on-line compatibility tests find you true love? Or, how we blew
up my brothers calculator
by Janet Jacobsen
Nov/Dec 2003 issue
by Janet L. Jacobsen
Readers Digest reports that some cyber-personals services are
now offering on-line comparability tests. One test includes 480 questions
and the service reports to match only those who are 85% compatible. That
means youd have to click on 408 questions.
But think about it. Most folks are only interested in dating people within
about ten years of their age. Assuming an equal distribution of age groups,
this will put about 25% in your compatible range.
Smoking/nonsmoking is another key screening factor. Less than 30% of the
population smokes these days, so assuming youre a nonsmoker you
take out 30% and youre down to 17.5% of the original group. Of course,
we have to consider that half of those in the pool are not the sex you
want to meet, so you have 8.75% of the possibilities remaining.
So far weve screened for three factors - age, sex, and smoking preference
- and were down to less than 9% of the original group. Now consider
a few of the more obvious - and limiting - choices: kids/no kids; pets/no
pets; lives nearby; religion; education. You can see that the likelihood
of an 85% match on a dozen questions, let alone 408, gets
Lets assume that all of the remaining 405 categories on which we
need to match are simply yes/no questions. (That gives us our best chance
of agreement - 50%.) I wanted to figure the odds of getting that degree
of matching out for the remaining 405 categories. So I called Eric, my
electrical engineer brother, and asked him to do the calculation. The
number was too small for even his best calculator to figure. Miniscule.
Less than miniscule.
Still, the company in question might say that if the service has a million
people signed up, there could be a chance of them finding you an 85% match.
Except, said Eric, they only get to choose from those in the service who
were actually willing to fill out a 480-item questionnaire, and, as Eric
said, Whos going to do that!?!
Its a cool marketing premise. It got them mentioned in Readers
Digest, after all. But is it a real service?