Online daters are most likely to contact people with the same level of education as them, but become less fussy about an intellectual match as they get older, according to a new study.
The study, from researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, analyzed the online dating interactions of more than 41,000 Australians between the ages of 18 and 80.
The study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, is said to be the largest behavioral economic analysis of Australian online dating behavior, with researchers reviewing 219,013 participant contacts by 41,936 members of online dating website RSVP during a four-month period in 2016.
“Selecting a mate can be one of the largest psychological and economic decisions a person can make and has long been the subject of social science research across a range of disciplines, all of which acknowledge one phenomenon: Positive assortative mating behavior (homogamy),” said QUT behavioral economist Dr. Stephen Whyte.
Traditionally, humans look for certain characteristics and traits in a partner, including symmetry in areas such as age, aesthetics, attractiveness, personality, culture, education, religion, and race, the researchers said. But the Internet has dramatically altered this process, they note.
“The internet has completely changed how people choose dating partners to find love,” Whyte said. “Our study is a step towards understanding how technology is impacting on mate choice decisions based on education.
“Cyber dating permits multiple partner choices in real time, which allows for a significantly greater available choice of potential mates,” he said.
“This increased pool means greater opportunity for selection of partners with lower, similar, or even higher levels of certain characteristics. This includes education, which is commonly used in human mating behavior as a proxy for resources and future provision as it can represent economic advantages.”
The study included people ranging in age from millennials to octogenarians, demonstrating that online dating can give people from all walks of life the opportunity to experience a new way of finding a relationship.
“As a business, RSVP is always fascinated by the way in which people go about selecting who to contact,” said RSVP CEO Dave Heysen. “The research conducted by QUT highlights several intriguing insights regarding how online dating has truly revolutionized how people interact with one another today.”
According to Whyte, another interesting finding from the study was that there was a difference in the way men and women looked at education levels in potential partners, and also how this changed depending on the life stage of the participants.
“The more educated cohort tends to care less about matching the same level of education as they get older,” he said. “Older women in particular have a greater likelihood of contacting potential partners who are less educated than themselves but conversely, younger males fall into this category as well.”
While online dating is a growing industry and its allure lies in its ability to have created a more efficient and successful mechanism for finding both short-term and long-term romantic relationships, Whyte said he feel more research is needed into the sector.
“More research is needed though so that we can have a better understanding of the impacts of cyber-dating on individuals and relationships, as well as the psychology employed by people when using the Internet to maximize their educational preference in a mate,” he said.
Source: Queensland University of Technology
Photo: QUT behavioural economists Stephen Whyte and Professor Benno Torgler have conducted the largest ever behavioural study analyzing Australian online dating behavior. Credit: Anthony Weate/QUT Marketing and Communication .