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约会应用程序算法如何帮你找到另一半?

How dating app algorithms predict romantic desire
约会应用程序算法如何帮你找到另一半?

In one night, Matt Taylor finished Tinder. He ran a script on his computer that automatically swiped right on every profile that fell within his preferences. By the morning, he had swiped through 25,000 people’s profiles.

有天晚上,泰勒(Matt Taylor)完成了Tinder约会应用程序的个人设定。接下来他在电脑上运行了一个脚本,自动在符合他偏好范围内的每一份个人资料上向右滑动(表示对此人有兴趣)。到第二天早上,他已经浏览了2.5万人的资料。

Nine of those people matched with him, and one of those matches, Cherie, agreed to go on a date. Fortunately Cherie found this story endearing and now they are both happily married. If there is a more efficient use of a dating app, I do not know it.

其中有九个人和他匹配,一个叫谢丽(Cherie)的同意和他约会。幸运的是,谢丽也很喜欢泰勒,现在他们已经幸福地结婚了。我不知道还有什么约会应用程序的使用方法比这更高效。

Taylor clearly did not want to leave anything to chance. Why trust the algorithm to present the right profiles when you can swipe right on everyone? No one will be able to repeat this feat, though, as the app is more secure than it was several years ago and the algorithm has been updated to penalise those who swipe right on everyone. Or so people believe.

泰勒这么做显然是不想错过任何机会。当你可以向右滑动每个人时,为什么要相信计算机算法会给出正确的匹配资料?不过,没人能重复这一壮举。现在这款应用程序比几年前更安全了,算法已经更新,以惩罚那些对所有人向右滑动的使用者。至少人们是这么认为的。

For those who might struggle with "packet sniffing" – the means by which Matt gamed Tinder – the tantalising promise that maybe, by putting our faith in an algorithm, an app or website might be able to find the right person is thoroughly appealing.

对于那些不善于使用“数据包分析器”(泰勒使用的手段)的人来说,承诺能用计算机算法来帮你找到匹配者的应用程序就非常具有吸引力。

“It’s something that single people want to exist – it’s the romantic equivalent of an easy weight-loss plan,” says Dr Samantha Joel, assistant professor at Western University in London, Canada. “People want it because meeting one-on-one is exhausting. Like most things that we wish we had, I think it deserves particular scepticism when someone claims they can do it.”

位于加拿大安大略省伦敦的西部大学(Western University)的助理教授乔尔(Samantha Joel)博士说:“这是单身人士想要的,寻找伴侣就像是一份简单的减肥计划。人们希望能这样,因为一对一的见面让人筋疲力尽。这像我们希望拥有的很多东西一样。当有人声称他们可以做到时,人们应该保持怀疑态度。”

Lots of apps and websites claim to be able to use data to sort through profiles for better matches. By completing their personality tests, they say they can save your thumb the effort of swiping. The issue for scientists who might want to investigate their data, and journalists who want to fact-check their claims, is that the algorithms are the intellectual property of these companies, so they are not publicly available. Their entire business is based on developing smart match-making algorithms and keeping their formulas private.

许多应用程序和网站都声称,能够使用数据对个人资料进行分类,以获得更好的匹配。通过完成个性测试,他们说,他们可以省去你努力翻阅的力气。而对想调查他们数据的科学家,以及想核实他们说法的记者来说,这些算法是公司的知识产权,它们并不公开。他们整个业务都是基于开发智能匹配算法和保持公式的私密性。

So what do scientists do if they want to investigate predictors of attraction? They make their own.

那么,如果科学家想预测谁和谁彼此有吸引力的时候,该怎么做呢?只能自己动手做。
 

许多应用程序和网站都声称,能够使用数据对个人资料进行分类,以获得更好的匹配,这有用吗?

In one example, Joel and colleagues asked people to complete a questionnaire about themselves and what they were looking for in a partner. Some of the questions were very similar to what you might expect on any dating website, and many more went way beyond. Daters were asked if they agreed with statements from “I’m an upbeat person” to “I worry about being abandoned” and “If I could live my life over, I would change everything”.

有一个例子,乔尔和他的同事让约会者填写一份关于自己和希望寻找什么条件伴侣的问卷。有些问题与你在其它交友网站上看到的非常相似,还有很多问题远远超出了你的想象。约会者被问到是否同意“我是一个乐观的人”、“我担心被抛弃”和“如果我能再活一次,我将改变什么”等说法。

In all, they completed more than 100 traits and preferences. Then, after a series of four-minute-long speed dates, they were asked if they had romantic interest in any of the other daters.

约会者一共完成了100多个特征和偏好。然后,参与约会活动者在一系列连续的四分钟的快速约会之后,被问到是否对其他约会对象有谈情说爱的兴趣。

Now, the researchers had all three things they needed to be able to predict romantic desire. The first is actor desire, or, on average how much people liked their dates compared to others. This captured how choosy each person was. Did they click with a lot of people or did they find it hard to feel chemistry? By comparing daters to each other on choosiness the researchers could control for people who might make a lot of potential connections mostly because they were quite open-minded about who they would like to date.

现在,研究人员有了预测恋爱希望所需要的三个步骤。第一个是成为最初约会者,或者说与其他人相比,人们平均有多喜欢他们的约会对象。这能说明每个人的挑剔程度。他们是和很多人合得来,还是很难产生感觉?通过比较约会者之间的挑剔程度,研究人员可以掌握那些可能会建立很多潜在联系的人,因为他们对自己想要约会的对象非常开放。

Second is partner desire, or, how much did people like you compared to their other dates. The reverse of actor desire, this is a measure of average attractiveness.

第二是伴侣的希望,或者说和其他约会对象相比,人们有多喜欢你。与最初的希望相反,这是一个衡量平均吸引力的标准。

By subtracting choosiness and attractiveness from daters’ scores of romantic interest, the researchers had a more accurate measure of compatibility. “Some people are more attractive than others and we can predict who tends to get the most matches,” says Joel. “That is not the goal of these matching websites. They are not saying they will filter your pool so you only have attractive people to choose from.”

通过从约会对象的恋爱兴趣分数中减去挑剔和吸引力的分数,研究人员对兼容性有了更准确的衡量标准。乔尔说:“有些人比其他人更有吸引力,我们可以预测谁会得到最多的匹配。这不是匹配网站的目标。不是说他们会过滤你的备选库,你只有有吸引力的人可供选择。”

Joel found that her algorithm could predict actor desire and partner desire, but not compatibility. Not even a little bit. It could only predict negative percentages of variance – which is like being accurate less than 0% of the time. This might sound like a bit of a head scratcher, but, Joel says that her algorithm would have been better off using mean results for every dater rather than offering a tailored response. “It was completely useless,” says Joel. “It really should have done better.”

乔尔发现,算法可以预测最初约会者和成为伴侣的希望,但不能预测相容性。一点也不。相容性预测就好比准确率不到0%一样。这听起来有点让人摸不着头脑。但乔尔说,她的算法能对每个约会者提供平均结果,而不能提供有针对性的的回答。乔尔说:“这完全没用。它真的应该做得更好。”

“My take is that when two people actually meet they form a shared dynamic that is more than the sum of its parts and cannot be predicted a priori,” says Joel. “Their individual preferences do not make up the substance of what they find attractive. My rating of whether I found you funny after meeting you will predict whether I like you, but my desire for a funny person and your measure of whether you are funny do not because we might not agree on a sense of humour.”

乔尔说:“我的看法是,当两个人真正相识时,他们会形成一种共享的动力,这种动力超过了各部分的总和,而且无法事先预测。”“他们的个人喜好并不构成他们认为有吸引力东西的实质内容。我对见面后你是否有趣的评价,会预测我是否喜欢你,但我对一个有趣的人的渴望和你对自已是否有趣的评价却不能预测,因为我们可能在幽默感上存在分歧。”

Finding a way to make accurate predictions is not going to be straightforward.

找到一种准确预测的方法并不容易。

Successful predictions

成功的预测


Another team of researchers seem to have successfully predicted romantic desire using an algorithm. Picture a house filled with potential dates. The higher up in the house someone is, the kinder they are. The further towards the back, the funnier. The further to the right, the more physically attractive, and so on until you have collected data on 23 different preferences.

另一组研究人员似乎已经用算法成功地预测了恋爱的希望。想象一下,在一个屋里满是潜在的约会对象。屋里地位越高的人,就越善良。越接触越有趣。越进一步的了解越有吸引力等等,直到你收集了23种不同偏好的数据。

Now, depending on your preferences, you can imagine your perfect partner is standing somewhere near the bathroom sink, for example. There might be other people nearby, who would be nearly as attractive. There might be someone even funnier and more beautiful than them, but a little less kind, stood in another room downstairs.

现在,根据你的偏好,你可以想象你的完美伴侣就站在浴室水池附近的某个地方。附近可能还有其他和你一样有魅力的人。楼下的另一个房间里可能站着一个比她更有趣、更美丽、但有点不友好的人。

That is how Dr Daniel Conroy-Beam, an assistant professor from the University of California Santa Barbara, US, describes the algorithm. The distance between a potential partner and your idealised partner in your hypothetical house was the best predictor for attraction.

美国加州大学圣巴巴拉分校(University of California Santa Barbara)助理教授康诺伊-比姆(Daniel Conroy-Beam)博士是这样描述该算法的。在你假想的房子里,潜在伴侣和你理想伴侣之间的距离是最能预测吸引力的指标。

In this particular study the daters were presented with fake profiles of made-up people, not real potential dates. Although, Conroy-Beam points out, people judge online profiles before they have a chance to meet or even talk to their potential dates, so you could consider online profiles hypothetical, up to a point.

在这项特别的研究中,约会者看到的是虚构的人的虚假资料,而不是真实的潜在约会对象。尽管如此,康诺伊-比姆指出,人们在有机会见面甚至和潜在约会对象交谈之前,就会对网上的个人资料做出判断,所以在一定程度上,你可以把网上的个人资料当作一种假设。

Conroy-Beam’s algorithm assumes that all preferences are weighted evenly, which might not be the case. If physical attraction matters much more to you than kindness then perhaps that person waiting downstairs is a better candidate after all. “The next step is to incorporate that weighting,” says Conroy-Beam. “I would be very surprised if weighting didn’t matter.”

康诺伊-比姆的算法假设所有的偏好都是均匀加权的,但事实可能并非如此。如果外表的吸引力比善良对你更重要的话,那么楼下等着你的那个人也许才是更好的人选。康诺伊-比姆说:“下一步是把这种加权重新考虑进去。如果加权无关紧要,我会感到非常惊讶。”

Clearly, having a list of preferences makes things complicated. In what order do you rank them? Are your assessments of your qualities the same as mine? All of this makes predicting romantic interest difficult. Perhaps a more straightforward option is to look at deal-breakers – what would rule someone out for you?

显然,拥有一个偏好列表会让事情变得复杂。把它们按什么顺序排列?你对自己的评价和我的评价一样吗?所有这些都使预测恋爱关系变得困难。也许一个更直接的选择是看看关系的破坏者,会因什么把你排除在外?

In another of Joel’s studies, students were asked what they would consider an absolute deal-breaker in a potential partner – traits like whether they smoke or are particularly religious. Later in the semester they completed a dating profile and sifted through other people’s. After whittling their choices down to a favourite, the researchers offered to swap their contact details. However, at the same time they were shown a bit more information about their chosen partner, which included the fact that they had two deal-breaker qualities.

在乔尔的另一项研究中,学生们被问到,他们会认为潜在伴侣的哪些特质绝对会破坏他们的关系,比如是否吸烟或者特别宗教虔诚。在学期的后期,他们完成了一份约会资料,并筛选了其他人的资料。在将他们的选择缩减到最喜欢的一个之后,研究人员提出交换联系方式。然而,在他们约会的同时,研究人员向他们展示了更多有关他们选择的伴侣的信息,其中包括有两种破坏关系的特质。

For 74% of people who thought they might get a real date out of the interaction, the deal-breakers became non-issues. They were prepared to overlook them. Even for people who knew that the date was only hypothetical, 40% still agreed. It turns out, when presented with an opportunity to meet someone who is supposed to be interested in us, we are much more flexible about who we are interested in.

74%的人认为他们可以从互动中找到一个真正的约会对象,而提出结束关系者成了无关紧要的人。他们准备忽略他们。即使知道约会的人只是假设的人,仍有40%的人愿意。结果显示,当有机会去认识一个对我们感兴趣的人时,我们对自己感兴趣的人更能灵活处理。

“We wanted them to have some buy in first before we told them about the deal-breakers,” says Joel, “because often deal-breakers show up on the first date or the second or the fifth.” You might not find out that someone is a smoker, or that they have another horrible quality, until you meet in person, or even several dates down the line. We hardly broadcast our less desirable qualities at the first opportunity.

乔尔说:“我们想让他们先交往一小段,然后再告诉他们是什么原因导致了分手,因为分手的人通常会在第一次约会、第二次或第五次约会时提出。”你可能不会发现某人吸烟,或者有其它可怕的嗜好,直到你亲眼见到,或几次约会之后发现。人们一般不会一有机会就宣扬自己的缺点。

Why might we not strictly observe our deal-breakers? Joel has her own theory: “I think that people just aren't actually very choosy. People feel like they need to be choosy because that is our culture. But realistically people are pretty open to a broad range of partners.”

为什么我们不能严格遵守协议呢?乔尔的理论是:“人们其实并不是很挑剔。只是文化的原因,觉得需要做挑选。但实际上,人们对广泛的合作伙伴相当开放。”

Putting your faith in an app

相信应用程序


If in real life we are much more flexible than we say we are on paper, perhaps being overly fussy about what we’re looking for in someone’s dating profile makes it harder to find the right person. At one end of the online dating spectrum are sites like Match.com and eHarmony who, as part of the registration process, ask users to complete reasonably extensive questionnaires. These sites hope to reduce the amount of sorting the user needs to do by collecting data and filtering their best options.

在现实生活中,我们比自己在纸上填写的要求条件要灵活得多,如果过分挑剔别人的基本资料会让我们很难找到合适的人。如在线交友平台Match.com和eHarmony这样的网站,作为注册过程的一部分,要求用户完成相当广泛的问卷调查。这些网站希望通过收集数据和筛选最佳选项来减少用户排序量。

“We look at core values, we decode those and we match those with people who are as similar as possible,” says Rachael Lloyd, the in-house relationship expert at eHarmony. “From all our years of research, the more you have in common the more likely a relationship is to be a success. We start with 150 questions, although these have changed and been refined over time based on machine learning.”

eHarmony的内部关系专家劳埃德(Rachael Lloyd)表示:“我们关注核心价值观,对其进行解码,并将这些价值观与尽可能相似的人进行匹配。”“根据多年的研究看来,共同点越多,一段关系就越有可能成功。我们从150个问题开始,尽管这些问题随着时间的推移已经改变,并在机器学习的基础上有所完善。”

Lloyd explains that the goal of the eHarmony algorithm is to find ‘satisfying relationships’, which is slightly different to the goal when the company was founded in 2000. Then, marriage was much more important. This shift has reflected the slight change in attitudes over the past two decades.

劳埃德解释说,eHarmony算法的目标是找到“令人满意的关系”,这与公司2000年成立时的目标略有不同。那时,婚姻更为重要。这种转变反映了20年里人们态度的细微变化。

Researchers from the University of Oxford analysed data from 150,000 of eHarmony’s subscribers and corroborated Joel’s findings on deal-breakers: generally, people are less bothered by things like smoking and drinking than they might predict.

牛津大学的研究人员分析了来自eHarmony15万份用户的数据,并证实了乔尔关于“分手原因”的发现:一般来说,人们对吸烟和饮酒等事情的困扰程度低于他们的预期。

“We also saw that people who are altruistic generally do well,” says Lloyd. “People who have conversations about charity and giving have 34% more interest in them. As our algorithm demonstrates, kindness is still really important. More than being highly sexualised – that tends to not work so well.”

劳埃德说:“我们还发现,无私的人通常表现良好。那些谈论慈善和捐赠的人对慈善和捐赠的兴趣要高出34%。正如我们的算法所证明的,友善仍然非常重要,不仅仅是性感。过度性感往往起不到好的作用。”

The data also suggests that being very, very attractive as a man offers no advantages over being fairly average. Women like men who rate themselves as five out of 10 as much as men who think they are 10 out of 10s, whereas men would ideally date someone who self-rates their physical appearance as eight out of 10.

数据还表明,作为一个男人,非常、非常有吸引力的男性并不比普通的男性有优势。女人喜欢给自己打5分(满分10分)的男人,就像男人喜欢给自己打10分一样,而男人理想的约会对象是给自己打8分的人。

At the other end of the spectrum, apps like Tinder and Bumble ask for very little in the way of preferences before they start to show you profiles: usually, the gender of the person you are interested in, an age range and distance from where you live. These apps refine as they learn about the user’s preferences.

另一方面,像Tinder和Bumble这样的应用程序在开始向你展示个人资料前,对个人偏好要求很少,通常是你感兴趣人的性别、年龄范围、与你居住地的距离。这些应用程序在了解用户偏好的同时进行了优化。

“I would argue Tinder is much better because they are showing you people and asking if you like them,” says Joel. “It seems to me based on the data that preliminary filters don’t work.”

乔尔说:“我认为Tinder要好得多,因为它向你展示备选人,并询问你是否喜欢他们。在我看来,根据数据,初步筛选不起作用。”

“If [online dating sites] are going to match you with someone long term, that requires a lot of long-term data. This claim is exciting to me but to properly test it we would need to follow people for years,” says Joel. “Another possible reason that we might not have found something is that people don’t know what they want. I might not have a lot of insight into what I find attractive and what I am actually like.”

如果(在线约会网站)想让你和某人长期匹配,那就需要大量的长期数据。乔尔说:“这个说法让我很兴奋,但要想正确的检验它,需要进行多年的跟踪研究。另一个可能的原因是人们不知道自己想要什么。可能对自己认为有吸引力的东西和自己实际上有什么偏好没有太多的洞察力。”

Long term success

长期成功


We have different sets of preferences depending on whether we are looking for something long-term or short-term, Conroy-Beam says. Generally speaking, when were are only interested in short-term relationships we prioritise physical attraction, whereas for long-term relationships kindness and other signals that someone would be caring are a greater priority.

康诺伊-比姆说,不同的偏好,这取决于我们是在寻找长期目标还是短期目标。一般来说,当我们只对短期关系感兴趣时,我们会把身体的吸引力放在首位,而对于要建立长期关系人来说,友善和其他的信息会被优先考虑。

But, Conroy-Beam says that other preferences also imply whether we are looking for the one, and these preferences can be grouped into sets. So, in theory, you can make “a pretty good guess” whether someone is interested in a meaningful, long-term relationship by looking at what set of traits they are most interested in.

但是,康诺伊-比姆说,其他的偏好也意味着我们是否在寻找那一个,这些偏好可以组合成一组。所以,从理论上讲,你可以通过观察一个人最感兴趣的一组特质来“很好地猜测”他是否对一段有意义的长期关系感兴趣。

For Lloyd, the data collected from eHarmony’s users suggests that openness is a really important trait for long-term success. “The more genuine you are and confident you are, the better you tend to do,” says Lloyd. “That approach to dating really works. Online dating has given us so many benefits. But it has also created a sense that we are all superficial and shallow. The important thing to stress is that this takes time.”

对劳埃德来说,从eHarmony用户那里收集的数据表明,开放性是长期成功的一个重要的特征。劳埃德说:“你越真诚,越自信,你就会做得越好。这种约会方式确实有效。网络约会给了我们很多好处。但它也造成了一种我们都很肤浅的感觉。需要强调的是,这需要时间。”

Perhaps, then, romantic desire cannot be accurately predicted before you have a chance to speak to or meet your potential partners. We are still reliant on being able to pick up on intangible cues from talking to each other, but at least there is some evidence that good guesses can be made about who we might generally be suited to. “What is definitely clear,” says Conroy-Beam, “is that humans make diabolically complicated choices.”

也许,在你有机会和你的潜在伴侣交谈或见面之前,有无恋爱的希望是无法准确预测的。我们仍然依赖于从彼此交谈中获得的无形暗示,但至少有一些证据表明,我们可以对可能适合的人,做出正确的猜测。康罗伊-比姆说:“很明显,人类做出了极其复杂的选择。”
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