Women prefer similarity in subtler ways as well: A woman shows a small but highly statistically significant preference for a man who uses similar adjectives to describe himself, with “physically fit,” “intelligent,” “creative” and “funny” having the strongest effects. Men showed no such preference.
There are some nuances here. For another thing, the matches people message depend on the options eHarmony’s algorithm gives them, and that sample is skewed toward similar people. Jonny Beber, an eHarmony scientist, explained to me that the algorithm tries to optimize immediate attraction and long-term compatibility, and that because the company believes that “opposites attract … and then attack,” this usually means pairing similar people.
The eHarmony data I used is incomplete: It includes no gay couples, because eHarmony does not make same-sex matches on its main site. He also noted that there were differences in what traits matter to gay people, something the online dating site OkCupid has also found: Gay men and women differ from straight people in their racial preferences, for example.
eHarmony’s data set does show us that in addition to preferring similarity across traits, women seem to know that their preferences are stronger. Before feeding their choices into its algorithm, eHarmony asks users to rate how strongly they feel about nine traits – among them age, ethnicity and religion – and women express stronger preferences for every one.
But Beber has studied data from the company’s same-sex dating site, Compatible Partners, and said similarity predicts long-term relationship satisfaction in gay couples, just as it does in straight couples
This got me wondering, how self-aware are people in general? Continue reading