This mathematical theory explains why women are better off making the first move on dating sites

Women who believe the man should be the one to make the first move might want to rethink their dating strategy — especially online.

New data from OKCupid, cited by The New York Times, reveals that women fare a lot better when they take the initiative to message a man.

Based on an analysis of 70,000 users who logged on at least three times in a month, OKCupid found that women are 2.5 times more likely to receive a response to their messages than men are.

Moreover, women who send the first message wind up meeting more attractive men than women who wait for a man to ping them, the report finds. That’s because women generally message men who are five points more attractive (as rated by OKCupid users) than they are, while they typically receive messages from men who are seven points less attractive than they are.

At the same time, OKCupid found that men currently send 3.5 times the number of messages women send, suggesting that few women are aware of the advantages of stepping up to the plate.

This new data supports a theory popularised by Hannah Fry, a mathematician at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in London and author of the 2015 book “The Mathematics of Love.”

In the book, Fry describes the “stable marriage problem,” or the challenge of matching two entities so that neither would be better off in another match, and explains the Gale-Shapley matching algorithm often used to solve it. Exploiting this algorithm can be a great strategy for successful online dating.

Here’s how it works: Fry uses the example of three boys talking to three girls at a party. Each participant has an ordered list of who is most suitable to go home with.

Mathematics datingThe Mathematics of LoveIllustration by Christine Rösch for ‘The Mathematics of Love’ published by TEDBooks.

If this was a 1950s-style dating scenario in which the boys approached the girls, each boy would hit on his top-choice girl, Fry says. If a girl has multiple offers, she would choose the boy she preferred most, and if a boy were rejected, he would approach his second-choice girl.

The result is pretty great for the boys. Each gets his first- or second-choice partner, and there is no way the boys could improve, because their top choices have said yes or already rejected them.

The girls fare relatively worse, however, having paired up with their second- or third-choice partners.

Maths of love book jacket

Fry writes:

Regardless of how many boys and girls there are, it turns out that whenever the boys do the approaching, there are four outcomes that will be true:

1. Everyone will find a partner.

2. Once all partners are determined, no man and woman in different couples could both improve their happiness by running off together.

3. Once all partners are determined, every man will have the best partner available to him.

4. Once all partners are determined, every woman will end up with the least bad of all the men who approach her.

Essentially, whoever does the asking (and is willing to face rejection until achieving the best available option) is better off. Meanwhile, the person who sits back and waits for advances settles for the least bad option on the table. 

Bottom line: If you’re a woman waiting to be chosen by a man, try mustering the courage to do the choosing yourself. There’s a much better chance you’ll find someone you actually like, instead of settling for what’s available.

Watch Fry’s TED Talk on the mathematics of love:

NOW WATCH: What you should talk about on a first date, according to research

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