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There’s a scientific reason why dating algorithms don’t always work


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Photo: StockSnap/Joshua Ness

When it comes to filling out a nosy online dating questionnaire, the mild anxiety is real. Why is it suddenly so hard to describe yourself? Do you really have to know if you want kids, right this second? But the whole point of taking the time to fill it out is so the algorithm can work its magic. That way, you escape the fate of finding out—seven dates in—that your potential love interest is envisioning an entirely different future.

So why is it that someone can sound so completely right on paper but in person the vibe is totally off? As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason for that.

For finding that in-person, undeniable chemistry, there’s just not an app for that.

A recent study in Psychological Science found that there just isn’t a formula for predicting how well people will hit it off IRL. Prior to two different speed dating events, scientists had participants fill out a questionnaire and then used a machine to predict who would have chemistry when they met in person. It was legit, too: Over 100 questions. Then, the speed dating commenced. But what was predicted ended up being irrelevant. In person, the results were a lot more random.

To be fair, answering questions about your long-term relationship goals are still somewhat helpful for finding a partner—according to the study’s author, Samantha Joel, a psychology professor at the University of Utah. “By narrowing one’s dating pool to compatible potential partners, a person may be able to increase the odds that when they do meet someone they click with, that relationship is more likely to thrive long-term,” Joel tells The Cut.

But as for finding that in-person, undeniable chemistry, there’s just not an app for that. At least, not yet.

Here’s how to keep your long-term relationship exciting, once you actually find someone you like. Still in the just-hooking-up stage? Here’s what to know about good sex and relationship success.