Online dating the technology behind the attraction

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Intuitively building an idea of a person from snapshots of their life – “thin-slicing” as it is known in psychology – is the next best thing when you can’t actually meet them face-to-face. Psychologist Sam Gosling at the University of Texas, who studies how people form impressions of others from cues in their environment, has found that someone’s possessions can teach us more about them than a direct conversation, and more even than what their friends or colleagues might say about them.If you’re seeking to “read” someone from pictures of their apartment, Gosling’s research can help you.As it turns out, love is all about the brain – which, in turn, makes the rest of your body go haywire. Helen Fisher at Rutgers, romantic love can be broken down into three categories: lust, attraction, and attachment.Each category is characterized by its own set of hormones stemming from the brain (Table 1).We hope to learn, among other things, what kind of pictures give the best insights, what content users most readily connect with, and what someone’s choice of pictures says about them.We’d also like to know if users, when given the opportunity to delve more deeply into people’s lives (rather than just swiping through a series of head shots), spend more time considering individual profiles, and are more satisfied and ultimately more successful if they have fewer profiles to browse (as predicted by numerous studies).

Scientists in fields ranging from anthropology to neuroscience have been asking this same question (albeit less eloquently) for decades.It is slow, deliberative and analytical, a product of our (relatively) recently evolved prefrontal cortex; it enables us to make complex computations, and to direct our attention at particular tasks.System 1, by contrast, is fast, automatic and emotion-led, driven by far older neural circuits; it operates automatically and with little sense of agency. Effective decision-making requires both systems – but sometimes it is better to use one over the other. In the real (offline) world, sussing out a potential partner is – at least in the beginning – indisputably a system 1 activity.You may have stammered, your palms may have sweated; you may have said something incredibly asinine and tripped spectacularly while trying to saunter away (or is that just me? And chances are, your heart was thudding in your chest.It’s no surprise that, for centuries, people thought love (and most other emotions, for that matter) arose from the heart.

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