Playing Hard to Get + Online Dating = Love?

Although math was never my strong suit, this seems to be the perfect formula for dating success. Recent news articles have shown that playing hard to get may actually work, and that online dating as an industry is booming. Put the two together, and there you go!

The study done on playing hard to get is extremely interesting. In general, some people believe that acting somewhat uninterested makes the other person more interested. Others believe that nothing beats good old honesty and that you should tell the other person how much you really like them. It turns out the former may be the better train of thought. The researcher, a graduate psychology student at the University of Virginia, says it is not so much that the challenge increases attraction, but that increased thought about a person does. In terms of dating and life in general, that really is true. When we are uncertain about the outcome of something, we tend to dwell on it and think about it much more than things we are already certain of. Then, when we are thinking about a person all the time, we assume it must be because we are so attracted to them.

To show this, a study was done involving three groups of women who were shown facebook pictures of four guys who they believe rated their pictures. In the first group, each woman was told the males had given them the highest ratings. In the second group, the women were told they had gotten average ratings from the males. The third group was told that the men gave them high OR average ratings. When they were later asked their feelings about the males in return, of course the first group liked them more than the women in the second group. I learned this is the “reciprocity principle”, meaning we like people who we know like us. However, the third group liked the males even more, and when later asked how many times in the last 15 minutes they had thought about the males, the third group had been thinking about them the most. Most surprisingly, even the second group had thought about them more than the first group! It seems like knowing someone likes you does not give you much to think about. Eli Finkel, a psychology professor at Northwestern, remarked that “The results suggest that although this reciprocity effect is strong, the pull of delicious uncertainty might be even stronger.”

So, playing hard to get works. Now for the other piece of the equation. In the last quarter, match.com and chemistry.com reported a 30% increase in subscribers, revenue, and profits. Those aren’t even free sites! The ones you don’t have to pay to use are also doing quite well. The site OkCupid.com, which generates revenue through ads, had 3.5 million active users. Another 3.5 million don’t use the site quite often enough to be considered active. That means 7 million users log on each month to that site alone. Imagine how many people some better known sites have logging on! The site Zoosk.com, which I know I have seen tons of commercials for, generated $90 in revenue last year and had five million different users log in just during last December alone.

In conclusion, my theory is that if you play hard to get amongst millions and millions of potential partners online, one of them has to be a match. Therefore, playing hard to get + online dating = love. I don’t know a thing about odds, and this is clearly not a reliable equation, but I’m sticking with it. :)

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