How to find a match: choice, decisions and quality vs. quantity

Part of living in a globalised society is being constantly presented with options. We are faced with an abundance of choice in every aspect of our lives; from careers to toothpaste. Often, this wealth is treated as a boon, proof that we live in a time of plenty – but are endless options really that good for us?

EliteSingles investigated, discovering that it is quality, not quantity that makes us the happiest when it comes time to find a match.

Presenting the paradox of choice

Popular wisdom says the more the merrier and the bigger the better. Yet, over the last decade, psychological studies into how we choose say the opposite; that having too many alternatives is a quick route to dissatisfaction. This concept, popularised by Barry Schwartz ten years ago, is commonly known as the paradox of choice and essentially says that ‘’the more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option you chose.’’1

[when] everything is possible, you increase paralysis and you decrease satisfaction

– Barry Schwartz

Schwartz believes that ‘’[when] everything is possible, you increase paralysis and you decrease satisfaction.’’2 In other words, an overload of choice can be problematic in two ways: firstly, when faced with a lot of options, we tend to agonise over making a final decision and, secondly, once we do make our pick, we are more likely to regret it. Even when we find a match that is ostensibly perfect, we can’t stop considering the what ifs.

A good of example of the paradox of choice in action occurred in a landmark study involving something that, on the surface, is fairly straightforward: jam. In this trial, some supermarket customers were presented with a tasting table that showcased 24 jams, while others could only choose from 6. While the larger table drew a bigger crowd, only 3% of these visitors went on to buy jam. In contrast, the smaller table attracted less attention –but 30% of these made a subsequent jam purchase. It’s thought that this is because customers felt less overwhelmed by their options at the 6-jam table and so could make a firm decision about what jam would work for them.3

Your choices when finding a match online

So how does all of this choice research relate to online dating? Can you apply the paradox to people? Most research suggests that yes, you can – and that the results have an interesting implication for those trying to find a match.

Much like in the jam study, online dating investigations have shown that, when faced with too many options, people tend to feel overwhelmed. However, where dating differs is that, when it come to love, being overwhelmed doesn’t stop participants attempting to make a decision. What it does do is encourage them to make quicker decisions, based on less information. Essentially, when faced with limitless profiles to flip through, people tend to go back to basics –liking matches based on the most rudimentary of attraction insights in order to get through everyone.4

Dr Amy Muise, a sex and relationships researcher, suggests that whether or not this approach appeals depends on what you are looking for in a partner. More specifically, she believes that, because any pairings that result from these quick decisions will be based on relatively simple criteria, having lots of dating options is ‘’a strategy [which] may be better suited for daters who are looking for casual sex as opposed to a long-term partner.’’5

Barry Schwartz’s findings seem to support this too – remember, he argues that the more choice we have the more we struggle to commit to a final decision.6 An abundance of choice is fantastic if you want to keep your options open, but if you want to find a match who is in it for the long run, a new approach is needed.

Find a match: how EliteSingles makes things easier

At EliteSingles we cater for those looking for long term commitment, so it should come as no surprise that we prefer a more targeted approach! We believe in giving our members the best possible chance to find real, meaningful love and so we make a concerted effort to avoid overwhelming our users with a sea of profiles. Instead, we have created an in-depth matchmaking process that helps our users find someone who is truly on their wavelength.

This doesn’t mean that our users are denied the opportunity to make a choice for themselves; instead it is about offering a manageable selection of highly compatible options. As an example, a premium EliteSingles member can expect to receive 3 – 7 match suggestions a day, suggestions that are based on their own personality profile, New Zealand location and relationship preferences. We think this is the ideal number to allow freedom to browse while still allowing enough time to really discover each new profile.

In other words, although we don’t offer unlimited choices, our members are still very much in the driver’s seat when it comes to finding a partner. We just give them a helping hand when it comes to which roads to take. Think of it as navigating with a local map rather than a world atlas: there might be less paths shown but those ones that are included have the details you need to get you to your dream destination. It is a simple case of choosing quality over quantity.

Are you ready to see who you might match with? Then choose EliteSingles today.

EliteSingles editorial, November 2014

If you have questions or comments about how to find a match, please conatct us below or at [email protected].


1 Barry Schwartz Ted Talk: The Paradox of Choice, 2005. See video above.
2 Ibid
3 The Tyranny of Choice, from the print edition of The Economist, 2010.
4 Melissa Schneider, So Many Fish in the (Online) Sea: Is All This Choice a Good Thing? 2012
5 Dr. Amy Muise, Online Dating: The Paradox of Choice. 2012.
6 Barry Schwartz Ted Talk: The Paradox of Choice, 2005.

About the author: Sophie Watson

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