed you and you don’t even have a picture up yet are easy to spot.

    On the other end of the spectrum is plentyoffish.com a free online dating site. I’ve never gotten a spam, or a cam-girl or a POF fake profile.

  • 24. tex  |  March 21, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Yes really good free dating sites like plentyoffish are much better than paid one’s.

  • 25. gilbert  |  March 21, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Though free dating sites like justsayhi are good to check out and to practically learn ups and downs of online dating, security is almost non existent.

  • 26. rachel  |  March 21, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    help i like this lad but he is off out with one of ma mates and i have to say he is shaabel

  • 27. ayaan  |  April 7, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    hi im just a little kid i like this boy i don’t think he likes me i really like him.And i think his my prince i mean love him now i don’t no what to do can i just give up

  • 28. Mr Curious  |  April 11, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Enjoyed this posting. I have just undertaken research work on Online dating experiences and thought it’ll be easier to do it via a blog. With so many factors to consider, I dont know where to start from. Found your blog a good starter!

    Cheers :)
    Mr Curious

  • 29. Debra Susan Weinberg  |  May 4, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Electronic communication can lead to a false sense of familiarity and personal safety. Even with empirical analysis there are many biases to consider, demanding robust analytics. Internet dating, the worst “Great Idea” of the 21st century.

  • 30. David Deangelo Fan  |  May 21, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Definitely sucks to be a guy in the online dating world.

    I guess you gotta know what you’re doing.

  • 31. Guy Gets Girl Fan  |  June 11, 2007 at 12:18 am

    That’s interesting, I’m an ENTJ, does that mean I should be wanting an INFP? I’m confused…

  • 32. My pookie  |  July 15, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Sucks to be a guy in the online dating world? It also sucks to be a girl in the online dating world. Have I met anyone interested in knowing ME? No. They all want to know if I like oral sex.

  • 33. tina  |  October 27, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    good ,I think that you did the right thing.

  • 34. Belfast Adult Dating  |  October 31, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    i always hate someone like myself theres no fun in it, i like the difference and new things to do

  • 35. raisethebar  |  December 27, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    The online dating research makes sense to me. People get along best with those who have enough similarities to make them comfortable but enough differences to make it interesting. The characteristics listed above are the most common dealbreakers. If you hate kids you probably don’t have kids, and don’t want to date someone that has them. If you don’t smoke, you are likely to think it’s kind of gross, and if you do smoke, you’d probably like to have someone to smoke with.

    my favorite free site is okcupid.com. Crazy, unregulated and quite spammy, but met my BF there 1.5 years ago.

  • 36. kpli  |  December 28, 2007 at 11:39 am

    very nice post here..i’ve bookmarked this blog for future reference..

    Hey i hope it’s not too late to wish you a Happy New Year

    Enjoy reading this blog …;)


  • 37. Dondon  |  May 22, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Can someone explain how those stats is all about??thanks

  • 38. Oksana Boichenko  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Great post! Today every second person in the world, to my mind, is going for online dating – and it’s wonderful, because dating profiles give more information about the person then if you have met him or her in the street. Agree with Online Dating Expert, paid dating sites usually check the profiles and you have lesser chance to meet a scam there. Oksanalove.com for example always checks if the post addresses and phone numbers are real, no one wants to be scammed. Anв I must admit this post has great statistics, everyone using them can create a perfect online dating profile.

  • 39. NSA Dating  |  September 12, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I think people feel more secure to interact with someone who is similar to them.

  • 40. Ana l DatingBetter  |  March 3, 2009 at 12:36 am

    The survey taken was a bit confusing. Though I find it so interesting, I honestly do not understand the data that extracted from the contacts and initiated by the users. I find it hard to agree since I cannot understand the whole thing.

  • 41. angela  |  March 5, 2009 at 1:39 am

    Online dating is a bit interesting. Anyways, we are now living in modernizing world. People are more liberated in having a relationship. :)

  • 42. James  |  May 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I would want a lover who loves and accepts Jesus as I do and is kind, respectful, and smart. Nothing else. On the other hand, I really don’t want a smoking,TV remote stealing wife that coughs nasty goo on my face.

  • 43. Auguste Dubuisson  |  June 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I think online dating is great. Especially if it is free. Now people can find date in many ways than they used to do that before.

  • 44. Yachts, Super yachts  |  August 31, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Good In-depth research! More and more people are enjoying their life as a single! We are hearing for more divorce stories each day and people are afraid to take it to the next step and get married!

  • 45. Russian lady  |  October 4, 2010 at 5:30 am

    These studies are very useful for people. Especially for those who want to look for a couple on dating sites.
    for men dating sites for a serious relationship is clearly preferable from the standpoint of economy, budget, for here the principle of compensation is triggered their own complexes about their ability to make a decent impression on your favorite girl. Therefore, there is a great opportunity in the presence of the imagination, the extent of which correspond to the inverse number of internal systems and self-esteem, pozaigryvat with a lot of lonely girls, staying within the virtual space.

  • 46. Russian girls Dating  |  December 11, 2010 at 2:49 am

    Very useful statistic, but it should me mentioned that when there is a so called “chemistry” between two people they do not pay much attention to common interests, moreover they accept the hobbies of their beloved person even if they never liked this kind of time spending.

  • 47. Luciferrian  |  December 20, 2011 at 1:17 am

    That was a good review, and the data (even if a lil bit obsolete becaause it’s from 2002) more or less reinforces the stereotypes (that usually men are actively looking and are the ones sending more messages)
    I think this research is useful from the point of view of dating sites that are looking for profit (like the comments above me that are so astray from the topic). But as for the general interest, i feel like after reading the paper i missed the conclusions :) or is it only me that had this conclusion?

  • 48. handicapped dating  |  April 13, 2013 at 4:45 am

    I don’t drop many comments, however i did some searching and wound up here When do you like someone like yourself? An analysis of online dating | Tasty Research. And I actually do have some questions for you if it’s allright.
    Could it be simply me or does it give the impression
    like a few of the responses look as if they are left by brain dead individuals?
    :-P And, if you are posting at other online sites, I’d like to follow anything new you have to post. Would you make a list of the complete urls of all your community pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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  • 52. Arnob Endry  |  July 28, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Therefore, there is a great opportunity in the presence of the imagination, the extent of which correspond to the inverse number of internal systems and self-esteem, pozaigryvat with a lot of lonely girls, staying within the virtual space.


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