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Because most users send the majority of their messages “up” the hierarchy—out of their league—a lot of messages go unanswered.
“I think a common complaint when people use online dating websites is they feel like they never get any replies,” Bruch said. But even though the response rate is low, our analysis shows that 21 percent of people who engage in this aspirational behavior do get replies from a mate who is out of their league, so perseverance pays off.” Bruch says the study also shows that sending longer messages to more desirable prospects may not be particularly helpful, though it’s a common strategy.
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“Rather than relying on guesses about what people find attractive, this approach allows us to define desirability in terms of who is receiving the most attention and from whom,” Newman said.
Data from online dating gives us a window on the strategies that people use to find partners,” said lead author Elizabeth Bruch, U-M associate professor of sociology and complex systems and a researcher in the Population Studies Center at the U-M Institute for Social Research.
To rate users’ desirability, Bruch and co-author Mark Newman, U-M professor of physics and complex systems, used a ranking algorithm based on the number of messages a person receives and the desirability of the senders.
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The researchers applied the algorithm to data from users of a dating website in New York, Boston, Chicago and Seattle.