Monday, July 30, 2007

Economics of Dating

This post will be filed under Monday-FunDay... though technically any day can be a FunDay, Sunday being my favorite day for FunDay. Today, being Monday will have to make up for the lack of fun yesterday. I was browsing through the Free exchange blog at the Economist website, and I came across an interesting post on how male dating prospects would be enhanced by the addition of the "Crush" application to the Facebook website. Being a single guy, anything that involves the psychology and economics of dating is fascinating to me. The behavioral basis of economic decisions is a very small subset of my professional work, but a larger subset of my personal interest. It is human behavior, and the assumption of rationality that underpins economics, and one of things that I find most fascinating. I am not going to debate rationality today, but suffice it to say, most of the attacks on rational behavior I find very unconvincing because it is often a projection of the author's rationality onto their subject, that causes them to diagnose the subject as irrational. Anyhow, back to dating...

One of the common problems associated with being a male, is that there is a cost associated with getting a date. That cost is often rejection, and opportunity cost associated with rejection, though that may be somewhat offset by the benefit gained from honing a better approach. In my observation, there are three basic choice sets for dating. One, is the sales guy approach, in which dating is a numbers game, ie. ceteris paribus, if I talk to X amount of girls, I will get Y amount of phone numbers, and Z amount of dates. The second approach is a variation of the sales guy approach, we'll call it the Ali approach in honor of my friend. This approach seeks to improve on the odds by deselecting certain girls based on observed characteristics. The trade-off is that more observation time and selecting of females will increase the lower the number of X's needed to get Y amount of numbers and enhance the chance of Z dates. The third approach is to rely on the networked approach. This in my opinion has the highest chance of Z per X but, because of the limited pool of X available, it also produces the least amount of Z dates.

The different basic approach that one uses actually is very interesting, because it implies a certain appetite for risk, and also puts an implicit value on rejection, and can reveal some other insights into how this person would react in other situations.

Implied Rejection Cost
Low Medium High
Sales Guy X
Ali X
Network X

From this we can see their implied cost of rejection.

The Facebook application, because of its networked capability increase the numbers of X far beyond the number you would meet in a typical weekend. It also reduces the psychological cost of rejection because if the girl does not have you as a crush, there isn't any public rejection. My theory is that the whether rejection is public or private it doesn't really matter, because public rejection is rejection none the less. The addition of Facebook and the internet will do little change the approaches and success rates of the three main approaches. The Network guy will continue to use his network to acquire dates, and will have the highest probability of Z from X. The Sales Guy approach will have the lowest probability, but again, no matter the approach, X is the determinant factor. Your psychological profile will determine which approach you use. If the cost of rejection to you is low, your optimum dating approach is the sales guy approach. If you place a high cost on rejection, then use your network to minimize the cost of rejection. That is your optimum approach, and it is likely you place a relatively lower value on Z. Whereas the Sales Guy puts a higher value on Z. The Sales Guy probably will do best professionally in a people-centric environment because the skills he has developed to do well in dating, (deemphasis of rejection, highly conversational) will serve him well professionally. He is most likely to be a salesperson, or a hospitality type. The Ali approach is often related to a strong analytical skill set. The skills developed here are a keen sense of place, and how one fits into it, along with an analysis of a variety of factors that will ensure the greatest likelihood of success. The Ali-type is a great analyst and adviser. The Network guy is likely to be something of an analyst but not much of one, because he lacks the good communication skills that the analyst has. He is likely to work in IT, or something similar, in which high-value social skills are not that important, whereas expertise is. His job does not require innovation in a broad sense, in other words, he is not good at thinking "outside the box" but very good at managing the space within the box.

Happy Monday!

No comments: