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Radio replay: chat. Shankar vedantam, dating and review your hidden brain combines various components of attraction into one the whole archive of dollars. Listen to Hidden Brain episodes free, on demand. It's almost Valentine's Day, but this week we're not talking about love. Instead, we explore the other forces that. Instead, we explore the other forces that drive our romantic relationships. – Listen to Episode Dating and Mating by Hidden Brain instantly.
And I said to my husband, I said, Brian, you know, you've got to go, and you've got to get a used ring. It's where all the value is. And he said, I can't do it. I don't care what your research is. I can't do it. I asked Anne how she could be so sure her fiance actually hadn't bought the tainted ring and taken advantage of the discount that came with it while telling her that it was brand new.
That's a good point. And he is a very rational, strategic person, so he may have just known about the story. It's going to be an interesting dinner tonight. That's all I can say. Anne Bowers at the University of Toronto. Speaking of getting engaged, it isn't only lovebirds who are happy on Valentine's Day. A major source of happiness when it comes to romance is in setting up other people. You know, matchmaking is something that far predates the Internet.
It's something that has been in every country and every culture for as long as we know. But now as computers and algorithms and websites, like OkCupid and Tinder and match. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam is here to explain that price. What is it, Shankar? The price is really to matchmakers, David. I recently came by research by Lalin Anik at Duke University.
Along with Michael Norton, she finds that matchmaking is a significant source of happiness for many people. So here's what the researchers did. They examined the happiness of people who reported they like to play matchmaker and did it a lot against the happiness levels of people who didn't. And they find that, in general, matchmakers are happier than non-matchmakers. I love that we actually don't care about talking about the people who actually matched.
We're talking about the happiness of the matchmakers. But couldn't it be that just happy people tend to be the matchmakers, they decide to do this? So this is just a correlation. We don't know what's causing what.Hidden Brain - Episode #8: Loss & Renewal
So to sort this out, the researchers ran a series of experiments where they had volunteers play matchmaker in a lab. And they find the act of making matches increases happiness. They also find that when volunteers are given a chance to make unusual or unexpected matches, they experience greater boosts in happiness. And this probably explains why if you are single, your matchmaker friends keep trying to introduce you to people with whom you have absolutely nothing in common.
Because they really want to accomplish something by finding that unlikely duo that could come together. Well, Shankar, if people were sort of relied on these matchmakers to make these unexpected, unusual matches because it makes them happy, is that sort of going away because computer algorithms are now, you know, not really finding those unusual duos? That's exactly right, David. Many of these computer algorithms are designed to match people who are similar to them so people actually can go to these websites and say, I want someone who has exactly the same interests and personality and characteristics that I do.
And so the computers are finding matches. They're not finding unusual connections. And as I read the study, David, I realized that we have lots and lots of websites for single people to find partners.
What we might really want is a website for matchmakers so that they can continue to make these really unusual matches. I'm not sure it would increase the happiness levels of single people. It would probably increase the happiness levels of matchmakers. And a few single people who would find these unexpected matches. Yes, I can tell that you're a matchmaker at heart, David. Great to be matched with you this morning in the studio.
When we come back, Dan Pink returns for another round of Stopwatch Science. We'll share some interesting research about what makes couples compatible and why it might be less about chemistry and more about vocabulary.
We're doing an episode on traffic, and we are looking for nightmare stories. Do you suffer through rush hour, had a bad experience driving in a different city or a country? What about road rage?
I'm joined as always by Daniel Pink, our senior Stopwatch Science correspondent. On Stopwatch Science, Dan and I give one another 60 seconds to summarize interesting social science research.
As we approach the second mark, our producers Kara and Maggie will bring up the music to drown us out just like they do at the Oscars. Our topic today is love. Dan Pink is widely known as the love guru. And so, Dan, I can't wait to see what you have discovered for Stopwatch Science. We're going to give you insights into why we love, who we love and also, once Dan stops laughing, how to make love last.
The only person laughing harder at that is my wife. Laughter All right, love guru, if you're ready, your first 60 seconds starts now. OK, now this February 14, millions of Americans are expected to pop the question. But which of the resulting marriages are likely to last? In October, two Emory University economists tackled that question. They surveyed more than 3, people, controlled for a bunch of demographic and social variables and found - and I'm quoting the paper's abstract now - "that marriage duration is inversely associated with spending on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony.
In other words, the more money a couple spent on the wedding or the ring, the more likely they later were to split up. Now the researchers found only a correlation. They don't say that a lavish ceremony or a 6-carat diamond causes divorce, not at all. And the correlation wasn't perfect in all cases. However, the economists did find a tight connection between cheap celebrations and longer marriages.
And that's intriguing especially in a world where a multibillion-dollar wedding industrial complex urges young people to declare their love by breaking the bank. That is really interesting, Dan. Laughter Although, I should point out as the love guru that you do have a sponsor that's a mattress company. Laughter All right, here's my theory on why it is the researchers found what they did. If you are deeply, truly, madly in love with someone, you might not actually need a big ring Or a big ceremony to prove your love.
On the other hand, if you're kind of, sort of, maybe, possibly in love with this other person, you might actually use the ring or a lavish ceremony to compensate for this hole in your heart.
Whoa, hole in the heart, it's an interesting argument. You have a some kind of emotional deficit, and you cure it with what economists call signaling. Could be - they actually had a much more pedestrian reason for it. They said that expensive weddings cause people to go into debt, debt causes stress in a marriage, and marriages with stress are more likely to break up, more pedestrian.
I think I like the hole in the heart theory a lot better. Speaking of a hole in my heart, I'll have a hole in my heart if you go over your time. Your 60 seconds starts right now. All right, psychologists and economists have long known about an interesting phenomenon called the endowment effect. Basically, when something comes into my possession, I think of it differently than before I owned it.
Thomas Wallsten and Colette Nataf at the University of Maryland recently applied this idea to the dating market. They find that when they offered men and women profiles of potential partners, people demonstrated the endowment effect.
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Curiously, the researchers found that women are especially prone to this bias. To sell the contact information to someone else. Now since the endowment effect is primarily about loss aversion, meaning people care more about losses than about gains, it suggests that women may experience more loss aversion when it comes to potential dating partners than do men.
Now I don't know what the moral of the story is, Dan. Maybe, you know, find someone who is as unwilling to part with your phone number as you are unwilling to part with theirs. Laughter I'm just hoping my contact information is worth more than three or four bucks.
Do you think there's - you know, inevitably, on a study like this, one could offer an evolutionary explanation for the reproductive strategies of women and men being different. Is that what's going on here? You know, I think the authors speculate that that might be at play. I have to say that I myself am skeptical about that because I feel like it's really difficult to disentangle what biology is telling us to do from what culture and our social norms are telling us to do.
But speaking of biological and cultural imperatives, Dan Your next 60 seconds starts right now. If you're like me, Valentine's Day always brings to mind two words, assortative mating. That's the term scientists use to describe when living creatures, including human beings, mate with those who are like themselves.
Over the last half century, there has been an upsurge in assortative mating in the U. In particular, people with college degrees or beyond are now much more likely to marry other people with college degrees or beyond than they were back in the midth century.
So what does this mean for America? Well, four economists, led by Jeremy Greenwood of the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of U. Using some complicated math, they made a startling discovery. Put another way, one explanation for rising inequality is that marriage is becoming more socially stratified.
You know, marriage is a private choice, of course. But what this research tells us is that private choices can have public consequences. I'm wondering, Dan, is it possible that the researchers are seeing these findings because the number of women, especially who are graduating from college, is very different today than it was 50 years ago? Could we be seeing this merely because more women are college graduates, and therefore, more people who are college graduates are going to be marrying one another?
Yeah, not merely because, but that's a big part of it. And you add that to the fact that there are more women in the labor market, and that there are increasing returns in the labor market to education.
And what you have is you have these very, very positive trends that create another trend that is less positive because you have the well-educated marrying the well-educated and pulling away. The solution, to my mind at least, is to make sure we raise all boats.
So speaking of boats, you need to hop in your canoe For 60 seconds of paddling that begins right now. All right, I take back what I said about Dan being the love guru because he clearly knows very little about romance. Everyone knows the most important words when it comes to Valentine's Day are not assortative mating but language style matching. They find that when couples use the same kinds of language or mimic one another's sentence constructions, they are more likely to hit it off.
This week, Shankar also chats with Morning Editions' David Greene about research showing that matchmakers are happier than the rest of us. And that it's the matchmaking that makes them happier.
Stopwatch Science Daniel Pink returns for another round of Stopwatch Science with more research on dating and mating. This Sunday, millions of Americans are expected to pop the big question. But which of those marriages will last? Mialon at Emory University surveyed more than 3, couples and found that those who spent more on their wedding ceremonies were more likely to later split up. Of course, they could not prove that the expensive wedding caused divorce.
Only that there was a correlation. One of psychology's most popular findings is the endowment effect: To see if this applied in romance, Colette Nataf and Thomas Wallsten at the University of Maryland ran an experiment with a bunch of college students by having them buy and sell the phone numbers of potential dates. They found the students were less willing to give up a phone number once they had it, and the effect was particularly strong for women. Nothing says Valentine's Day like "assortative mating," that is, the tendency for people to partner with those who are like themselves.
A group of economists led by Jeremy Greenwood at the University of Pennsylvania found there's been an upsurge of assortative mating in terms of education in the United States.
People with college degrees today are much more likely to marry other people with college degrees than they were 60 years ago. And, as the authors explain, this has big implications for economic inequality.
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It isn't just what you say, but how you say it that affects the course of your relationship. Researchers led by Molly Ireland at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed the conversations of couples during a speed dating event, by reading the instant messages between couples.
They found couples who matched each other's language were more likely to hit it off and more likely to stay together. This could be because attraction makes people speak in similar ways, or because speaking in similar ways sparks attraction.
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