Dating can be a chore. The difficulty of finding someone on this day, of going to a restaurant for a near job interview, of having to go through everything they say for red flags like you’re trying to hunt down a Communist agent, then having to decide if the whole experience was good enough to do it again can make a person want to stay single forever.
Dating apps were supposed to make this easier by simplifying part one: finding the potential mate. With a swipe of your finger, you can search among qualifying singles and singles anywhere in the world. However, an upcoming to study in the American Economic Journal: Microeconomics suggests that the ease of use of dating apps can, and does, cause some people to think that “the one” is just another swipe – so they never actually go out on a date.
Dating: easier than ever, but not easier
Despite the ease of use of dating apps, many people who use them never meet someone they match with. A survey suggests that this can represent up to a third of users.
In an attempt to explain why this is happening, two Israeli professors, Yair Antler and Benjamin Bachi, performed new tests on existing models of pairing behavior that removed an all-too-common assumption in economics: that people are always rational. . The simple version of the model assumes that a group of agents exists in a marketplace looking for matches. Each is assigned a number considered “pizzazz”. It is the overall desirability of a person; some have it in spades and others not so much.
The model market has individuals who meet randomly at a certain pace. They look at each other’s pizzazz count, and if they both find a suitable match – which usually means they were both within a range of acceptability the other agent had – they marry. and leave the dating market. New people with the same heat rating then enter the market to replace them.
If this model works under the assumption that each agent is fully rational, has a good understanding of how others behave, and has accurate information, everyone associates fairly quickly. Over a long enough period of time, everyone in this pattern matches someone they marry.
But things fall apart when the model assumes that not everyone who uses dating apps is fully rational. (Imagine that!) In this scenario, even something as simple as making people less than perfect at predicting other people’s behavior can cause the market to fail. While those with the more spice (who can compete with almost anyone) and the least (who will accept just about anyone who accepts them) still behave almost fully rationally, those in the middle start to behave in an overly optimistic manner. In other words, they reject partners that a rational agent would accept, believing that someone better is just around the corner.
When people don’t behave rationally, the model shows that some people have been stuck looking for a mate for a very long time. In some models, some agents with medium pungency were never accepted or were never accepted by anyone and remained celibate in perpetuity. The situation worsens as the variable of “search frictions” (ie the difficulty of finding another date) decreases. As the risk of not finding a match decreases, people are more inclined to reject matches they have in favor of the next, possibly better, one.
Beyond your skills
The authors write:
“Our agents mistakenly believe that the best agents are achievable. As technology improves and allows potential mates to meet more frequently, their willingness to wait for a superior agent increases and they become more selective. Eventually, agents become too selective and reject agents of their own caliber or less. For similar reasons, they are rejected by agents of their own caliber or higher. As a result, they search indefinitely and never get married.
Essentially, as dating apps make it easier to find a new partner, people become more demanding and more likely to reject those they match with. This result explains several quirks seen in real dating apps, such as platforms with more members have fewer matches per anybody.
The authors also note that their findings could be applied to the job market, with similar issues likely to exist for those who use online job boards to find better employment. “The One” – be it a companion or a job – is always a plus.