Too many romantic options from online dating could leave us unhappier


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MADISON (WKOW) — A new study by UW-Madison researchers finds there can be such a thing as “too many fish in the sea”: having so many romantic options, you’re less satisfied with your choice.

Data shows there are more single people in America than ever before. And with websites and apps, it’s never been easier to meet a mate. But with online dating come more options, and new research from UW-Madison shows there could be such a thing as too many fish in the sea.

For this study, researchers developed an in-house online dating website and recruited students to use it. One group of students was given six options for a potential date, the other was given 24 options. They made a choice of potential date, and didn’t meet the person – just sat on their decision for a week.

One week later, the researchers asked if they were still happy with the choice they made. The group with 24 choices was unhappier with their picks than the group with six choices.

“We’re not quite sure why satisfaction drops, but we think that it’s a process of people thinking about those options not taken, having a little bit of regret maybe for not taking another good option,” said PhD candidate Jonathan D’Angelo. “For the people who have the choice constrained, there’s not as much room to do that, so that natural constraint keeps satisfaction high.”

The study was based on the excessive choice effect: it’s a behavioral theory that basically represents how we think “the grass is always greener”. “So the take-home is that more isn’t always better when it comes to online dating,” says D’Angelo.

Tinder, Match.com, Plenty of Fish and OKCupid are known for giving you lots of options. D’Angelo says eHarmony has a reputation for giving you fewer choices, leading to happier relationships.


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