The dating website OK Cupid is run by nerds. Very very nerdish nerds, who like to analyze the huge amount of data a site like that generates -- clicks, likes, messages between members, attractiveness ratings, etc.
That swirl of data gets crunched and processed and discussed in their excellent blog, and the results are never less than fascinating.
Today, for instance, they dive deeply into different patterns of "messaging" among their female members. Meaning: which ladies get noticed, get email messages from the guys, and why. The results are interesting, but fair warning: the language of nerds, when talking about math and the ladies, is pretty blunt. What they discovered is that, statistically, the most popular women on the site aren't the ones with the highest attractiveness ratings. They're the ones with the most disparate.
A lady with her attractiveness ratings divided into a barbell shape -- lots of 1's, lots of 5's -- gets more attention than a lady with lots of 7's. Better, apparently, to have some guys think you're hot and some guys think you're totally not, than have most guys think you're cute:
Our first result was to compare the standard deviation of a woman's votes to the messages she gets. The more men disagree about a woman's looks, the more they like her. If someone doesn't think you're hot, the next best thing for them to think is that you're ugly.
But why is this so? The math nerds introduce a little game theory:
Suppose you're a man who's really into someone. If you suspect other men are uninterested, it means less competition. You therefore have an added incentive to send a message. You might start thinking: maybe she's lonely. . . maybe she's just waiting to find a guy who appreciates her. . . at least I won't get lost in the crowd. . . maybe these small thoughts, plus the fact that you really think she's hot, prod you to action. You send her the perfectly crafted opening message.
On the other hand, a woman with a preponderance of '4' votes, someone conventionally cute, but not totally hot, might appear to be more in-demand than she actually is. To the typical man considering her, she's obviously attractive enough to create the impression that other guys are into her, too. But maybe she's hot enough for him to throw caution (and grammar) to the wind and send her a message. It's the curse of being cute.
So the smart strategy for women on dating sites, according to the cascades of data streaming through OK Cupid's servers, is:
We now have mathematical evidence that minimizing your "flaws" is the opposite of what you should do. If you're a little chubby, play it up. If you have a big nose, play it up. If you have a weird snaggletooth, play it up: statistically, the guys who don't like it can only help you, and the ones who do like it will be all the more excited.
Counter-intuitive, but when it comes to things like this, I trust the nerds. They have the most attractive feature of all: data.