Economy Feb 14, The professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University gave a Google Talk on relationships and dating back in October. I surveyed the newsroom and a few friends for questions the married, the engaged and the single wanted answers to. Below, Dan Ariely explains how not to fill out your online dating profile, how to make your friend less picky in who she dates, what questions to ask on a first date and why there is a correlation between moving to a nice school district and divorce.
Still want to learn more about the best gift to give your significant other? What not to put on your online dating profile Kristen Doerer: Alright, so our first question is: What should you put in, what should you leave out? So I think the question is: What function is the online dating profile going to fulfill in this search?
So we know a couple things. We know that when people read vague descriptions, they fill the missing parts in over-optimistic ways.
I like music too! This vagueness creates the opportunity for people to get disappointed. When we finally have coffee with somebody, we get crushed. And so, for example, we know that women love tall men. Do you know about this research on height called labor analysis? So labor analysis is when I take all your characteristics, how old you are, your hair color, where you went to school and all your attributes, and I put them in a regression equation with your salary.
I do the same for a lot of other people. So what predicts your salary? To what extent is education helping your salary, to what extent is height helping your salary and so on? This is the kind of analysis that you do to show that women make less than men for the same job. So we did the same analysis for online dating. So what do you think is the number? Now, you can ask the question: Are women really that superficial? So yes, women love tall men to a crazy amount in my mind, but the way that the search engine works exaggerates this bias.
So men like a BMI that is kind of slightly anorexic. Around 19 is the most desirable one. How much more do you think she would have to make in order to compensate for this one BMI?
Women can lie about the weight, and men can lie about the height. But what happens is that this is really the key to disappointment. You want to eliminate ambiguity. You mentioned pay earlier. Relationships are complex and multidimensional: And one of them is salary. But from all of those dimensions, which is the easiest one to measure? The money is going to be salient and precise, it has decimals. So I think salary has a non-ideal weight in the relationship.
Actually, I have a friend who makes substantially more than her husband, and she told me that for years she was pissed off with it. So much so, she was thinking about ending the relationship. It just seemed terrible for her. At some point, she was thinking about all the other things he was doing in the relationship, and she tried to quantify it.
How to be a meddling friend Kristen Doerer: One way, of course, is social proof — the idea that you do what other people are doing.
That is social proof. I must be interested in him. So you know the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance? In the original experiment, social psychologist Leon Festinger got people to screw bolts into boards for a very long time. And then each group was asked how much they like it, whether they would recommend it to another friend and so on.
So why did I do it? It creates a dissonance: Did you first have fear, and then you started running? I must be afraid. So if you want to be meddling, you can ask yourself: That is pretty clever.
Relationships in a world with so many options Kristen Doerer: To go back to that what you were saying about how it pays to play hard to get, my question for you is, in a world with so many options — think about Tinder, online dating or just in general — people tend to lose interest very quickly. So does it still work to the same degree when you have this saturation?
This world in which we have so many outside options is certainly not an easy world. You see the good things in the person next to you, but you also see the bad things.
But the people on Tinder are kind of perfect, right? Is this good enough? In this experiment, people learn how to shoot film, pictures. Because the first group of people said this is my picture, let me kind of learn how to deal with it. From that perspective, the world of arranged marriages has some advantages.
So imagine that you woke every morning next to your significant other, and imagine that your relationship was one day at a time. If you understand that a relationship is a dynamic thing and the quality of the relationship depends on your investment, that means that keeping an eye on Tinder, for example, limits your ability to invest in it.
Back to your question about playing hard to get, I think that playing hard to get is a good strategy. Now, you might lose some people from time to time. I think that people need to continuously pursue each other romantically. Taking each other for granted is just death for romance. Questions you should ask on a first date Kristen Doerer: In other words, people were asking all these bland questions — Where did you go to school?
How many siblings do you have? So you know these 36 questions that psychologists use? Those are not bad questions. You want questions that get both people to think. You want them actually to be thinking about something. Also, if you think about this idea of arousal, asking things that are challenging and interesting and private can actually increase arousal and intimacy.
Questions I would ask, for example, is: Divorce rates and wealth Kristen Doerer: There was a study that came out about two years ago about divorce rates.
The other thing that the study showed was the bigger the wedding, the less likely a couple will divorce, but the more expensive the wedding, the more likely a couple will divorce.
The problem, of course, is those studies are correlational. I think a lot about weddings has to do with the contract you have with society. By the way, two people, who read my blog or my books, asked me to officiate their wedding. Did you do it? I got ordained for that purpose, I flew to New York and I conducted the wedding. It gave me some time to think about it from a contract perspective.
Think about it, what contract do you sign in front of a lot of people? And we need the help of a lot of other people to make this work.
And I think this element, the more people you include in the wedding, the stronger your social tie is to this wedding. The money part is basically the wrong emphasis. The money part is a transactional element. And they found a correlation between less wealth divorce rates. Couples with lower incomes are more likely to get divorced, yes.
Is that just because of the stresses that poverty can put on a couple? There was actually a really sad study showing that in the U.