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When I asked Helen Fisher how the site’s scientific algorithm might change based on this user feedback, she said that perhaps the computer could pick up cues about a person’s physical type based on the people he or she finds attractive or unattractive, then send that person closer matches. Or, it might know better than to match me-an avid reader attracted to literary types-with the guy whose personality assessment indicates a literary bent but whose essay reads as follows:
Pepper”-Schwartz is “the leading relationship expert in the nation,” a woman who “holds the distinction of being the only relationship expert on the Web who’s a published authority, as well as a professor at a major U
As a result, partially read copies of numerous really good (so I’m told) books are scattered around my apartment. When these get set aside, it’s because I’ve gotten sucked into magazines … Every few days, the magazines lose out to DVDs.
It’s also possible that user feedback could change the matching formula completely. “We always look at data,” Fisher said. “If we find that Explorer/Builder to Director/Negotiator is working for more people, if we find the biochemistry is stronger, we’ll adjust that in the formula.” Fisher acknowledged that the system right now is mostly a learning tool-a way to collect large amounts of data, look for patterns, and draw conclusions based on the findings.
Still, even a thoroughly researched biochemical model won’t prevent glitches in the matching system. In Fisher’s view, for example, no scientifically based site would pair her with the men she’s dated, because, as she put it, “they’re all better-looking than me.”
“It would be preposterous for anyone to say they can create a formula that works perfectly,” she said emphatically. “But I do believe that science can help us get close, and that there’s a lot more to be learned.”
A sociologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, Schwartz is PerfectMatch’s hipper version of Neil Clark Warren: the accessible, empathic, media-savvy love doctor who guides users through the treacherous dating trenches and onto the path of true compatibility
“This test doesn’t pretend to be about chemistry,” said Dr. Pepper Schwartz-who developed the Duet Total Compatibility System in conjunction with the two-year-old site PerfectMatch. She was speaking by cell phone from San Francisco, where she had just attended a meeting of the National Human Sexuality Resource Center, on whose board she sits. “The chemistry test at Match-that’s not about chemistry either. If I could concoct a test for chemistry, I’d make a zillion dollars.”
According to the site-which calls her by the cutesy moniker “Dr. S. university.” Oh, and then there are her appearances on Oprah, The Today Show, and Good Morning America, the fourteen books she’s written, and her regular column for LifetimeTV.
Unlike Warren, however, she neither founded the company (she was brought in by PerfectMatch’s Duane Dahl), nor follows Warren’s credo of simplicity. In fact, the nifty- sounding Duet Compatibility Profiler takes some complex deconstruction. This makes sense, given that Schwartz has been studying gender relations since the early 1970s, when she was a sociology graduate student at Yale and wrote a Ph.D. thesis on how people hooked up in the college mixer system.
Like Helen Fisher, the Rutgers anthropologist, Schwartz believes that both similarity and complementarity are integral to romantic compatibility. But while Fisher has more of an “it depends” attitude on the question of which of the two makes sense for a particular couple under particular circumstances, Schwartz has a more elaborately defined system, which she outlines in her latest book, Finding Your Perfect Match.