The authors conclude: “The best-established predictors of how a romantic relationship will develop can be known only after the relationship begins.” Oh, my god, and happy Valentine’s Day.
Later, in a 2015 opinion piece for the New York Times, Finkel argued that Tinder’s superficiality actually made it better than all the other so-called matchmaking apps.
“Yes, Tinder is superficial,” he writes. “It doesn’t let people browse profiles to find compatible partners, and it doesn’t claim to possess an algorithm that can find your soul mate. But this approach is at least honest and avoids the errors committed by more traditional approaches to online dating.”
It makes the process of matching and talking and meeting move along much faster, and is, in that way, a lot like a meet-cute in the post office or at a bar. It’s not making promises it can’t keep.
At a debate I attended last February, Helen Fisher – a senior research fellow in biological anthropology at the Kinsey Institute and the chief scientific adviser for Match, which is owned by the same parent company as Tinder – argued that dating apps can do nothing to change the basic brain chemistry of romance. It’s pointless to argue whether an algorithm can make for better matches and relationships, she claimed.
“The biggest problem is cognitive overload,” she said. “The brain is not well built to choose between hundreds or thousands of alternatives.” She recommended that anyone using a dating app should stop swiping as soon as they have nine matches – the highest number of choices our brain is equipped to deal with at one time.
Once you sift through those and winnow out the duds, you should be left with a few solid options. If not, go back to swiping but stop again at nine. Nine is the magic number! Do not forget about this!
Superficiality, he argues, is the best thing about Tinder
To sum up: Don’t over-swipe (only swipe if you’re really interested), don’t keep going once you have a reasonable number of options to start messaging, and don’t worry too much about your “desirability” rating other than by doing the best you can to have a full, informative profile with lots of clear photos. Don’t count too much on Super Likes, because they’re mostly a moneymaking endeavor. Do take a lap and try out a different app if you start seeing recycled profiles. Please remember that there is no such thing as good relationship advice, and even though Tinder’s algorithm literally understands love as a zero-sum game, science still says it’s unpredictable.
You will drive yourself batty if you, like a friend of mine who will go unnamed, allow yourself to rack up 622 Tinder matches
Update : This article was updated to add information from a Tinder blog post, explaining that its algorithm was no longer reliant on an Elo scoring system.
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The algorithm accounts for other factors – primarily location and age preferences, the only biographical information that’s actually required for a Tinder profile. At this point, as the company outlined, it can pair people based on their past swiping, e.g., if I swiped right on a bunch of people who were all also swiped right on by some other group of women, maybe I would like a few of the other people that those women saw and liked. Still, appearance is a big piece.
I don’t think you can get in trouble for one of my favorite pastimes, which is lightly tricking my Tinder location to figure out which boys from my high school would date me now. But maybe! (Quick tip: If you visit your hometown, don’t do any swiping while you’re there, but log in when you’re back to your normal location – whoever right-swiped you during your visit should show up. Left-swipers or non-swipers won’t because the app’s no longer pulling from that location.)
This study, if I may say, is very beautiful. In arguing that no algorithm could ever predict the success of a relationship, the authors point out that the entire body of research on intimate relationships “suggests that there are inherent limits to how well the success of a relationship between two individuals can be predicted in advance of their awareness of each other.” That’s because, they write, the strongest predictors of whether a relationship will last come from “the way they respond to unpredictable and uncontrollable events that have not yet happened.” The chaos of life! It bends us all in strange ways! Hopefully toward each other – to kiss! (Forever!)