The Dubious Science of On-Line Dating

Letters to the Editor
N.Y. Times
February 12, 2012


Attempting to match people by the various “match.coms” on the Internet by using their particular algorithms- trade secrets at that! – is akin to attempting to create paintings with numbers.  It usually fails (The Dubious science of On-Line Dating .  New York Times, February 11th) as Finkel and Korney correctly ascertained.

People do choose each other for the formation of an eventual procreational dyad, or lasting partnerships, by an evolutionary determined algorithm embedded in the brain. Albeit, like other such brain algorithms guiding one’s behavior, is flexible, and easily “messed up” or sidelined.

Nevertheless, it does exist and is made up mainly of three components.  First, the prospective mates are mobilized by sex appeal and beauty, real or imagined, both acting as the initial triggers aided and abetted by over enthusiasm  and idealization of the participants for each other.  Nevertheless, this initial trigger is mixed with feelings of tension and uneasiness.

The second one, crucial for initiating comfort and assuaging the initial uneasiness for each other, as well for eventually ushering the prospective mates into an enduring bonding; is whether there exists a “complementarity of each other’s temperaments.” ( Temperament is defined in the literature as the “how” of behavior-i.e. the innate behavioral propensities, made up of components, somewhat controversially, such as intensity vs. laid back, inner vs other directness, sociability vs aloofness, emotionality vs “thinking the world” compulsivity vs being lackadaisical, and perhaps others, etc.  These components in various combinations comprise the temperamental types…)

The presence of complementarity of temperament between prospective mates can assuage the initial tension in the presence of each other and creates comfort and eagerness of stating “I like you” -with the response “I like you too.”  Thus the intense inner directed or aloof “pathfinder” bonds with a warm social partner etc., a kind of yin and yang.

The personal assessment, between prospective mates of each other’s temperament takes place in an amazingly rapid way; perhaps, aided by the myriads of emotional nonverbal messages that take place back and forth during their first meeting or encounter.

The third component of the algorithm, which is important for the longevity of the dyad when it is formed, (evolutionary necessary for raising a helpless baby) is the presence of similar characteristics between the now bonded mates -mainly epigenetically acquired -such as the similar ethos ( i.e. attitude, ability to negotiate conflict, ability to express humor and others),as well the value system, religious background , similar physical appearance mutual sensual deployment and similar level of education.

Commercial matchmaking algorithms, rely mainly on “personality.” By that, they mean attitudes, habits, likes and dislikes.  Collecting such “personality” characteristics by their algorithms are often erroneous because the prospective mates give idealized answers of what they think they are and what they wish they want from their prospective mate.  In addition, commercial algorithms ignore completely the critical need of the complementarity of temperaments -which are very difficult to access before hand, anyway- yet so crucial for enduring relationships.

The net result is that some Internet couples may randomly hit it off but statistically the majority are not successful.  The rare formation of enduring relationships by the matching process is a random occurrence that has completely no relevance with the secret, commercial algorithms of Internet outfits.

On reflection, any discerning student can witness and verify the phenomenon of complimentarity of temperament and the augmenting similarities by observing the successfully married friends.  A glaring example of the complimentarity between mates is our own President and his wife.  Himself affable, engaging, social, charming, “huggable,” while his wife appears pragmatic, down to earth, somewhat impatient, and task oriented.  The similar characteristics that assures the longevity of their successful marriage , include their similar elegant looks, high intellect, high energy lever, high level of education, value system, dedication, and attitudes (such as persistence of effort and discipline of purpose.)

That does not mean that such commercial outfits are not useful for people, socializing, canceling out loneliness, and having fun with endless dating.

Nicholas Pediaditakis MD. DLFAPA

5100 Lead Mine Rd.

Raleigh NC 27612


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