(Guest Post by Kathryn C. aka MakinSense Babe)
If I had to choose between two guys: one who makes $250,000 per year and was just “ok” looking, and the other who makes around $60,000 per year but was “hot”, I’d choose the guy with the cash.
I know…. I’m so superficial right? This is the truth though according to a few researchers from University of Chicago and MIT who did a study to find out what factors drive communication between men and women. They recorded activity from 23,000 online daters during a three and a half month period and found that:
“For men there is no amount of income that the woman in the bottom ten percent in terms of appearance can earn to make men prefer her over women in the top 10 percent. That is, looks really matter to men relative to income. For women though, if the man in the bottom ten percent in terms of looks earns more than $248,500, they will prefer him over the more attractive guy earning $60,000.”
I can appreciate these observations, but it’s now clear that girls are getting hosed when it comes to this online dating stuff.
Why Girls Are Getting Hosed
For those of you who’ve never been on these sites (or at least tell people you haven’t), there’s usually a place for guys to enter their income on their dating profile, it looks like this on match.com:
Ok fine, maybe he left it blank because he’s modest or temporarily unemployed, or maybe he works for a non-profit. Whatever the case is, girls are left making a lot of assumptions about a guy’s career since a lot of them don’t indicate how much money they make.
Guys have it made because we know that nearly every girl puts her picture up (my guy friends have confirmed this for me). They say if a girl doesn’t put a picture up, it’s a huge red flag. Guys have the benefit of just taking a quick look at a picture of a girl and deciding instantly if he’s interested in her by comparing her picture to the other pictures he’s seen that day.
Here’s the problem: we now know based on that study that if a guy makes over $250,000, a girl is most likely going to be more interested in him than a guy who makes a lot less, but is hotter. So how are we really supposed to compare apples to apples if some guys tell us how much money they make and others don’t?
Calgon take me away, something needs to be fixed!
Relative Comparisons Drive Our Decisions
“We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth. Rather, we focus on the relative advantage of one thing over another, and estimate the value accordingly.” – Dan Ariely
When we’re deciding between a few things, whether it’s what to have for dinner, what to buy, or where to go on vacation, we rely on making relative comparisons because we don’t know what we want unless we have something else to compare it to. Have you ever ordered dessert with out asking what all the choices are or looking at the dessert menu? Maybe you want chocolate cake, but you always want to know what your other options are so you can compare the chocolate cake you think you want to a potentially better dessert?
We make comparisons in order to help us make decisions for the same reason we stereotype people: it’s a short cut for our brain when we don’t want to think too hard about something.
If you’re interested in subscribing to The Economist, which one of these subscriptions would you choose?
- Economist.com subscription for 1 year- US $59.00
- Print subscription – US $125.00
- Print & web subscription – US $125.00
Out of 100 of students, 84 chose the 3rd option, 16 chose the 1st option, and ZERO chose the second option. The marketing folks at The Economist who work on the pricing for subscriptions know exactly what they’re doing – getting you to focus on a relative comparison will drive you to the subscription they want you to buy, the 3rd, which is coincidentally the most expensive option. Doy.
When Dan removed the 2nd option, 68 of his students chose the 1st option, the internet only at $59, and only 32 chose the 3rd option, internet and print at $125. Eliminating the 2nd option makes it hard for buyers to make a relative comparison with the 1st and the 3rd options because they’re not that comparable.
It’s harder to make a decision unless we see it in context relative to another comparable option. The marketers at The Economist slipped in the print only option (at $125) to make the print & web subscription look more appealing (also at $125). They don’t know if you want online or print, but if you want both, the $125 for both doesn’t look so bad because you now feel like you’re getting the web part for free.
The Solution to the ‘Missing Income Information” With Online Dating Sites
I already know I’m not going get any dates after I post this since guys will think I’m a gold digger, so I might as well tell you my genius solution since I’ve gone this far.
Let’s agree that based on this study, we know that past a certain threshold, $250,000, girls care less about looks and more about money, and, there’s no amount of money a girl could make that would make a guy prefer her if she was in the bottom 10 percent in terms of looks. Girls will trade out looks for money at a certain point whereas guys never will.
If we’re playing tit for tat, guys leaving the income field blank is the same (in terms of importance of information) as girls not having a picture up, right? So unless more guys start to fill in the income information, the inconsistency and lack of income data screws up any relative comparisons we’re trying to make. Guys don’t have this disadvantage because nearly all girls put pictures up!
The Solution? Dating sites should require that guys say how much money they make so girls a can make relative comparisons just like guys do with our pictures.
Please forward this to anyone you know who works at an online dating company. And thank you for supporting my mission.
Kathryn plows through any news that impacts your money and makes sense of it. Her site, MakinSenseBabe.com, is dedicated to non-finance people because finance people are annoying. She has worked in the asset management industry for 13 years and has factual data to back up her claim.
Photo credit: seanmcgrath