A Psychologist Says These Are The Only Dating Apps That Matter

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For information on the science of attraction, few names carry more weight than Eli Finkel.

Finkel is a professor at Northwestern University who studies interpersonal attraction, marriage, conflict resolution, and how social relationships influence goal achievement. In his role as director of Northwestern’s Relationships and Motivation Lab (RAMLAB), he has published 130+ scientific papers and is a regular contributor to the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. He’s also the author of a best-selling book, The All-Or-Nothing Marriage, and was called "one of the leading lights in the realm of relationship psychology” by The Economist.

So when Finkel makes a pronouncement about dating, we listen. His most recent research has looked into dating services and matching algorithms, in hopes of answering the most important question of all: do they actually work?

Finkel is optimistic about the basic premise of online dating.

"For people who want to whine and moan about how online dating isn't working," he told Business Insider, "go back in time to 1975. Ask somebody, 'What does it feel like to not have any realistic possibility of meeting somebody that you could potentially go on a date with?'"

In other words, online dating is a numbers game. Its biggest benefit is that it introduces you to a large volume of people, most of which you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Expanding your pool of potential dates naturally increases the odds that one of them will stick.

Finkel is less confident in the efficacy of algorithms. A study he conducted in August 2017 concluded that a mathematical model could not predict attraction. He has also written a critical analysis of online dating in which he outlined several limitations of online dating, including that most of us are wrong about what what we want in a partner, so algorithms cannot accurately assess compatibility.

Years in the field and a wide spectrum of research have led Finkel to conclude that, because the only real benefit of online dating is that it introduces you to many more prospective mates, apps like Tinder and Bumble are your best bet. These and similar apps allow you to find dates quickly and don’t purport to use any kind of scientific algorithm.

"These companies don't claim that they're going to give you your soulmate, and they don't claim that you can tell who's compatible with you from a profile. You simply swipe on this stuff and then meet over a pint of beer or a cup of coffee,” says Finkel. "And I think this is the best solution. Online dating is a tremendous asset for us because it broadens the dating pool and introduces us to people who we otherwise wouldn't have met."

Though choosing a mate is a serious prospect, the superficiality of swipe-based apps may in fact be their greatest asset. You now have a psychologist’s stamp of approval to go on as many dates as you can handle (provided the algorithm between your ears knows what it’s doing).