Because of a nondisclosure agreement, the researchers can't reveal the exact source of their subjects, describing it only as an "established, marriage-oriented, subscription-based dating site" from which they randomly selected 1855 people, all based in New York City.
Besides photographs, each user's profile could include any number of personal details including age, height, weight, education, marital status, number of children, and smoking and drinking habits.
And of course, the final, crucial decision, which isn't captured by these data: whether to meet the person in the real world.
Bruch's team devised a statistical model that maps the "decision rules" people follow during the first two steps.
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When it comes to the early stage of dating, it seems to be all about the deal breakers.All other factors being equal, women overall were 400 times less likely to browse the profile of a man significantly older than herself. Whereas 20-year-old women were 10 times more likely to ignore a man 10 years her senior, 45-year-old women were nearly 10% more likely to browse the profile of a man 55 or older compared with a man her own age.Perhaps unsurprisingly, men in their 40s tend to be more interested in younger women. "Women care quite a bit more about the height of their partners than vice-versa," Bruch says.And because most dating sites ask users to give consent for their data to be used for research purposes, this online courting has played out like an enormous social science experiment, recording people's moment-by-moment interactions and judgments.A team led by Elizabeth Bruch, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, tapped into this torrent of dating data.