Literature Review of Dating Economics

Harryer sent me this lovely literature review masquerading as a web article. It covers all the research ever done regarding why I can’t get a second date. Well, maybe not all. Heck, I hope not all. I mean, this is a key human interaction here. It would be pretty sad if it were less researched than how to successfully market painful shoes.

The first model introduced is the one where everyone has a number between 1 and 10 on their foreheads, and everyone is trying to get a partner with the highest number possible. After a few interactions, you figure out if you’re a 4 or an 8, and match yourself up accordingly.

Like all the pat economic theories of yesteryear, this suffers from oversimplification. Life in the market is a little bit muddled because it’s not actually a market. Maybe it was, back in days of arranged marriages, when the whole town would sit down and rate its singles and assign them numbers based on wealth and lineage. But in real life, most people aren’t so simply satisfied. They may try to distill their desire into a shopping list, but there’s still that something else — “spark,” or “chemistry,” or “chein” — that isn’t so easily quantified.

What does this sort of study tell us that’s useful?

“[I]ntelligence ratings were more than twice as important in predicting women’s choices as men’s.

The study claimed that men did, however, show a preference for more intelligent women – up to a point. Men preferred smarter women, but avoided women who they perceived as more intelligent than themselves.  The same pattern emerged for career ambition.”

There you go, women. You can be smart — downright brilliant, actually. Just not more brilliant than your date.

The next experiment cited was from Dan Ariely. He says that by trying not to offend on first dates, you’re just being boring, and that will kill your chance at a second date.  Instead, he recommends being daring and broaching controversial and personal topics.

“In an experiment he ran with online daters, subjects were forced to eschew safe topics in their messages and only throw out probing, personally revealing questions like “How many lovers have you had?”

The result? Both sides were more satisfied with the outcome.”

I would like to note that she does not note what “satisfied” means. Maybe they were satisfied that they had a really solid reason for not ever seeing this person again. Is that a success or a failure?

I have no trouble throwing out atypical ideas on first dates, because they’re just ideas and I have them so why not? They’re fun to play with. I’m not certain that this gets me many second date, though.

In fact, on my 1nD with Mr#40, I said I thought nicotine patches afforded the opportunity to see what makes smoking pleasurable without risking one’s lungs. (Assuming half the joy does not involve sticking something in your mouth. The use of pacifiers, lollypops, and bonbons as comforting tools suggest there may be.) Surprisingly, Mr.#40 did not take this well.

My parents, I should mention, do not agree with Dr. Ariely. When I come home from a first date and can’t tell them how many siblings my date has, they wonder what we did the whole time. And when I say we discussed the dangers of getting addicted to nicotine patches, they put their heads in their hands and cry a little bit. But I never cited a scientist at them before. Next time I’ll just say, “But Ariely says it’s better this way!”

This is why it’s great to live in a scientific era. It used to be that you were single because there was something wrong with you. But now we have studies to show that you’re merely doing it a little bit wrong. And if you aren’t 66% more married after implementing the advice of science, well, just keep up with the latest research. Soon enough they’ll find the cure — even for you.