Some online dating sites promise to find your soul-mate by using sophisticated matching algorithms. But a new study by social psychologists says they don’t work. We discuss the science of relationships. Can we make accurate predictions about love? How do you use online dating sites? Has it worked for you?

Eli Finkel, associate professor of social psychology at Northwestern University
Thomas Lewis, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF and co-author of "A General Theory of Love," which explains the psychobiology of emotion and human relationships
Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington, chief relationship expert at and developer of the algorithm they use to match potential couples

  • Bloke

    Online dating is a bit like Milton Friedman’s economics: If you’re
    completely naive and ignorant, it might seem appealing, but when you
    examine it a little closer, it seems too good to be true. The sales hype and indeed the data
    such as profiles are almost entirely fraudulent, the results turn out to be awful,
    and when crazy people get involve there can even be tragedies. Yes, I’d say it’s very much like Milton Friedman’s economics, except in that of course online
    dating does not involve dictators’ thugs murdering tens of thousands of leftists in South America.

    • Scrub Jay

       In Defense of Milton Friedman:

      Pinochet is the one that committed atrocities against the Chilean people.  However, the economic policies implemented by the Pinochet regime based on Milton Friedman’s economic philosophy has resulted in rapid economic growth and increased prosperity for the Chilean people, and now it is a thriving democracy.

      If only online dating could be so rewarding.

  • Eamonn

    It’s by no accident that so many online dating services are based in Silicon Valley which has to be the most hostile dating environment known to man. The lopsided male:female ratio means that women get bombarded by emails, and they get so overwhelmed that they don’t respond to most of them.  Guys get so frustrated by the lack of response that they are forced to play the numbers game and crank out emails to dozens of women in the hope that they’ll get one response. This creates a vicious circle of low responses.

    Online dating has become a chore similar to job hunting where you’re hoping that you stood out from all the other candidates enough to get that elusive second date and not be blown off with the LJBF or “Let’s Just Be Friends” speech.

    • Jennimclean

      I too found the effort onerous, but from the female perspective the hurdles were of a different predictable stereotype.

    • CaledoniaSky

      One guy was pedantically correcting my grammar and type-o’s as I was writing my profile. I had been signed up for all of 15 minutes so it was a little disconcerting. 

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      • Eamonn

        It’s “typos”, not “type-o’s”. Sheesh!

        Seriously though, are you talking about OK Cupid where they allow people to make suggestions to your profile?  

  • Jeff

    Maybe the questioning can be changed to give the image, of the person they want, instead of the actual statisitcal data given.

  • MayDecember

    No women here yet? I was a serial dater about 5 years ago, and I had LOTS of really good dates – many were one-time dates, obviously not “love” connections, but they were great, interesting people. But I finally found “the one” on, but it’s interesting to note that I was just messing around that day, when I started looking at guys 15 years younger than me, just to “look”. Someone caught my eye, and long story short, we’ve been married for 5 years. IT HAPPENS. You have to be willing to take chances, have an open mind, cast a wide net, and above all, be GENUINE. 

    • Innovatorsclub1

      Sounds like you were addicted to the power and attention, used guys for dinners then the younger guy was THE CHOSEN ONE by an ave gal with an inflated ego. I will bet you are the one who divorces him as well. Guys online dating is the worst thing that has ever hapened to single gals. Go overseas and do not get married

    • Rachael

      Sounds like you were addicted to the power and attention, used guys for dinners then the younger guy was THE CHOSEN ONE by an ave gal with an inflated ego. I will bet you are the one who divorces him as well. Guys online dating is the worst thing that has ever hapened to single guys. Go overseas where you are appreciated and allowed to be men and do not get married. BTW Love is a very temporary feeling and it’s the guy that gets screwed in divorce court.

  • James

    I have a funny experience where my current girlfriend before we got together I’ve been on an online dating site. once we got together I met some of the people who she had dated and actually we ended up having quite a lot in common and we became better friends than she ever was with them. credit her with being my amazing girlfriend and with introducing me to my most amazing friends.

  • yosemite14

    There’s certainly nothing wrong with utilizing dating websites, but based on my experience I’ve had better luck meeting compatible people by getting involved in group activities that I was interested in. In my case, I’m an outing leader with the Sierra Club and I met a wonderful girl (now my fiancee) who shared my passion for the outdoors and enjoying an active and healthy lifestyle.

  • Maria B

    My boyfriend and I met on  We were both on eHarmony at the same time and were never matched up there.  Actually, all the men I was matched up with on eHarmony were *not* good matches for me and I was very honest with my survey…perhaps they were not. was ok, but it still felt like a popularity contest and eHarmony did not.  However, if it weren’t for these sites, I would not have met my sweetheart since he lives in the south bay and I live in the east bay and we work in different industries and very different hours.

  • oleg

    Personal profiles are idealizations not accurate descriptions. I was on both OkCupid and PlentyOfFish. It’s a full time job. Sending out emails, reading responses. It is not the number of people that you can search from, it is the number of people that are compatible with you. 

  • Lovable505

    I met a fantastic man online in 2010.  We just celebrated our second Valentine’s Day together and our paths would never have crossed in our normal lives.  The real advantage of online dating is that it give you so many more choices than you would ever meet in your normal life and you don’t have to go on dates with all of them in order to screen them in or out. 

  • na

    A main difficulty with online dating is that you really do need to meet someone in person before you can tell if you have any chemistry, but this is very time intensive.  Do your guests think that phoning or video chatting with a potential “match” before meeting in person helps determine if you have a rapport or could have physical chemistry, and serve as an intermediate screening step before meeting in person? Or is it still too difficult to determine physical chemistry by video or phone chatting?

  • Stephenmonfort

    My sister in law met my brother through online dating. They both said it wasn’t a lot better than meeting in a bar. She kept some of the most interesting e-mail exchanges and wrote an e-book “My Knight In Shining Armor is Coming- He’s Just Caught In Traffic”.

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  • CaledoniaSky

    I tried OkCupid for a few months. My experience was interesting to say the least. I signed up and was still in the process of making my profile and had already received 3 messages! 2 were from the same guy insisting I drop what I was doing and go out with him that instant. He kept badgering me and I kept ignoring him. Then one colorful fellow messaged me to say I should look at his profile pictures and check out his tattoo because judging by my taste in music, I would surely be impressed by his tattoo! I looked at the photos of this aging punk rocker and saw one of him at a punk club with his shirt up exposing a very large back tattoo of Jesus Christ standing there holding his penis while Mary Magdalene is sitting down, spread eagle, looking all dizzy. Turns out he had actually meant for me to see his Joy Divison album cover tattoo further down in the images but for some reason I didn’t get that far. I did meet one guy who I am friends with to this day. We’re both now in happy relationships with other people that we met in the real world.

  • Ginbahr

    As a women, I choose online dating off and on. Perhaps I’m a different from other women in that I do respond to those who fit the age range I publish. Men 20+ years my senior tend to be the most emailing though. I’ve also had experiences with men who tend to flash their money on dates only leaving me to feel as if  I was in his online shopping cart. 

    • Eamonn

      This is one of the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t things that make it so difficult. If a guy pays then he’s flashing his money, if not then he’s a deadbeat. Why does there have to be so many silly mind games?

  • James Ivey

    I think the best way to think of on-line dating is as if you’re having a computer set you up on blind dates.  I don’t think there is any shortcut past the “blind date” phase yet.

  • Jmart

    I’d love to listen to the whole program.  The audio is cutting out at 8:51.

  • CWBernard

    I am surprised that people believe they need to be in love to have a successful long-term relationship. Love is all very well, but moderate liking may be preferable, and compatibility (which strikes me as more important than romantic love) I have found is something than can grow with time. My own most successful relationships, for what it is worth, have been the least romantically charged. Online dating may be more effective if people lower their expectations – as many an ancient Stoic may have taught us, if only we were listening.

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