It is, though, possible to test the value of a claim often made for these algorithms: that they match people with compatible personality traits.
One is a vastly greater choice of potential partners. And do the “scientifically tested algorithms” actually work, and deliver the goods in ways that traditional courtship (or, at least, flirtation) cannot manage?
What is assumed, but not tested, however, is that this is a good thing—that those with compatible personalities make more successful couples than those without.
To examine this proposition, Dr Finkel draws on a study published in 2010 by Portia Dyrenforth of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva, New York.
The supermarket of love Not surprisingly, the difficulty of choosing from abundance seems to apply to choice of people, too.
Dr Finkel could find no study which addressed the question directly, in the context of internet dating. Here, he found studies which showed that when faced with abundant choice, people pay less attention to characteristics that require thinking and conversation to evaluate (occupational status and level of education, for example) and more to matters physical.
In it, Dr Finkel and his colleagues cast a sceptical eye over the whole multi-billion-dollar online dating industry, and they are deeply unconvinced. The researchers' first observation is not so much what the studies they examined have shown, but what they have been unable to show, namely how any of the much-vaunted partner-matching algorithms actually work. Many firms preserve their intellectual property as trade secrets, rather than making it public by patenting it, and there is no reason why internet dating sites should not be among them.