Too many men on dating sites

Could too many choices in online dating be a bad thing?

According to some newly published research out of Taiwan, it may be.

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Participants were assigned to view one of three profile groups — large (90 profiles), moderate (60 profiles), or small (30 profiles).

The study found that subjects in the large option group did more searching. [L]arge consideration sets [having more profiles to search through] lead to less selective processing and reduce searchers’ ability to screen out inferior options.

From the perspective of cognitive processing, considering a large set of options may increase cognitive load, leading individuals to make mistakes.

The more our brains have to search through, the more difficult it also becomes to ignore irrelevant information.

A person is also more likely to be distracted (or attracted to) attributes that were not initially relevant or pertinent to their original search.

For instance, imagine you’re on an online dating site seeking men who had college degrees, were in a certain weight and body class, and were looking to have children.

As you begin to search through the thousands of men who meet those criteria, you start noticing the color of a man’s hair or his eyes, or that he went to Harvard instead of Ohio State.

These distractions take you away from your original criteria and, in effect, ensure you spend a lot more time searching than you would if the dataset was much smaller to begin with. The more choices we have, the more time it takes to sort through the available choices, right? But what’s not so obvious is that we have finite brain resources and finite time to expend in such activities.

Or, as the researchers put it, “The reduction of average cognitive resources spent on each option seems to explain why worse selection will be made under more searches.” Our brains simply aren’t very good at trying to sort through dozens or hundreds of possible choices, each with dozens or even hundreds of relevant attributes.

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