Toronto | Men, take note! Women tend to send ‘weak signals’ rather than making the first move when it comes to online dating, researchers, including those of Indian-origin, have found.
Women don’t like to send personal messages to initiate contact, said Jui Ramaprasad, an assistant professor at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management. In other words, we still see that women don’t make the first move, she said. Instead, they tend to send what the researchers call a weak signal.
Weak signalling is the ability to visit, or ‘check out,’ a potential mate’s profile so the potential mate knows the focal user visited, researchers said. In a large-scale experiment conducted through a major North American online dating website, researchers examined the impact of a premium feature: anonymous browsing.
Out of 100,000 randomly selected new users, 50,000 were given free access to the feature for a month, enabling them to view profiles of other users without leaving telltale digital traces.
Compared to the control group, users with anonymous browsing viewed more profiles. They were also more likely to check out potential same-sex and interracial matches.
However, users who browsed anonymously also wound up with fewer matches defined as a sequence of at least three messages exchanged between users than their non-anonymous counterparts. This was especially true for female users: those with anonymous browsing wound up with an average of 14 per cent fewer matches.
The offline ‘flirting’ equivalents, at best, would be a suggestive look or a preening bodily gesture such as a hair toss to one side or an over-the-shoulder glance, each subject to myriad interpretations and possible misinterpretations contingent on the perceptiveness of the players involved, researchers said. Much less ambiguity exists in the online environment if the focal user views another user’s profile and leaves a visible train in his ‘Recent Visitors’ list, they said.
Men send four times the number of messages that women do, said Akhmed Umyarov, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. So the anonymity feature doesn’t change things so much for men, said Umyarov.
Experiments of this sort could be used in a range of online-matching platforms to help understand how to improve the consumer experience though it’s important that the experiments be done ethically, researchers said.
Even though people are willing to pay to become anonymous in online dating sites, we find that the feature is detrimental to the average users, said Professor Ravi Bapna, the Carlson Chair in Business Analytics and Information Systems at Minnesota.
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