Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maximizing and Satisficing in Online Dating

One of the supposed benefits of online dating is that it gains you access to a wider selection of possible mates. In the times of our parents and grandparents, people would often meet potential love interests through their friends or social group. This meant that you were limited to meeting people who knew people that you knew. This has the advantage that both people are vetted by their common friends.

With limited choice comes sacrifice. Being limited in potential partners, you are forced to accept less than perfect mates. But with limited choice, people are often more happy with the choice they make. This is where the issue of maximizing versus satisficing comes to play.

Imagine making an economic decision, purchasing a new sweater for example. There are several factors that will be used to make your choice in which sweater to purchase. You must weigh the cost against the quality, color, style, et cetera.If you have two choices, the decision is easy. But when there are many different styles, colors, qualities, costs, the decision becomes harder. A person who is a maximizer will want to maximize her well being in the consumption of the sweater and will thus want to look at all possible sweaters from all possible stores and weigh them.

A satisficer on the other hand recognizes that there is a cost to trying to weigh all possible options. Going from store to store, trying on every sweater, comparing prices and qualities of material has a cost in time and effort. The satisficer decides on the key attributes she is looking for and once she has found them, makes her purchase. She will only go to one or two stores knowing what she wants and what she is willing to pay. While she may not get the sweater that is most perfect, her over all well being may be higher simply from not paying the higher price in the search.

In a certain sense we are all maximizers and satisficers. On decisions we hold to be important, we will take more time and care weighing the costs and benefits of our choice. But what can be more important than who we will choose to be our life partner. And where as in the choice of sweaters there are dozens of different options maybe hundreds, but just peruse an online dating site and you will see there are thousands of people.

In any one meeting of two people, even if based on some magical formula from the dating website, while there may be a high degree of compatibility, each has an incentive to continue looking if there other is not close to perfect. After all, there are plenty of fish in the sea, as the saying goes. So even if there is a high degree of compatibility, the odds of both viewing the other as close enough to their ideal mate is low. And thus, while we can hope that we will find love through an online site, we must persevere in a way our parents and grandparents did not have to. And because of the higher cost in the search, we will ultimately be less satisfied with our result.

No comments: