What’s New, Pussycat?

September 29, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Lisa at Sociological Images linked to some in-house research reported on the blog of OK Cupid , an online dating site. I assume that OK works like Match.com – you look at people’s profiles; if you’re interested, you send them a message. Maybe they respond, or maybe they ignore you.

At OK Cupid, about two-thirds of the messages get no response.

The Cupidologists did a content analysis of 500,000 messages to find out what increases or decreases that rate. For example, should you compliment the person on their appearance?

The red bars heading south show response rates below the 32% average. Tell someone she’s sexy, and you’ve cut your chances in half. Messages containing the word “hot” (regardless of context – even if it was about the weather), decreased the chances of response from 32% to 25% (probably not about the weather). The authors say that this finding applied to both sexes but that men were much more likely to use these terms. OTOH, non-physical compliment words (green bars) can raise your chances by a few percentage points. (BTW, netspeak terms in messages killed ur chances of a response.)

And the term had the biggest positive effect?

“You mention.” In other words, “I actually read what you wrote in your profile.” Or, “I’m interested in what you said, not just in how you look.”

I wonder whether something similar applies in face-to-face first encounters – i.e., pick-up lines. Of course, when you see someone in a bar, the only information you have is their appearance. You don’t yet know about long walks on the beach.

Salutations aren’t pick-up lines, but the OKers do say that greetings made a difference. A message that began, “How’s it going?” was more than twice as likely to get a response as “Hi.”

OK also has other research reports (e.g., “Rape Fantasies and Hygiene By State”), but these are based on surveys of their clients. The sample is large, but there may be problems of representativeness.)

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