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  • When we published my video on 'how to find the perfect partner using optimal stopping

  • theory" we realised that you Headsqueezers, just like everyone else, need a bit of help

  • and advicewhen you're looking for love. But unlike anyone else, you guys also want clever,

  • smart, scientific and rational advice. So let me be your maths-matchmaker and tell you

  • how to win at online dating.

  • You might have heard recently about Chris McKinlay, the mathematician who totally gamed

  • the system, and wrote a computer program which was capable of tricking OkCupid into thinking

  • it was human. All Chris dod then was set off the computer program to collect data on literally

  • thousands of women on the site. All with one question -- what was it that the women who

  • Chris was after, what was it that they were interested in. And once he'd collected that

  • data, all Chris had to do was create a new dating profile that made him look as attractive

  • as possible to all of his potential partners.

  • Now it took him almost a yea to set it up, but in doing so. Chris changed his potential

  • matches from just 100 to almost 10,000 and at the peak his page was getting visits from

  • up to 400 women a day.

  • Conclusive proof if ever it were needed that maths seriously impresses the ladies.

  • Now Ok Cupid, I think, is a particularly interesting example, not least because it was founded

  • by a group of mathematicians. And because they're mathematicians, the founders have

  • been collecting data for almost a decade on how we interact with one another, and how

  • we speak about ourselves on an internet dating site. And they've come up with some seriously

  • interesting results.

  • For starters, it turns out that iphone users do have more sex (or at least they say they

  • do). Also, skinny women feel a lot better about themselves than curvy women when they're

  • in their early twenties, but this changes over about the age of 30, when curvy women

  • overtake skinny women in the self confidence stakes and never look back.

  • But for me my favourite finding from the group that founded OK Cupid is that it turns out

  • that how good looking you are does not dictate how popular you are on an online dating website

  • -- and actually, having people think you're ugly can work to your advantage.

  • In one of the thankfully voluntary sections of Ok Cupid, you can rate how good looking

  • you think people are between 1 and 5. Now if we compare this average score that people

  • achieve on this rating to how many messages they got, you can begin to get an idea of

  • how good looking you are effects how popular you are on an online dating website.

  • Now the first thing to notice is that it's definitely not true that good-looking people

  • get more messages. Maybe there's a little bit of a trend here, but to be honest it's

  • got an r squared of naff all.

  • So the big question arises is what is it that's different about the people up here compared

  • to the people down there.

  • And it turns out that it's not about how good looking you are -- it's about how much you

  • divide opinion. Let me give you an example. If you take Holly Willoughby -- everyone agrees

  • that Holly Willghouby is a very beautiful woman. No one thinks that she's ugly, but

  • she's not a supermodel either.

  • But compare her to somebody like Sarah Jessica Parker. Where a lot of people -- myself included,

  • think that she is absolutely fabulous, and one of the most beautiful creatures to have

  • ever walked the earth. But a lot of other people, i.e. most of the internet, seems to

  • think she looks like a horse.

  • Now if you were asked to rate Holly Wollgoughby and Sarah Jessica Parker on this 1 to 5 scale,

  • I reckon they would average out to have roughly the same score, but the way that people vote

  • would be very different. Holly's votes would be clustered around the number four, whereas

  • for Sarah, you'd get a lot of ones and a lot of fives.

  • And it's this spread, that fact that Sarah divides opinion, that would make her popular

  • on an internet dating website. This spread is the thing that's important, and you're

  • much better of dividing opinion in this way than just being beautiful, like sombody like

  • Holly.

  • So if some people think that you're beautiful, you're better off having other people think

  • that you're a massive minger. That's much better than having everybody think that you're

  • just the cute girl next door.

  • Now this begins to make a bit of sense if you start introducing a juicy bit of game

  • theory. Because the people who are sending these messages are perhaps thinking about

  • their own chances.

  • Let's say that somebody thinks you're very attractive, but suspects that other people

  • might not be that interested. It means that they're going to have less competition, and

  • an extra incentive to get in touch. But if they think someone's attractive but suspects

  • that everybody else will as well, why would they bother humiliating themselves.

  • But here is the really interesting part. Because most people when they set up an online dating

  • profile pictures, they try and hide the things that they think makes them unattractive. The

  • classic example is people who think they are a little bit overweight chosing a photo which

  • only shows their face, or perhaps bald men only choosing photos where they're wearing

  • hats.

  • But actually, this is the opposite of what you should do, you should totally play up

  • to whatever makes you different --even if you think that some people might find it unattractive.

  • The fact is is that the people who fancy you are going to fancy you regardless. And the

  • unimportant losers who don't-- well, they only play up to your advantage

  • Now, If you can think of any other everyday, practical problems that we can help with then

  • let us know in the comments section below.

When we published my video on 'how to find the perfect partner using optimal stopping

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How to win at Online Dating | Hannah Fry | Head Squeeze

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    Halu Hsieh posted on 2014/05/10
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