Academics Are Building an Online Dating App to Better Understand Online Dating

Imagine Hinge — but for science (and also dating)

Dating app
When dating apps and research studies collide.
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When academics attempt to better understand a given industry, there are plenty of ways to go about it, from running studies of their own to poring through the data relevant to that industry. There’s no shortage of traffic safety data available to someone crunching the numbers about vehicles and health, for instance. What happens when scientists eager to discover more about a subject find themselves up against an industry that keeps its data safely guarded?

That’s what’s prompting one sociologist at the University of Michigan to enter uncharted territories, with plans to launch a dating app later this year. The Observer‘s Laura Spinney reports that the University of Michigan’s Elizabeth Bruch and her colleague Amie Gordon are at work on a dating app that can generate data that they can use — as opposed to, say, data that’s considered proprietary for its parent company.

“After we get people to join the app, we will be able to see the whole relationship formation process. And once we have those couples recruited, we will provide questionnaires and other ways to keep track of their thoughts about their relationships and their partners,” Gordon explained last year. “Then, because we can monitor the development of their relationships, we can recruit them for other studies focused on ongoing relationships and see how they develop over time.”

Spinney also mentioned the recent class-action lawsuit against multiple dating apps — an event that raised existential questions about the nature of online dating. Are the apps there to be used briefly before finding one’s soulmate — or are they optimized to keep people swiping and paying for premium options?

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“Nobody really knows what makes for a great relationship and what makes for chemistry and what makes for long-term compatibility,” Bruch told The Observer. Can a dating app that’s also a research tool help answer those questions? Stay tuned.

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