New Delhi, Feb. 6: Online dating provides unique benefits never possible before in human history, but comes with risks that might make the search for romantic relationships more difficult than it has been in the past, psychologists said today.
The psychologists in the US, who reviewed more than 400 studies, said that online dating had become pervasive and had fundamentally altered the process of finding potential partners and matching their compatability.
But their review, published today in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, also cautions that an online search for partners has limitations, and there appears to be something that people must assess face-to-face before a romantic relationship can begin.
The researchers said their findings related to online dating websites in the US and other western countries, and not to matrimonial sites in India.
Senior managers with matrimonial websites in India said the industry was thriving. Without success stories, websites like ours wont survive, said a Nafisa Yeasmin, a Calcutta-based manager with a matrimonial website that, she said, drew 5,000 new registered users from around the world daily.
A Chennai-based website said it had helped 2.5 million couples marry over the past 15 years.
The US psychologists said the most obvious advantage was the opportunity online dating provided individuals to find a large pool of potential partners quickly — within minutes — a feat impossible through traditional search methods.
But theres a cost to having too much choice, said Susan Sprecher, a co-author of the review, and professor of psychology at the Illinois State University in the US. People may become overwhelmed by the choice and experience decision-paralysis, Sprecher told The Telegraph.
Several studies that Sprecher and her colleagues reviewed suggest that people tend to exhibit stronger positive impressions about specific potential partners when they believe that access to alternative potential partners is scarce rather than plentiful.
Online dating offers people incredible options, but it has potential downsides, said Harry Reis, a co-author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. The constant access to large numbers of potential partners through the search websites might, the researchers said, undermine a persons willingness to commit.
People looking for partners online are likely to find the process of browsing through so many profiles cognitively laborious which may decrease their interest in any specific potential partner during the browsing process, the researchers wrote in their review. This may even undermine their levels of happiness or commitment to a potential partner offline.
The study also cautions that the longer such communication continues, the poorer may be the outcome.
The researchers have cited a study that suggests that if the time between the initial computer-mediated interaction and the initial face-to-face interaction is too long — greater than six weeks — computer-mediated communication fails to provide any additional boost. This, the scientists said, may be because the face-to-face reality fails to live up to peoples exaggerated or overly particular expectations.
Scientists say a surprise finding in the study was how readily people believe that computer algorithms can help identify soulmates.
The matching algorithms almost certainly do not work, Eli Finkel, a psychologist at Northwestern University, and first author of the review, said.