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So is everyone doomed to seek mates who are unreachably “out of their league”?
As it turns out, aspirational message-sending does work – not all the time, and less often when the desirability gap is bigger.
Women consistently sent more positively worded messages to men when the “desirability gap” was greater, the scientists said – a sign that they were putting in more effort for a more desirable man.
Men, however, did the opposite: They sent less positively worded messages to more desirable women.“My coauthor and I used to joke that the men are playing it cool,” Bruch said.
For men seeking more desirable women, the response rate went as high as 21% — high enough that the effort may be worth it, the scientists said.“One of the take home messages here is that it might pay to be persistent,” Bruch said – to send messages to many desirable users, in the hopes of getting a response from one of them.“It seems like even writing 10 messages to find someone you find incredibly desirable is a pretty modest investment of time and energy,” she said.
Bruch also pointed to other research indicating that, essentially, people are at their most superficial in the earliest stages of when they meet, and begin to value other characteristics as they get to know each other.“If that’s true, then what we would expect is that these desirability differences matter most in this first message and reply,” she said, “and then the desirability gap ceases to be as important in determining whether people move on to the next stage.”Perhaps studying the number of follow-up messages, or the contents of the replies, could start to shed more light on that dynamic, said Bruch.
In all four cities, men had slightly lower reply rates from women when they wrote more positively worded messages.“That was a surprising finding — I was not expecting that,” Bruch said.Another common tactic men and women employed was to send desirable prospects longer messages – but it didn’t really seem to result in a higher response rate, she said.There was one exception: Seattle men had the “most pronounced” rise in message length for desirable partners, and the strategy actually seemed to work, resulting in a higher response rate.Online dating offers a solution, because you can see who first contacts whom, and whether the recipient responds to that initial message.So for this paper, the scientists used anonymized data from an unnamed dating site for nearly 187,000 users across four U. cities – New York, Boston, Chicago and Seattle – over the course of a month.