On the other hand, it could mean that people try to find slightly more attractive mates – which results in the same pattern as the most desirable partners pair off, followed by the next most desirable, and so on.
The problem is that looking at established couples leaves out the actual process of courtship – which could tell you much more about what people look for in a mate, how they woo them and how often they’re rejected.“What you don’t observe is all the people who asked out someone who said ‘no’ – which is really the information you need if you want to understand desirability hierarchies,” said lead author Elizabeth Bruch, a computational sociologist at the University of Michigan.
So is everyone doomed to seek mates who are unreachably “out of their league”?
As it turns out, aspirational message-sending does work – not all the time, and less often when the desirability gap is bigger.
Researchers have long tried to pin down the behaviors that drive people to choose particular romantic partners.For men seeking more desirable women, the response rate went as high as 21% — high enough that the effort may be worth it, the scientists said.“One of the take home messages here is that it might pay to be persistent,” Bruch said – to send messages to many desirable users, in the hopes of getting a response from one of them.“It seems like even writing 10 messages to find someone you find incredibly desirable is a pretty modest investment of time and energy,” she said.Bruch also pointed to other research indicating that, essentially, people are at their most superficial in the earliest stages of when they meet, and begin to value other characteristics as they get to know each other.“If that’s true, then what we would expect is that these desirability differences matter most in this first message and reply,” she said, “and then the desirability gap ceases to be as important in determining whether people move on to the next stage.”Perhaps studying the number of follow-up messages, or the contents of the replies, could start to shed more light on that dynamic, said Bruch.If we follow a few steps of his reasoning, we can imagine the world of dating as something like an economy, in which people possess different amounts of attractiveness (the dating economy’s version of dollars) and those with more attractiveness can access more and better romantic experiences (the dating economy’s version of consumer goods).
If we think of dating in this way, we can use the analytical tools of economics to reason about romance in the same way we reason about economies.
(The most popular person in their data set was a 30-year-old woman in New York who received 1,504 messages, or about one message every half hour.)Then, to make their calculations, they essentially placed all the users on a scale of 0 to 1.