The Online Dating Mistake That’s Wrecking Your Chances Of an Awesome Match

It’s a case where more isn’t always better

Christa Sgobba |

You’ve always heard that casting a wide net is key in the dating game. But that strategy might not work as well as you think when we’re talking about the online kind, a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests.

Researchers recruited a group of 152 adults, and told them they were going to pilot a new dating website. The participants were split among how many potential matches popped up on their site: Some saw just six choices, while the others were shown 24. Then, they chose their potential date.

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One week later, online daters given a large pool of potential matches were less satisfied with their choice than those who chose from a small set, the study found.

Daters given a large pool of potential matches and who were able to reverse their selection were the least satisfied with their choice, too—and the most likely to act on choosing a new person, compared to those shown smaller pools.

“There can be more regret when they know there are other options,” said study author Dr. Jonathan D’Angelo, (c) in a press release.

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Credit a theory called choice overload. While it’s often used to explain why people purchase some products over others, it can also apply to relationships too—though the stakes for these can be much higher.

Having more choices available to you triggers something called counterfactuals, or ruminative thoughts about the discarded alternatives. Basically, they’re the “what might have been” thoughts that spark regret or uncertainty. And this kind of thinking can lower your satisfaction. But constraining the amount of choices available limits this line of thinking, which keeps satisfaction high, the researchers write.

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So if your dating site gives you the option, you may want to filter the default view for matches to the least it allows shown on one page, the study implies. And resist the urge to keep scrolling—you may be happier with your choice if your pool remains smaller.

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