When you’re on a dating website like Match.com or idly swiping on Tinder, generally you’re more likely to match with — and also speak to — someone who is intellectually similar.
However, this doesn’t stay true as you age, according to new research. Apparently, we’re more willing to let our standards slide as time passes, as the study found that people get less fussy about finding someone who has the same level of education as they get older.
The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, analysed the online dating interactions of over 41,000 Australians between 18 and 80 years old from the dating website RSVP. Matches and conversations were looked at from four months in 2016, to find out whether people stayed picky or loosened up a bit.
“Selecting a mate can be one of the largest psychological and economic decisions a person can make and has long been the subject of social science research across a range of disciplines,” said Stephen Whyte, a behavioural economist at Queensland University of Technology, and lead author of the study in a statement.
He said that traditionally, humans search for a partner who is similar to them in physical attractiveness, personality, culture, education, religion and race. This meant people used to often only meet and end up dating people who were similar to themselves.
However, the internet has dramatically changed this process, and has given us access to more partners than we know what to do with.
“The internet has completely changed how people choose dating partners to find love,” Whyte said. “Cyber dating permits multiple partner choices in real time, which allows for a significantly greater available choice of potential mates.”
The pool of people we can potentially hook up with has dramatically widened, and this includes partners with lower, similar or higher levels of intelligence to us. It might not be such an important part of dating as previously thought, as how much participants in the study cared about their matches’ intelligence or education level depended on what stage they were at in life.
“The more educated cohort tends to care less about matching the same level of education as they get older,” Whyte said. “Older women in particular have a greater likelihood of contacting potential partners who are less educated than themselves but conversely, younger males fall into this category as well.”
Surprisingly, some psychologists suggest that men are more likely than women to end up compromising as they get older because there are gender differences in these kinds of scenarios.
For example, Dr Aaron Ben-Ze’ev wrote in Psychology Today that women are more likely to make compromises on their partner at a young age, rather than when they’re older, because they’re concerned about settling down and having children.
Men, on the other hand, he said should generally compromise more in older age, when they’re afraid of being alone. But that’s just one theory, and with so many different personality traits, it can be hard to nail down what exactly it is you’re compromising on and when. The reasons behind why people choose others to be romantically involved with are complicated to say the least
Either way, dating apps and sites have changed things up. Whyte said more research is needed to “have a better understanding of the impacts of cyber-dating on individuals and relationships as well as the psychology employed by people when using the internet.”