Mating game: Too much choice will leave you lonely

Mar 02, 2011 by Winnie Andrews
Scientists have made a surprising discovery: The more options you have for choosing a lover, the likelier you are to end up with no-one.

Scientists have made a surprising discovery: The more options you have for choosing a lover, the likelier you are to end up with no-one.

British investigators, in a new study released on Wednesday, looked at the strange dynamics of choice in speed-dating, a fashionable way for singles to meet.

Speed-daters race through a rota of one-on-one meetings, judging each person for suitability after a conversation of a few minutes that ends when a bell sounds.

Assessing large numbers of candidates was not a problem in itself, the researchers found.

In fact, many speed-daters found more potential partners when they were able to cast their net into a larger pool.

But this advantage only worked when the available candidates were all broadly similar.

When candidates were too dissimilar, speed-daters became confused by many conflicting factors -- and often failed to choose anyone.

"There are models of human 'rationality' which posit that variety is a good thing," said researcher Alison Lenton at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

"What will be surprising to some people is that our results suggest that increasing option variety leads to chooser confusion. People are more likely to choose no-one at all when faced with greater variety."

The study, published in the British journal Biology Letters, tracked 1,868 female and 1,870 male participants at 84 commercial speed-dating events.

Hopeful singles gave details of their , , age, height, weight and , allowing researchers to gauge differences.

The women's mean age was 34.3 years and men were aged 35.6. Twenty percent of women and 27 percent of men were in professional or managerial positions, and the remainder classified themselves as "skilled non-manual" or other occupations.

Speed-daters met in groups and engaged in three-minute encounters with between 15 and 31 singles of the opposite sex.

After the event, the organiser matched up individuals who indicated a mutual interest in each other, thus opening the way to a possible date.

Big speed-dating events typically generated 123 such "proposals," or shows of interest, when candidates were similar, the researchers found. But the number dropped by more than a quarter, to 88, when candidates were varied.

Small speed-dating events would lead to 85 proposals when candidates were similar. But this fell by nearly a third, to 57 proposals, when candidates were varied.

Men were generally keener than women in formulating a proposal -- but were also likelier to be stumped by choice.

In short, variety is fine... but in manageable doses.

"Dealing with variety requires attention and memory, and we have only so much capacity for each," Lenton explained in an email with AFP.

Extending encounters by 10 minutes might not greatly change results, she said.

"It is extremely common for us to make quick judgments about other people, even in a matter of seconds. And once those judgments are formed, they can be difficult to change."

Amber Soletti, who runs a speed-dating company in New York, said grouping singles by interest or physical preferences boosted chances of a successful connection.

Her company, OnSpeedDating.com, offers 75 niche groups, such as "Asian Persuasion," "Fitness Singles" and "Worldly Singles" who like to travel.

Soletti started the company after failing to find anyone of interest at general speed-dating events.

"I only like to date men 6-foot-1 (1.85 metres) and taller. I always went to single events that had shorter men, so I didn't find anyone," she said by phone.

But now, "If I go to our tall event, I have a better chance of meeting someone," she said.

"People know what they like."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Observers of first dates can predict outcome, study shows

Jan 30, 2009

When it comes to assessing the romantic playing field -- who might be interested in whom -- men and women were shown to be equally good at gauging men's interest during an Indiana University study involving speed dating -- ...

Strangers influence our dating preferences

Jun 07, 2010

Many people like to think they have discriminating tastes when it comes to romantic interests. An Indiana University study, however, found that men and women are greatly influenced not only by what their friends think of ...

Love on the information suitor highway

Mar 07, 2006

Angie Vasconcellos started dating online two years ago before she moved to Arizona but broke off the relationship before it got too serious.

Selectivity is ultimate aphrodisiac

Feb 06, 2007

Speed daters who romantically desired most of their potential partners were rejected quickly and overwhelmingly, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

19 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
1 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2011
Alternatively the more options you have, the better you can appreciate the nature of a good selection and so avoid making a bad choice. The researchers ignored the quality of the decisions the daters made: it is sometimes better not to select than make an inappropriate selection. More options allows a dater to appreciate what they are looking for and say no to a bad choice. It may appear they cannot make a selection but in fact they are making better decisions
js81pa
not rated yet Mar 02, 2011
You very well could be right but most people that think this way are single because they are looking for perfection (or close to it). Obviously such a thing doesn't exist and when it comes to mate selection, sometimes you have to pick someone you can get that has a lot of good qualities you like and try it out, that is why it is called dating, that is, assuming you want to settle down or date.
TopherTO
not rated yet Mar 02, 2011
I think increased choice means increased standards. If you live in a small rural town you may be more prone to accomodate less than ideal traits/characteristics than a large city. The more fish in the sea the more refined and specified your desires become. Whereas less choice, you focus on qualities that are very important and are less swayed by more minor elements. I think choice idealizes "the grass is greener" approach and can sometimes convince you to hold out as you're certain there is something better.
mklnk
not rated yet Mar 02, 2011
When you chase two rabbits, you lose them both.
OdinsAcolyte
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2011
The truth is many do not know what love is. Choose to put the welfare of another over that of yourself. That is love. Anything less is Less.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2011
@OdinsAcolyte
Erich Fromm proposed this as one form of love in The Art of Loving.
Simonsez
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2011
When you chase two rabbits, you lose them both.

This is why arrows and spears were invented.

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...