Romantic? Affectionate? Why the Adjectives You Use to Describe Yourself on eHarmony Matter

February 26, 2014

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Today’s guest blog is from the (truly!) brilliant statistician, researcher and computational biologist Emma Pierson, who dug into some eHarmony-released data to produce some really interesting findings about how we describe ourselves, and how this influences who we get matched up with on the site. I think if I had to guess — I would belong in the Hufflepuff group!

“There are as many forms of love,” Jane Austen wrote, “as there are moments in time.”

But are there as many forms of lovers? To answer this question, we looked at the adjectives with which eHarmony users describe themselves in their profiles, “intelligent” and “funny” being the most common. Then we looked for adjectives that were often used together: did “romantic” lovers also tend to be “passionate”? As it turns out, they did. In the picture below, adjectives that are placed close together are often used together. The colored clusters of adjectives correspond to 5 types of lovers.

Types of Lovers Dendrogram 650x487 Romantic? Affectionate? Why the Adjectives You Use to Describe Yourself on eHarmony Matter What type of lover you are matters: it influences who eHarmony’s algorithm matches you up with. Using a million eHarmony matches, we looked at how often each type of lover got matched up with the other types. Here’s the picture for women; red means that two types get paired up frequently, and blue means that they get paired up rarely.

type pairing matrix women 650x487 Romantic? Affectionate? Why the Adjectives You Use to Describe Yourself on eHarmony Matter

The most striking thing is that women tend to be paired with lovers of the same type: all the squares on the diagonal are red. But we also see some unexpected results. Spock women seem to have a thing for Romeo men, and Hufflepuff women get matched up with Snow White men. Here’s who the men get matched up with:

type pairing matrix men 650x487 Romantic? Affectionate? Why the Adjectives You Use to Describe Yourself on eHarmony Matter

Again, men tend to get paired up with women of the same type: Spock men, in particular, really tend to pair up with Spock women. (As a Spockish woman who earned degrees in physics and computer science, I can attest to this phenomenon.) But Romeo men pair up with Spock women too — so the attraction is mutual, substantiating the 8,000 romantic comedies where the passionate guy gets with the smart girl — and Snow White men pair up with Hufflepuff women. We also see combinations that don’t tend to happen: Spock men avoid Hufflepuff and Snow White women (and the women avoid them too). Just as well, because I don’t think Spock and Snow White would work out; Vulcans don’t like singing squirrels.

Of course, this is just the matching done by eHarmony’s algorithm. Which begs another interesting question: how do these adjectives influence which whom we choose to contact?

Check out more of Emma Pierson’s work on her own very cool blog – Obsession with Regression.

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