Entries in research methods (4)


The Ethics of OKCupid’s Dating Experiment

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. You probably have noticed some widespread media coverage about OKCupid’s “experiment” wherein, to look for patterns in dating behavior, they manipulated aspects of the site without informing users (see OKCupid’s announcement here as well as coverage here and here). This revelation comes in the wake of Facebook’s massive experiment, which attracted similar attention and criticism. Commenters have questioned the ethics of these experiments primarily due to the fact that Facebook and OKCupid users did not know they were participating and did not consent to be in the study—nor were users directly notified about their participation after the experiment ended.

The idea that these large corporations would manipulate people’s emotions or behaviors without telling their users sounds very disturbing to some. But was this really such a big deal? Were these experiments really “unethical”? Let’s examine these issues further.

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Evidence to Support a Valid Online Dating Matching Algorithm: My Wish List

By Dr. Paul Eastwick, in collaboration with Drs. Eli Finkel, Ben Karney, Harry Reis, & Sue Sprecher

For centuries, entrepreneurial types have claimed to possess the secrets of romantic attraction, promising that their charms, potions, or drugs are the solution to the search for a perfect mate. With the rise and now ubiquity of the Internet, those offers have moved online and become increasingly sophisticated, but the promise remains the same.

Now, the potions come in the form of mathematical matching algorithms, a new alchemy that takes the basic elements of people—their attitudes, values, and personalities—and promises to transform them into golden dyads.

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Relationship Research Misrepresented in Defense of DOMA

One of our fields' more prolific researchers, Dr. Lisa Diamond, recently made the news when she found herself forced to submit an affadavit stating that John Boehner's legal team inaccurately used her research (and writing) to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Briefly, Boehner implied that individuals are capable of changing their sexual orientation (see SofR's related post on the idea of reparative therapy by Dr. Lehmiller here), and used Dr. Diamond's research on sexual identity labels (not sexual orientation) to supposedly support the claim that sexual orientation is malleable. Read the full story over at the NY Times.


How’d They Do That?: The Nuts & Bolts of Relationship Research

One thing that distinguishes ScienceOfRelationships.com from other sites is the fact that we base all of our articles on published research. But, have you ever wondered “how’d they do that” when reading one of the research findings we’ve reported on? Sometimes learning how things are made, like hot dogs, can make them less enjoyable. However, in the case of relationships, learning how scientists go about studying relationships will give you greater appreciation for how research-based conclusions are drawn (and why they are more informative than others' advice based on their own idosyncratic observations).  (For a recap of the importance of research compared to anecdotes and opinion, check out “What is Relationship Science?” and a post on Psychology Today by SofR contributor Dr. Bjarne Holmes on “Setting a Higher Standard for Relationship Advice.”) Basically, learning a bit about the research process will make you a better consumer of the information we discuss on this site. 

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