Monthly Archives: July 2013

Match.com, eHarmony, & Kahneman and Tversky’s Prospect Theory

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Best Experienced With:     Fine Young Cannibals;   Blue

(this thing was written while listening to “Blue” two hundred twelve times.     Fine Young Cannibals goes quite nicely with the prose.    Always match the proper wine to the meal and the right music to the message)

love

Life and love are all about risk taking an probabilities.     Everything has a probability.    Creepy eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren and his band of merry algorithm writers sell probability to the masses, as well as the promise of love.  I propose that if you have a passing familiarity with Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s Prospect Theory, if you are over the age of thirty-five, and if you spent more than ninety percent of your life single, you’ll have a completely different perspective of on-line dating.

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Three or four thousand times a month, Match.com sends this email:

“If you send an email to a Match member after ‘liking’ their photo or making them a favorite, they are seven trillion times more likely to go on a date with you!”

Really?   Thanks, Match.com!   I had no idea.  Some months I get that email three or four thousand times a day.  Match.com appears annoyed that I have not availed myself of their services, despite my prolific use of their site and the dozens of complaining emails I send them weekly to keep them on their toes.     I’m not on Match.com to date.  I’m on Match.com to see what type of women algorithms, written by nineteen year olds who will most likely not see their first date until well into their late thirties, will choose for me, based upon the vague, imperfect, and ridiculous data I feed to the machine.

Match.com is yet another means by which we can all rage against the machine.

I am not opposed to dating.  I’ve dated a lot through the years.    Not quite as much as Tiger Woods dated from 2006 to 2009; however, I have dated a lot.    I began dating at twelve, and outside of the married years, I dated between three or four dozen people a year.   Unlike Mark Sanford, I chose not to date while married.   In the event you do not have a calculator handy, that equates to 1,987,406 dates since 1976.     Give or take a few thousand.   I can never do long multiplication in my head.

On line dating and meeting someone in person and going on a date are night and day different, despite what Neil Clark Warren may say in his creepy eHarmony commercial where he is sitting next to the woman in the bikini.    That is one of the creepiest commercials ever.   In the commercial, the camera pans from left to right.   First, we see a very average looking, if not slightly dim looking man, with a goofy smile.    Next, we see a ridiculously hot woman in a bikini that there is no way the average looking guy could every pull from a bar.   Unless he was a billionaire.    If the average looking man in the commerical were a billionaire, he would have no need for Match.com.  He could just walk into a bar, throw a fistful of hundred dollar bills in the air, scream “I have a pound of cocaine in my limo outside!” and then just wait in the parking lot for the bikini clad hotties to come out and jump in the limo.  Finally, the camera completes its pan and freezes on creepy eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren…smiling his creepy smile and apparently on this date with the impossible couple….. telling us that the reason this average looking gentleman was able to outkick his coverage and end up with the bikini hottie is eHarmony’s algorithms.

These dating sites take far too much time and energy.  For example, if I meet a woman on Wednesday and we go out on Saturday, the odds of her looking precisely as she did the previous Wednesday are 97.6%.      If I meet a woman in an online dating site, the odds of her looking precisely like her profile pictures when we go on a date Saturday is 19.4%.     A large (and unacceptable) difference of 78.2%.

Moreover, the process with on line dating is convoluted and takes far too much time.    Using the previous paragraph’s example, if I meet a woman on Wednesday, we may spend seven or eight minutes chatting, I’ll ask her if she wants to go out Saturday, and then I’ll leave……..knowing that we are at least mildly attracted to each other.  Prior to that, I would have spent three to four minutes looking around the establishment to determine whom I would ask out on a date.  Total time invested:  twelve minutes.     To accomplish that same Saturday evening date with an online dating site would involve the following:

  1. Parsing profiles:  forty-three minutes
  2. Reaching out to top three:  sixteen minutes
  3. Email conversing with top three to choose one:  thirty-one minutes
  4. Two phone calls with top prospect to determine neither of us is an axe murder:  sixty-four minutes

Total time invested:  one hundred fifty four minutes.      An additional one hundred forty six minute investment  (18.25 x) is involved even before the date.     And, outside of the perpetually unemployed and the criminally insane, who has that kind of time?

Take, for example, the wasted two-hour conversation I had last month with a woman from Match.com who made it through the sequential “parsing”, “reaching out” and “emailing” phases.   I allowed it to go two hours for three primary reasons.   First, I had just received four cases of red wine and had three of the bottles open for sampling.    Second, it was late and I was pretty well whacked out on my post spine surgery pain meds.   Third, and most important, I had both computers open in front of me…..the land line was on speaker….with two very exciting (and very challenging) Angry Bird games going on, bilaterally.     If you have not played Angry Birds, bilaterally, all whacked out on Carmenere and pain pills, you need to try it this weekend.    I can suffer through any two-hour phone conversation properly medicated and sufficiently distracted.     The only thing that would have made the two-hour phone call better is if there had been some sort of puppet show going on in the other side of the room.   Everyone likes a good puppet show.

Phone calls should last, maximum, seven minutes.   The average phone call should last two minutes.  This applies to both business and personal phone calls. All phone calls.  Always.   I do not return phone calls to people who keep me on the phone more than fifteen minutes on a regular basis.    If you have called me in the last year and I have not returned your call, odds are it is because you like to have reaaaaaaaally long phone calls.    Phone calls should last, maximum, seven minutes.

Back to last month’s wasted two hours.   Once we got through the typical questions I get  (“why do you have your age listed as ‘100 minus an integer….you choose the integer!’”, “why are all your profile pictures photographs of stickmen drawings?”, and “did you really design and build the large hadron collider all by yourself over a weekend trip to France?”), she threw out the chiller question:   “why don’t you ever want to have kids?”     Then, as oft is the case, she drew the parallel between my affinity for bottle feeding foster kittens and raising children, rolling right past the fact that if I chose to procreate at this advanced age, I would be ninety-seven at the kid’s seventh grade play.     To this question, I gave her my standard, truthful answer.

This answer.

“I can teach a kitten to crap in a box and cover that crap in less than ten days.    I’ve not yet met a parent that was able to match that track record with a human baby.    My three sisters are excellent parents and none of them were able to train their children to crap in a box within seven days.    You give me a litter of kittens and I’ll have them crapping in a box in seven days.   Guaranteed.”   That is precisely how I answered her question.   Chiller questions deserve appropriate answers.

The conversation inevitably turns to how many dates I have chosen to attend and why that number is so low.

After we waste two hours on the phone, Match.com people want to meet for coffee.    I have turned down three thousand coffee date offers and have offended countless of potential dates by flat out refusing to have a date before 7:00 p.m.   Why?   Because I have never had an afternoon first date in my life that ended in making out.   Neither have you.   And that is what we all want to do after a date.   We want to make out.  The purpose of a date is not conversation.   The purpose of a date is the appetizer to making out.  My dream girl, Natalie Imbruglia, could call right now and ask if I’d like to have coffee tomorrow afternoon.   My answer would be the same.   “No thank you…I do not do daytime dates.   I can pick you up at 7:01 p.m.    And bring a robe.”   Periodically, if I really do not want them to ever call me again, I modify the answer and say; “No thank you…I do not do daytime dates because I am a vampire and when we go out into the sun, we melt.”

Dating sites are quite strict on the profile titles their editorial boards allow.   For example, here is a random sampling of rejected Match.com and eHarmony profile titles.   There have been over four hundred rejected profile titles in the past year.   One per day.

  •  I have four hundred thirty seven extra toothbrushes in the guest bathroom
  • Do not freak when you see the shovels, quick lime and duct tape in the trunk.   I do a lot of handyman work for friends
  • Bro’s before ho’s
  • I’d be quite to happy to have a sleepover party on the first date
  • Don’t mind my purity ring…it has sentimental value
  • My work release program allows me to stay out until 10 p.m. on both Tuesday AND Thursday.
  • If you “favorite” me I will block your profile.   No exceptions.   I don’t want to be anyone’s favorite.   Ever.   That’s too much pressure.
  • I was with the same woman from age 5 to 41.   I won’t expect you to fill her shoes.   No one can
  • I married an Asian woman, so I’ve already checked that box.
  • May I borrow forty-three dollars, please?
  • When we Rochambeau for something, I will always choose “knife”.    With an actual knife.
  • If you talk more than 30 seconds about your ex, I’m going to cover my ears and sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
  • Most people grow accustomed to my pronounced lisp by date six or seven.
  • “Yo……what these bitches want from a nigga?  Street bitches, slash, Cocoa Puff sweet bitches.”   (DMX)
  • Chien qui aboie ne mord pas.

Match.com was kind enough to allow this profile title last month.

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I tend to translate the Match.com descriptors, mentally, into my own descriptors.  Most of the time, I say the translations out loud,   To the cats.

For example:

  • Hair do with bangs in photo translates into “this woman looks like Jodie Arias and will cut off my head at some point after stalking me”
  • “has kids but they live away” translates into “I am unfit to house or parent my kids”
  • “have not dated in a while” translates into “I am on a work release program”
  • “Love to cook” translates into “I’m pushing morbidly obese”
  • “I’m a low maintenance woman” translates into “I’m going to text you nine hundred forty-four times a day”.
  • “I need intellectual stimulation” translates into “I have read all three Christian Grey books”
  • “I’m funny” translates into “I do not understand Monty Python and have no appreciation for David Sedaris”
  • “I’d like to be taken care of” translates into “I’m lazy”
  • “Curvy” translates into “I’d take up all of my seat and parts of your, unintentionally, on a Southwest flight to Vegas”.
  • Any platitude or hyperbole quote translates into “I have no original thoughts”.
  •  “agnostic” translates into “I have no moral compass”.    (That one is actually in my sweet spot and I award bonus points for “agnostic”)
  • Multiple, close up photos of fake breasts clearly indicate that she will refer to her boobs, in a very annoying fashion, as “the girls”…..often.   Every hour, on the hour.
  • “I’m hard working” translates into “my last boyfriend said I slept too late”
  • “I’m intelligent” translates into “my last boyfriend said I was stupid”
  • “I’m successful” translates into “my last boyfriend said my job was stupid”
  • “I’m giving” translates into “my last boyfriend thought I was stifling in my affection and I hope you do not mind when I call 48 times per day.”
  • “I’m sassy” translates into “all my photos will be slightly out of focus”.
  • “Just got out of a long relationship” translates into “I am never, ever going to shut up about my last relationship.”
  • “Great career” translates into “my daddy does not give me props for my job”
  • “I’m sarcastic” translates into “78% of the people I meet refer to me as a ‘bitch’ behind my back…yet I miss this because I have a poor global perception.”
  • “I don’t have time to read books” translates into “I type ‘LOL’ all the time”
  • “LOL” translates into “my IQ is less than 93”
  • “LOL” and “LMAO” in the same profile translates into “my IQ is less than 93 and I did not graduate high school”

Dating site profile photos have their own set of rules and translations.

More than five photos means either a case of incurable vanity or the inability to choose between a wide assortment of options.   Neither of these is attractive.   And if you have eight profile photos, all taken by you with your iPhone in a mirror, you clearly have no friends and are most likely not terribly interesting.   If all of your photos are from the shoulders up, you are most certainly going to take up all of my seat and parts of your, unintentionally, on a Southwest flight to Vegas.   Digital photos of non-digital photos means that these photos are from 1994 and you no longer resemble that photo.    Any photo of your dog or cat….alone, just the dog or cat…… means, again, that you have no friends.   If all the photos are of you and a group of people, you are trying to distract the viewer’s eye from you.   If, in the majority of your photos, you have on a hat, a costume, or you are posing ironically, you will always introduce yourself to my friends as “the quirky one” within three minutes of meeting them.    Which means that my friends will hate you.    If you are fat in several photos and thin in some photos, with a ridiculously beautiful face, you are saying “I’m fat now, but pretty……look at what you could have had if you met me eight years ago.”

Regardless of beauty, I will never respond to a dating site profiles where the woman writes “I believe everything happens for a reason.”   Because that’s just plain stupid.   Everything does not “happen for a reason”.    Next week I will begin writing the following email to those who choose to write “everything happens for a reason” in their profile.

“Hi!   I was drawn to your profile and compelled to email you because of your beautiful proclamation that ‘everything happens for a reason’.    What a bold, powerful and utterly unique sentence to write in your profile!    Did you write that yourself?    If so, bravo to you.  Bravo, indeed!  In any event, I was wondering if you could send me a note or give me a call and explain why the following happened?    Cancer.   Princess Diana dying in a fiery car crash, trapped in her seat and burning to death.    Children with leukemia and glioblastoma.   The Holocaust.   Again…..cancer.  People dying of AIDS and malnutrition in the sub Sahara desert.   T-Rex going extinct.   Justin Beiber getting his/her songs on the radio.   Deadly plane crashes.  If you could please get back to me on why those nine things happen, given that everything happens for a reason, I’d really appreciate it.    I look forward to meeting you.   Clearly there is much that you can teach me.    Hugs,  Dan”

 

For those who have never been on Match or eHarmony, the photos below are excerpts from actual profiles.    No need to translate anything mentally in these profile excerpts.   Nope.   What creepy eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren fails to share in his commercials, while sitting there next to the unusually attractive bikini clad actress, is this.   84% of the profiles are written (I am certain) with the best of intentions; however, they leave no question as to why this person is single.    Like this one:

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Or this one.   Please note the “actually I don’t like DOGS…I like MY dog…there is a difference” in the upper left in the photo.    Fascinating, and dead sexy.   Dead.  Sexy.   And brave….it takes some courage to proclaim that you dislike man’s best friend on a web site dedicated to getting a man.   Unless, of course, this is some sort of “play hard to get” reverse psychology ploy.    Dead.  Sexy.

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Then, there are the 7% that are poorly written and Charles Manson crazy:

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Match.com is a giant faux bar where anyone can be anything they want to be and new people come and go every minute of the day.     And anyone, from anywhere in the world, can be at this bar 24/7.   One of the first viral comics on the Internet back in 1993 was Peter Steiner’s wonderful New Yorker cartoon….this one

Internet_dog

My fifth Match.com date in six months, my final Match.com date, was the epitome of this cartoon.   This is precisely what went down on date five.   None of the bullet points are exaggerated.    Seriously.   This all happened.   And given that she claimed to be an actress when we spoke (for an hour….fifty-three more minutes more than a phone call should last) the evening before, I was able to Google her and see video of an attractive woman with all of her white teeth.     This all happened.   Precisely like this.   Last Saturday.

  • Asked at 10:00 a.m. if I wanted to come over and help her move a big desk from upstairs to the downstairs (I declined the offer)
  • Asked at 11:00 a.m. if I wanted to pick her up, take her to Target and then the AT&T store before we had lunch (I declined the offer)
  • Showed up for a noon date at 2:00 p.m.
  • Showed up all gakked out on coke
  • Offered me coke when I asked “are you all gakked out on coke?”
  • Was offended when I turned down her offer of free coke
  • Ordered a full lunch, all gakked out on coke
  • Did not eat the meal….most likely because she was all gakked out on coke
  • Asked for a box for the meal
  • Said she had left her wallet in the car.   With her coke.   Allowed me to pay for her take home meal
  • Had gray teeth…..and is only 36 years old
  • Had a missing incisor…and is only 36 years old
  • Had a car with three packs of cigarettes and a car that stunk to high heaven of smoke…and her profile claimed she did not smoke
  • Wore a sun dress with army boots
  • Referred to the army boots as “heels”, when she said “I am glad you are taller than me so that I can wear heels.
  • Argued with me when I explained that army boots did not really fall into the “heels” category.
  • Texted me a photo of her child the morning of the date….the child is eleven months old.   I did not request a photo
  • Had her long, beautiful hair pulled up into what looked like a combo of Princess Leia and Mickey Mouse ears.
  • Several times during lunch, took the hair down, put it into a single pony tail, then back into the Mickey Mouse look, while saying “I know it looks awful like this, but I like it this way.”
  • Asked during lunch if I wanted to come over after lunch to meet her baby and help her move a bunch of books from the upstairs to the downstairs
  • Told me I could take as many of the books as I liked, as long as she had read them
  • When she dropped me off at home, asked if she could come up to change
  • Started changing in the middle of the living room by pulling her sundress up to her neck
  • Got somewhat offended when I asked her to please change in the bathroom
  • Asked again if I wanted to help her move books, when I walked her to her car

In my seven months on Match.com, I have “favorited” 387,414 profiles and gone on five dates.    That’s somewhere less than one percent.    More precisely, it is 0.001290609%.  The primary reason I choose not to date at the feverish rate many choose to date when they join Match.com, or at any rate at all at this advanced age is Kahneman and Tversky’s Prospect Theory.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s Prospect Theory, loosely defined, is:

 

The theory describes the decision processes in two stages: editing and evaluation. During editing, outcomes of a decision are ordered according to certain heuristic. In particular, people decide which outcomes they consider equivalent, set a reference point and then consider less outcomes as losses and greater ones as gains. The editing phase aims to alleviate any framing effects.  It also aims to resolve isolation effects stemming from individuals’ propensity to often isolate consecutive probabilities instead of treating them together. In the subsequent evaluation phase, people behave as if they would compute a value based on the potential outcomes and their respective probabilities, and then choose the alternative having a higher utility.”

The most important aspect of Kahneman and Tversky’s research, with regard to dating, is risk aversion and risk seeking choices.

“Kahneman and Tversky started their research investigating apparent anomalies and contradictions in human behavior. Subjects when offered a choice formulated in one way might display risk-aversion but when offered essentially the same choice formulated in a different way might display risk-seeking behavior. For example, as Kahneman says, people may drive across town to save $5 on a $15 calculator but not drive across town to save $5 on a $125 coat.”

“One very important result of Kahneman and Tversky work is demonstrating that people’s attitudes toward risks concerning gains may be quite different from their attitudes toward risks concerning losses. For example, when given a choice between getting $1000 with certainty or having a 50% chance of getting $2500 they may well choose the certain $1000 in preference to the uncertain chance of getting $2500 even though the mathematical expectation of the uncertain option is $1250. This is a perfectly reasonable attitude that is described as risk-aversion. But Kahneman and Tversky found that the same people when confronted with a certain loss of $1000 versus a 50% chance of no loss or a $2500 loss do often choose the risky alternative. This is called risk-seeking behavior. This is not necessarily irrational but it is important for analysts to recognize the asymmetry of human choices.”

Some of the problems of interpreting human behavior in the face of risk have to do with the problem of people making decisions on the basis of subjective assessments of probabilities which may be quite different from the objective or true probabilities. Events of small probability that have never occurred before may be assessed as having a probability of zero in decision-making.  Small probabilities add up when chances are taken repeatedly.   1,987,406 dates, give or take a few thousand, counts as repeatedly.

A notable phenomenon is what happens to the probability of avoiding a small risk event when the probability is increased.  Doubling it.  For example, suppose the probability of being involved in an automobile accident on any one trip is 0.0001. In 2000 trips the probability of not being involved in an accident is about 0.82. If the probability of being involved in an accident is doubled to 0.0002, perhaps as a result of driving behavior, the probability not being involved in a accident in 2000 trips falls to 0.67. If the probability of being involved in an accident on one trip were tripled to 0.0003 the probability of avoiding an accident in 2000 trips falls from 0.82 to 0.55. The point is that while probabilities of 0.0001 and 0.0003 seems so small as to be insignificant there are not really zero and there is a lot of difference between 0.0001 and 0.0003.

Back to the 1,987,406 dates since 1976, Match.com and Kahneman and Tversky’s Prospect Theory.  

 

When you have had 1,987,406 dates, the data set is large enough to know every single potential outcome of the first, the third, the fiftieth, and the hundredth date, by person.  I know that in the first 90 days, we will have 3 arguments and 1 fight while having sex 3 times per day….during the second 90 days, we will have 7 arguments and 3 fights while having sex 3 times per day on weekends and once per day on weekends….and that in the third 90 days we will have 129 arguments, 57 fights, while having sex once on the weekend and every other day Monday through Friday.  The probabilities and predictability, based on the ultra large data set removes all surprise.  Which makes it far easier at an advanced age to skip the dating altogether and stay home.

cats

Reading Match.com profiles to the cats………

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