OKCupid mismatched users on purpose. Let's get over it.

Jaws dropped across the internet last week when online dating giant, OkCupid revealed that they've...

Jaws dropped across the internet last week when online dating giant, OkCupid revealed that they've been deliberately mismatching users to test their technology.(Fotolia)

Simone Paget, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:31 PM ET

Jaws dropped across the internet last week when online dating giant, OkCupid revealed that they’ve been deliberately mismatching users to test their technology.

When I heard this, my first thought was: “Well, that does explain some of the dates I’ve been on lately.”

As co-founder Christian Rudder recently shared in a blog post, OkCupid took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.) “Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible. After all, that’s what the site teaches you to do,” says Rudder. As he explains, “When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are. Even when they should be wrong for each other.”

It all comes down to power of suggestion. Although we like to think we’re immune to it, the power of suggestion plays a huge part in our daily lives. It’s widely known that deliberate suggestion can influence what medicines work for us, what products we buy - and as OkCupid has shown, who we choose to date.

A recent psychological study conducted by Maryanne Garry and Robert Michael of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, along with Irving Kirsch of Harvard Medical School, showed that the power of suggestion can be explained by “response expectancies,” or the ways in which we anticipate our responses in various situations. These expectancies set us up for automatic responses that actively influence how we get to the outcome we expect. Once we anticipate a specific outcome will occur, our subsequent thoughts and behaviors will actually help to bring that outcome to fruition. In other words, if we’re told that someone is perfect for us, we’ll go into the interaction with a set idea of what the outcome of that relationship should be.

Although I naively like to think that the power of suggestion has no effect on me whatsoever, I know that is not true - especially when it comes to my dating life. As an avid OkCupid user, I have a rule that I won’t even look at potential dates that have a match rating of less than 70%. However, without any knowledge of what OkCupid was up to, I decided to conduct a social experiment of my own. I decided to message and go on a date with someone who was a 50% match, with the mindset that at the very least it would result in a good story. The shocking result: We got along great - much better than some of the 75% matches I had dated before. My social experiment lead to a string of really great dates full of wine, good conversation and some solid physical chemistry.

 

The reason everyone is so up in arms about OkCupid’s recent “testing on humans” is because we put a lot of trust in technology. Because online dating is based in science and math, it’s marketed to us a much more reliable, accurate way of meeting someone than say, approaching a stranger in a bar. Maybe it is - or maybe it isn’t. As Christian Renner notes, “If you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.” The internet is one big experiment and the only way to avoid being a human guinea pig is to completely disconnect from it - something that I think very few of us would see as a viable option.

 


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