In addition, is it possible that the Internet sites that use scientific matching can create more compatible matches than alternative ways of meeting partners? Before I provide answers to these questions, a caveat is in order. There is not a definitive source of information available on the science used at the matching sites because such information is considered proprietary (intellectual property). Information on the science behind the match-making, however, can be gleaned from their websites, from media summaries of interviews conducted with the major researchers and CEOs at the Internet sites, and from an examination of their surveys. In addition, the rationale behind the eHarmony matching system can be found in the company’s patent application, available online (Buckwalter, Carter, Forgatch, Parsons, & Warren, 2004, 2008) V .
What “science” is being used at these scientific matching sites, and how does this science correspond with what we know about compatibility and compatible matches based on the published science on relationships, as reviewed above?
Scientific expertise. All three major scientific matching sites have hired academic Ph.Ds. At Perfectmatch, this is sociologist and University of Washington Professor, Pepper Schwartz. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, is the academic scientist at Chemistry. Both Schwartz and Fisher, who work in a consulting capacity at the sites, were hired prior to the development of the sites’ matching procedures, and were instrumental in creating them. At eHarmony, Gian Gonzaga is the chief (full-time) relationship scientist, although he was not part of the original team that created the matching survey. The survey at eHarmony was created by Neil Clark Warren, the original founder, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Chicago, and Galen Buckwalter, who has a Ph.D in psychology and expertise in statistics and methods (e.g., Gottlieb, 2006). In addition, there are many other scientists who work at eHarmony or are serving in the role of advisors.
All three sites have referred to the development of their compatibility survey as being based on prior literature in the relationship field
Use of prior scientific literature. eHarmony states that its patented matching technique is “based on 35 years of clinical research and rigorous relationship research to determine which commonalities between partners are consistently associated with successful relationships.” VI In his interview with Gottlieb (2006), Buckwalter (who appears to have been the primary creator of the survey at eHarmony) referred to reviewing the psychology literature “to identify the areas that might be relevant in predicting success in long-term relationships” (p. 60). Perfectmatch states that their approach is based on “over 30 years of research.” VII And, Chemistry has stated about their scientific matching, “Our singles matching models are based on 35 years of clinical experience and rigorous relationship research. “
The scientific principles behind the matching. The primary scientific principle for compatibility matching used at eHarmony, according to public domain information, is similarity. In an interview sum), Warren said, “Similarities are like money in the bank. Differences are like debts you owe. It’s all right to have a few differences, as long as you have plenty of equity in your account.” VIII He also has stated that after counseling many failing couples, he concluded that “opposites attract, but then they attack” IX . But which types of similarity are emphasized at eHarmony? As discussed above, there are many ways in which partners can be similar to each other. In addition, prior research has indicated that similarity on one dimension is not necessarily associated with similarity on another dimension (e.g., Houts et al., 1996). The eHarmony website refers to matching on 29 dimensions, which are grouped into four categories: personality, character, emotional skills, and family and values. The survey measures these dimensions and many other variables with a survey of over 250 items. Greg Waldorf, eHarmony’s CEO, has stated in a recent interview: “We found that over time the superficial stuff doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you have the same attitudes to family and finances.” X