27-Oct-2015 11:38

Basic dating com

In this age of rationality and endless data, intuition is often looked upon as an inferior means of problem-solving. I do not know that I am,” remarked Albert Einstein before his theory of relativity was tested and confirmed as the basis of a new way of looking at the world.Yet in many situations, even in the hard sciences, it is the most useful means of all. The value of intuition is underplayed in many areas of life, nowhere less so than in online dating.

For example, they require you to describe yourself in words (your characteristics and interests, loves and hates); to sum up the attributes of the sort of person you’d like to be with (fun-loving? The psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West (and, more recently, Daniel Kahneman in his book ) call this kind of approach to problem-solving “system 2”.Not only is it difficult to guess what others will find attractive in us, but we also can’t be sure what we really want in our partners until we meet them. It’s based on research I did for my book , published by Oneworld this week.Although 21Pictures is a fully functional dating site, it is also a social experiment, since it offers various new approaches that haven’t really been tried before.The main “intuition hack” on 21Pictures – as you may already have guessed – is to get people to describe themselves in pictures; not just a series of head shots, but pictures from all aspects of their lives.It is slow, deliberative and analytical, a product of our (relatively) recently evolved prefrontal cortex; it enables us to make complex computations, and to direct our attention at particular tasks.System 1, by contrast, is fast, automatic and emotion-led, driven by far older neural circuits; it operates automatically and with little sense of agency. Effective decision-making requires both systems – but sometimes it is better to use one over the other. In the real (offline) world, sussing out a potential partner is – at least in the beginning – indisputably a system 1 activity.

Humans are remarkably adept at navigating complex social worlds and instinctively picking up on familiar signs that might indicate compatibility.

As a species we’ve been doing this for millions of years; as individuals all our lives.

Walk into a room full of people and it won’t take you long to pick out those who appeal to you, based on the colour of their shirt, the style of their shoes, how they speak, or the countless other indicators that work beneath our conscious awareness. Try deliberating your way through all those social signals and weighing them up based on their individual merits and you’ll end up making some strange choices, or going home single.

Curious, then, that this is exactly what many dating sites compel us to do.

Thinking carefully about our dream date, and about our own personality, and allowing an algorithm to compute a match, may be an intriguing exercise.

But as Eli Finkel at Northwestern University and colleagues have shown, it isn’t that helpful. In January, I launched a new dating site called 21Pictures which tries to use insights from psychology to create a more intuitive experience, where daters can make the most of their hard-wired social intelligence when choosing a partner.

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